This month we’re featuring the unique and engaging portrait work of Rodrigo Cid, and get some insight into his process for capturing the unseen side of his subject.
Describe your approach to photography— What makes your work unique? What makes a good image?
I graduated from Pratt with a degree in graphic design and for years I worked in the design field. My aesthetic informs my photography in a big way, with a minimalist approach without being over simplistic. For fashion and beauty is so much about finding the right angles and lighting that enhances the mood you’re after. For portraiture is about showing something about the subject that’s revelatory to the viewer and hopefully to the subjects themselves.
What inspires you? Who are your influences?
Music is a big source of inspiration for me and there’s rarely a quiet moment on my sets. I also surround myself with people I respect and share aesthetic values with but also people I can call friends on most days. Living in a place like New York is also in itself a huge source of inspiration, with its people, its museums and galleries, etc. It’s hard not to be inspired in a city with this kind of energy.
What was your first camera?
My very first camera was a Pentax K1000. I got it on my 1st year in art school for a photography/darkroom class I had signed up for. That helped continue the love for photography I had growing up in Chile. Many years later when I started shooting professional my first camera was a refurbished Phase One DF+ with + P65 back. Such a beautiful camera, very reliable and the image quality was, and probably still is, superb.
Can you think of the first time you realized the camera you owned was holding you back?
Never felt that way, call me lucky. Before I started shooting pro, my cameras were always the right tool because I was just a hobbyist. Later when I moved up to medium format and the DF+ system, I always felt like I had the Bentley of cameras, even a used refurbished one. Having said this however, I’m also a strong believer in having the right tool for the right job and in a small part of my practice that sometimes calls for a little $40 ebay-found, point-and-shoot film camera and I’m ok with that.
What’s a photography-related purchasing decision or experience that you regret?
Don’t have many of these, but anything 35mm digital seems almost unnecessary at this time. Owning that equipment is overkill, as it’s rarely used in my practice.
How did you make the transition to professional photography, and how did making a living from photography impact your style of shooting?
After graduating from art school with a degree in graphic design, I went on to work in advertising for the following decade or so. The more senior I got the less creative I became and I was craving to feel like an artist again. Photography seemed like a natural progression for a career in image-making and so on my last agency gig I started shooting as an in-house photographer. Did that for a year until I decided to quit my ad job and become a full time shooter. That background in advertising has also been key to my approach, I feel like in a certain way I have an edge with ad clients because I know exactly what they’re going through, it’s almost like I can read their minds and foresee their needs—a very useful skill in a fast-paced industry.
What was your most difficult project?
10 days in Madrid for FCB New York. The shoot was smooth from the moment I started pressing the shutter but the sheer size of the production with complex casting and other massive logistics made it a bit draining. And this was at the very beginning of my career!
If you had to do a project using the bare minimum of equipment, what would you bring?
My definition of ‘bare minimum’ is what I can fit in my WANDRD backpack: my XF+ body, both my 80mm and 55mm lenses, a small piece of reflective material and a Profoto A1. Also might bring a small Profoto translucent umbrella Deep.
What’s the most interesting/surprising/invaluable thing you keep in your equipment bag?
A Leatherman Surge tool, makes me feel like I’m a cool assistant!
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started out?
The process of making a beautiful image is a huge team effort with many creative people working toward that goal. The fact that as a team we can only be as strong as our weakest link makes me surround myself with people I absolutely respect whether is my makeup person or my 2nd assistant. Everyone in that room has to share the same passion for making beautiful work.
Do you have a “Passion Project” that you enjoy working on in your free time?
I actually had to Google ‘passion project’ and I’m glad I did. At the moment my passion is fully focused on my career which means even on ‘down’ times I’m working on personal work, portfolio, or just honing my skills. Besides I do spend a decent amount of time doing outreach and trying to get in front of editors or potential new clients.
What’s your favorite book/movie/album that you’ve experienced recently?
No book recently. I was so inspired by the movie Roma when it came out, stunning visually and such a moving narrative. Also lately I’ve been overdosing on the music of Future Islands, you should check them out!