Through The Lens Of The Creator
MY PHILOSOPHY – THE WAY I SEE THINGS
Clients ask me how I got started with photography and how long I’ve been doing it for. It all started when I was four years old, sitting on the countertop in a darkroom at Middlesex Community College, munching on a snicker bar (my favorite to this day!) , and watching my mother dip photo paper into a tray of developer and twirl it round and round. Then suddenly, like magic, an image of me would appear in black and white. I knew from that day forward photography would always fascinate me. My mother use to store her photographs in my closet and I would venture through her boxes to seek treasures of images. I remember this one of my Uncle Wally. At first you would look at it and see patterns of different shades of grey and white. Then suddenly, out would pop an over the shoulder shot of me as a little girl resting her head on his shoulder. I loved this photograph and wish my mother had not lost the negative. It’s okay. I have it on my mind forever. I have learned to accept loss and continue to push forward in life, capturing moments in time and watching them change rapidly. Life moves fast and before you know it you’ll find yourself sitting on a bench feeding pigeons with people watching, and suddenly you realize everyone under 50 are children to you. “The older the wiser” as they say.
My first job was running a photo lab in Highland Park. I was in high school at the time and had turned my bedroom into a working painting studio. I needed money to feed my creative endeavors, so I learned how to do color corrections, print slide film, run a cash register, and sell products. I ran this photo lab for two years and even managed to save enough money to travel to England,Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. My mother found a deal in the Sunday paper and planned the entire trip
My first portrait session was of my friend Charity when I was fifteen years old with a Pentax 35MM and black and white 400 ISO film (perfect for indoor and outdoor shots). Charity had just returned from Hawaii after living on the beach and working on a farm, only to find her return to reality in New Jersey included being part of her sister’s wedding. She wanted to show off her connection with nature, so she climbed up a tree and did a cartwheel. I caught it just right on film.
This image is incredible. Everyone that looks at it turns it upside down in disbelief. Unfortunately I lost the negative for this image. Every time I think back to this image I realize the true nature of a good portrait. If you are able to capture a moment that exhibits the true nature of a person, you nailed it. This photo for me is my masterpiece. I continue to hold it the memory of it as my career develops. For an artist a “masterpiece” is a landmark of personal accomplishment throughout one’s developing career.
I was attending The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and noticed an exhibition from the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. The photographs were the same shots I had recently taken. It was then I realized that I had a good eye and ultimately I would find myself as a photographer. At the time I was pursuing a degree in filmmaking and longed to be an editor and script writer.
2005 – 2009
I worked as a research analyst for a marketing firm, and when they folded and I found myself collecting unemployment. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life so I rummaged through Craig’s List and discovered a goofy ad. The ad said “Are you 21 or over? Like to party? Have a digital camera? We want you. Send a photograph of yourself.” I was still shooting film at the time and using a digital Nikon CoolPix 2mp camera to document my paintings and to make slides for gallery submissions. I received a response from the ad. I thought it was a joke and merely curious to see what would happen. It was a company called NJVenues. They were nightclub promoters and searched up on the google engines in first position. They received a million hits a day too. After a month of shooting for their website the owner contacted me and requested I buy another camera with more megapixels. He said it would only take a month for me to make enough money, and that it would be a good investment for my future. He thought I would buy another point and shoot camera but to his surprise I purchased a Canon Rebel. To the world of nightlife this was a huge camera and people wondered how I knew how to use it. Nightlife was easy for me to capture because I understood the technical aspects. I would shoot everything manually with an external flash.
After a month of shooting, my images looked better than every other competitor. NJVenues was proud to have me on board. As time continued my reputation grew and I found myself working for Fiesta Caliente, and became the house photographer for Bliss Lounge and Joey Harrison Surf Club, and contributing photographer for DJ Times Magazine. I also had the opportunity to photograph over a 100 celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Grandmaster Flash, LMFAO, The Wailers to name a few. To the world of nightlife and any outsider looking in, I was a celebrity photographer…an expert with an exciting lifestyle.
By 2010 I wanted out of nightclub photography and decided to pursue wedding photography. I apprenticed under Umberto Esposito Photography. Umberto studied wedding photography from a master photographer, and was happy to pass along his knowledge to me. I built my portfolio and learned classic style wedding photography. Umberto pressed to me not to lose my vision. He said I was a fantastic photo-journalist and that was something you can’t teach or learn. Either you have it or you don’t. I decided back then to mix the two worlds of classic and photojournalistic styles. It worked, and have been doing it ever since. I also formed “ArtChick LLC” , hired an accountant, and opened my first business banking account. Finally, I was an official business owner.
I moved to Philadelphia to live with a Drexel Professor. We would run around the city together and take photographs of the architecture, flowers, and anything that caught our attention. Through his eyes and my own I fell in love with the city of Philadelphia. For the first time in my life I felt I belonged somewhere. The professor insisted that I was too talented to be wedding photographer and pushed for me to look into the area commercial photography. That is how I discovered Joe Chielli. Joe Chielli’s website looked very dated to me but I could see his style was very much like my own. I reached out to Joe for a consultation and we connected instantly. Joe claimed he had never interviewed a prospective assistant with work as good as mine. He could also see where my weaknesses were.
I knew very little at the time about studio lighting. Joe, since 2011 to this day, has taught me the in and outs of the commercial photography business from studio lighting, natural lighting, proposal writing, and even meditation. I like to refer to Joe as “My Guru”. He is a mentor, a friend, and a business partner. I am blessed to be part of “Church Street Studios” and to continue to grow my own business “ArtChick LLC” . I also helped Joe’s business by revamping his website by transforming it into a modern contemporary style that adapts in a user friendly way to all technology such as smartphones, tablets, and desktops. I also spend over a year studying SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to help keep our websites high in the natural listings on google search engines. Running a successful photography business is more than just taking pretty pictures and capturing precious moments. Of course I would rather be out shooting all the time because that’s what I love, but in order to keep doing what I love, I know I have to do a lot of marketing to reach my audience. I take great pride in my marketing strategy and find it to be a constant creative challenge. In the process of it all, I try my best not to lose track of my creative passion for capturing moments of life in moments of time.
I tried everything I could to save Church Street Studios in Old City, Philadelphia. I even went as far as to make a lease to purchase agreement to buy the property from the landlord. In October 2016 catastrophe struck ,the ceiling collapsed. I managed to save and recover some equipment but was forced to find a new location.
In December 2016 I moved my company to 1844 N Front Street, 1st Floor, Philadelphia PA 19122. It’s gorgeous space and larger than what we had before. It was just the place Joe Chielli and I imagined for me, when it came time for him to retire.
On a positive note, I worked with artist Anthony DeMelas on designing the Panorama Mural. I remember showing Joe the new interior design the completed mural before the venue opened its doors to the public too.
Joe Chielli, my associate at Church Street Studios, passed away fighting cancer. He wanted nothing more than to see me continue his legacy. I studied under Joe for 7 years. He was a great mentor, friend, and father figure for me. A month after his passing Adobe reached out to me with a request to be a motivational speaker for their Adobe Jam Event at Penn State University. I couldn’t ask for a better pick me up after the passing of Joe. Joe would have been so proud of me.
2018 – 2019
Worked directly with editor of DJ Times Magazine documenting interviews, concerts, and festivals for publication in NYC, Philadelphia, California, Detroit, Montreal, Canada. These very assignments reminded me of the start of my career as a nightclub photographer and my passion for traveling.
I adore running long distance and would find myself running by the old studio. I would peer into the windows to see the new progression of the renovations and wondered who would move into it. I noticed after a year had gone by, it sat empty, so I reached out to see what the deal was. I was told it was off the market for sale and that I could rent it out for a year and decide after that if I wanted to buy it. So I decided to move my back in 2019. Long story short I discovered the place leaked a month into moving in, my bike stolen and pressure to buy it for 400K. Boy you think making a living as an artist is challenging, try taking this situation on top of it. It was beyond misleading and I realized I made a huge mistake. To make matter worse the old studio was taken over and my logo to this day has not been removed from the front door. People constantly think I am still there and others know I moved.
In March 2020, I moved into my new studio on Callowhill Street, Philadelphia – no leaks, plenty of parking, easy commute in and out of the city. Then covid hit and the lockdowns started. During this time I worked on projects to support small business, my youtube channel , and created fashion editorials. Within 6 months during quarantine, I was published in over 15 International Fashion Magazines such as Moevir Magazine, Malvie Magazine, Mob Journal , Assuré Magazine, Horizont, etc. Check out my fashion work here.
Redesigned my website and created a photo diary to keep you updated on my latest projects. Adopted Nina a Labrador mix puppy from central Jersey to be my companion, model, and photo assistant.
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
Basic Elements Cafe, New Brunswick, New Jersey-2002
Rodeo Ristra, Hoboken, New Jersey- 2003
Luna Stage, Montclair, New Jersey-2003
Hudson County Art Supply, Jersey City, NJ- Sept. 2005
C. Magor Gallery, Ridgewood, NJ- June. 22-July 6, 2006
The Stable Gallery, Life of an Artist – March 2008
Java Ink Cafe, Philadelphia, PA – May 2011-April 2012
La Citadelle , Philadelphia, PA – September 2011 – April 2012
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
George Street Playhouse ,New Brunswick , NJ-1997
Maxwells, Hoboken, New Jersey-Open Studio Tour- Oct.2003
Art Gotham Gallery, New York, NY-Square Foot Show – Oct. 2005
Prisma Productions, Newark, New Jersey-Detour-Oct. 13-16, 200
5 Fifth Stone Studios, Philadelphia, PA-Philly Stir Fry Live- Nov. 5, 2005
Ave. A Japanese Ballery Restaurant, New York, NY-11/05-12/05
A.W.O.L Gallery, Toronto, ON-Square Foot IV-11/18-12/11/05
The Well, PA – Feb-April. 1. 2006
Arthouse, New Brunswick, NJ – May 6, 2006
Modesto Art Museum, Modesto, CA Ben Franklin 300th –
Current Pinky, France The Mondial Day Against AIDS-12/1/05
University of Iowa Libaries, Iowa City, Iowa-cARTalog-2006
Foritude Valley, Queensland, Australia, Food Labels -2006
Elassona, Greece, Psychedelic Mail Art -Feb-March 2006
Mona Lisa’s 500th Anniversary, Castel S. Pietro Terme, Italy- 3/06
The Midnight Cow, Flostoy, Belgium- 3/06
Lemon Art, Massa Lubrense, Italy- 4/2006
Kisses, Madrid, Espana- 3/2006
Municipal Culteral Centre “Melina” Athens, Greece, Psychedelic Mail Ar-t3/06
Menagerie Raw Natural Born Artist, G Lounge, Philadelphia, PA – April 5th, 2012
Sales Gaspillee – 1st Friday Exhibition April 2013 with Rose Crook
Salon du Solei – Bristol, PA -June 2016
Front Street Cafe, Philadelphia, PA with Anthony DeMelas – 2016
Xiuzhu Shao – Dark Eyes, 2004, Acrylic on Canvas
James Foytlin, Jr., Lovers, 2002, Acrylic on canvas
Kathleen G. Paige, Lady Sleeping, Acrylic on round canvas
Thomas Tskalakos, Band in Motion, Acrylic on round canva
s Lynn & Jennifer Hanley, Dancing to the sun, Acrylic on canva
s Denise Barbarita, Maxwell Collaboration with Bruce Carl Meyers,2003
Modesto Art Museum, Modesto, CA-Mail Art
Pinky, France – Mail Art University of Iowa Libaries, Iowa City, Iowa-cARTalog
Ioanna Papachristou, Greece-Psychedlic
Cat Mail-Art Annie La’Bel,Australia-Food Labels Mail-Art
Powerline Designs, c/o Graig McKenzie, Marine City, MI- Jan 2006
Linda Woods, Valencia, CA- Jan 2006
Kala Vilches, Victoria, BC, Canada-Jan 2006
RF Cote, Quebec, Canada- Feb. 2006
ANNA BOSCHI , Castel S. Pietro Terme, Italy- March 2006
L’Hélicon asbl, Flostoy, Belgium- March 2006
Roberto Scala, Massa Lubrense, Italy- April 2006
Luis Diaz, Madrid, Espana- May 2006
ARTICLES AND REVIEWS
The Sound and Vision Gallery, Hudson Current, Sept. 1-7, 2005
Monroe Center ‘Woes For Local Artist, Sept. 6, 2005
Upstage Magazine, Sept. 2005
Featured Telekinesis Jewelry , Carpal Tunnal Magazine, Dec. 2005
Kristine Di Grigoli Paige: Works from 1997-2006,
Access Arts©ArtDeadline.com, May 8, 2006
AWARDS Metropolitan Museum for the Gifted 1994
Artwanted.com, Top Ten Placement, Aug. 25, 2006
Guinness Ads, Mc Swiggans, Hoboken, New Jersey, 2003
Front Cover of Denise Barbarita’s Album Chaos & Congeniality
Designed Saws for interior Decoration, Mc Swiggans, Hoboken, N.J., 2005
Body Painting for Fiesta Caliente 2nd Annual Fashion show 2007
Panorama Mural Designer, Philadelphia PA 2016
Motivational Speaker for Adobe Creative Jam