I just finished my first Feature film, the making of the book called: “”Naked Ambition: an R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry.”
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: In your early years of college studying filmmaking and photography at Boston University, were you involved in any photography clubs? What sparked your interest into taking photography and filmmaking in college? How did you progress to where you are today from your education and freelancing for the Associated Press?
MICHAEL GRECCO: I did the photography for the Boston University Magazine while in my first photojournalism class. Part of the class was to do an internship when the semester ended. Mine was going to start in a few weeks when a historic blizzard (no I’m not telling you the year!) hit New England, I got on my skis and ski goggles and made pictures, then dropped my film at the Boston AP office. I have never looked back.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you still have photos taken from the early years when it all started? What were your subjects? Are the pictures online to share with everyone to compare with your work today?
MICHAEL GRECCO: My pictures are not online yet. I saved all the film I could, and I have it archived in my files in my office. It’s very organized-I realized it’s importance early. We are now scanning it all to add to the Getty Archive. It’s pretty amazing to see all the things I have done over my career.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What books did you read at the beginning of your photography career that helped you prepare for today? Title of book, author and price of book please…just messing around, the title of the books should be fine thanks to google search. Do you recall any other resources that you referred to heavily to help you prepare for the photography business? We want to know what the must have resources are to fully equip ourselves when and if we ever plan to take that leap of faith.
MICHAEL GRECCO: Well, I got hooked on the idea of being a Photographer as my life’s path through the Time/Life books on Photography. The books have titles liked, “The Print,” “Masters of Photography,” “The Art of Photography,” etc. The books were awe-inspiring. It was that classic scene with me under my covers with a flash light staying up late checking all these books out.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What was your very first professional photography assignment with the Associated Press? Was this purely out of luck that you were at the right place at the right time? Once you had your first job under your belt was it difficult to get another gig? What did you do to acquire more work besides providing awesome images? Have you ever considered being agency represented?
MICHAEL GRECCO: No, they were impressed that I came in with film in the middle of a crushing blizzard. My internship started right away, but it was something as boring as covering the Massachusetts State house and a press conference with Governor Dukakis. That was one the reasons I hated daily news photography, if nothing was happening where you were, the images were not as exciting and interesting as when hard news was happening.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: After your first job, What was the next photography gig you obtained and how did you go about your execution? How did you become a regular contributor to PEOPLE? Did you apply all that you’ve learned in all the books you’ve read ? Did you buy more books or accessed any more resources to help you jump to your next big step in the game of photography? What tools do you recommend that are a must have that helped you get to where you are present day?
MICHAEL GRECCO: Well, while working for the AP I had this alternate life of listening to early punk music and hanging in the clubs. I started working for some local music magazines and doing both for a while until I got a staff job at the Boston Herald. I did that for a few years cover many events, including the Schwarzenegger wedding and Caroline Kennedy’s wedding. At those shoots 1 out shot the 3 photographers from the Agency Camera 5 that People had hired. They had to pick up pictures from me for the magazine. At that moment Beth Filler, the deputy picture editor, told me if I ever left the paper she would hire me. I quit within months and moved to LA.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What else is there that keeps you rolling in the dough? Your brand is possibly a huge factor to your longevity? Am i right? You have definitely built your brand through your website, your books your blog and giving back to the photographic community like what you are doing here right now.. Do you have any recommendations on brand building for weekend photographers and/or Photographers in general.
MICHAEL GRECCO: My brand is built on going out and taking great pictures. Every time I walk out of my home or office to shoot, I know that photographers are judged on their last shoot. That has to be first. Everything else falls into place after that. I do spend time on updating my site and making sure it looks good and is current. I spend time on doing a certain amount of press, I do enjoy the business side of the equation. I am happy doing both.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: After surfing through Youtube. I came across a video of you using a California sunbounce in an outdoor shoot. Was that some kind of sponsored shoot? If so is that something you recommend to other photographers? Do you think partnerships with photography equipment manufacturers are important?
MICHAEL GRECCO: I do use strategic sponsorships in my business. It only works though when I like the company and products I am supporting. I have to really be into the product. Being sponsored not only helps you get gear, but it often creates a platform to lecture from or to promote a book.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Since 1992 you have been regularly shooting magazine covers for Time, Wired, Entertainment Weekly, ESPN and People to name a few, what magazines are you presently regularly shooting for? Which is your favorite publication to shoot for and why? How would you recommend photographers go about shooting for popular magazine publications? What is a good penetration strategy?
MICHAEL GRECCO: I am moving into directing and producing. I just finished my first Feature film, the making of the book called: “”Naked Ambition: an R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry.” I am also pitching a TV series at this moment. I like directing and I have been incorporating still images into the productions. It has worked out rather well.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: You’ve photographed celebrity portraits to the likes of Martin Scorsese, Christina Applegate, Hugh Hefner, Lucy Liu, Robert Duvall, Mel Brooks, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Joaquin Phoenix, Jet Li and Penelope Cruz to name a few. How do you go about photographing these actors and actresses? Do they approach you or do you approach them. If you approach them, how do you go about doing so?
MICHAEL GRECCO: I approach them as I would anyone else. Very down to earth and as a good listener. The last thing I want to do is make a scene over someone and give them a stage to see how they reach to it. Most actors are very down to earth and some actually very quiet and introverted. I think the most important thing is to be genuine. I discuss this at length in my book, “Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait.”
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What types of commercial gigs are you currently involved in now and how did they surface? What are your recommendations on how we photographers diversify their product offering from Commercial and stock in today’s marketplace?
MICHAEL GRECCO: We recently did a “Got Milk” campaign and a Campbell’s Soup campaign with Ladainian Tomlinson.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Already a major player in the photojournalism/fashion photography space, what is next? What are your immediate goals as a photographer and artist? Are you planning on releasing any more how-to books? Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait was great (at least the parts i read in Barnes and Noble) What are your recommendations to people thinking about starting a photography book? I know you have recently released a book titled “naked ambition” an R rated look at an X rated industry. Are you receiving any backlash from this book due to its content? What compelled you to produce this coffee book?
MICHAEL GRECCO: I will do another book. I think it’s going to take some historic work and publish it in a new way, with video, etc. Then I do want to do another social documentary piece as a book and a movie like the “Naked Ambition” work. I am and have always been fascinated with subcultures and want to explore another.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: I think it is safe to say you have a good following of photographers wanting to be just like you. Will you start offering workshops in the future? I know TIME is not your friend, but there are ways to get around that maybe offering internship opportunities to intern with you for a small fee during one of your paid shoots. Or maybe provide an opportunity to be a spectator for one of your weekend shoots? I would definitely be interested in that and sure there are others in the same boat.
MICHAEL GRECCO: I do workshops fairly regularly. I have a one week workshop coming up in late February at the Palm Beach photo workshop. I often teach at the Maine Photo Workshops and lecture all around the country. If you check my website out at www.MichaelGrecco.com/seminars you can see where I will be next.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: I am sure you’ve read many articles discussing how in the future videography and photography will be one? What are your thoughts on that and how will you evolve to the new morphed medium? I know you currently do some video work but how do you plan on taking that to the next level?
MICHAEL GRECCO: For me this will not happen like it is for newspaper photographers and photojournalists. They shoot video and pull still out. For me I do both consciously and then make a movie or show out of them. I shoot the stills to either be animated, sequenced or moved around, and then shoot video where appropriate. I stated delving this in my new movie, “”Naked Ambition: an R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry” and am continuing to experiment with it. Please check out the movie and let me know what you think.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Ok so thinking about the future is very important in any endeavor especially the photography business. What do you suggest photographers do in the future to solidify their presence in the industry? What will you do to ensure that you remain on top, not taking into account your photography niche?
MICHAEL GRECCO: Well, it’s like the economy in the USA, the middle class is shrinking and the upper and lower classes are growing. You need to figure out where you want to end up and then figure out how to get there. I do books and make movies now to position myself, everyone has to figure out how to stand out.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Michael thank you again for your time and giving back to your fans and followers. What would you like to leave for us photographers to think about when moving forward with photography for the future? If you have any words of wisdom will be appreciated.
MICHAEL GRECCO: Never lose site of taking great pictures. It’s the foundation of being a great photographer.