Tony Savino New York, USA
Tony Savino is a photographer with a quarter century of professional experience telling people’s stories around the globe and getting beyond the shallowness that is today’s corporate media. His work has appeared in most of the world’s most prominent publications, such as The New York Times Magazine, Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Paris Match, Sunday Times of London, to name a few. Tony Savino is a visual storyteller, with his own unique vision and style.
Tony Savino what chosen by photographer Cedric Nunn.
Laatikkomo’s interview with Tony Savino December 11th, 2013.
L: Where are you from? What cities, and/or countries have you lived in – or what places/cultures have influenced you?
TS: I was born and raised in NY. I was based in Miami for ten years and covered Latin America and the Caribbean extensively. I am very much interested in exploring different cultures and telling peoples stories.
L: What is your earliest memory of photography?
TS: My father was the chair of a high school art department. One Saturday I went to work with him and found the photography instructor making a series of prints in the darkroom. I was struck by the magic of the image appearing before my eyes. I was hooked.
L: Your photographs focus on many social issues including poverty, displacement, war veterans, but also include special events and celebration. What photography project has made the greatest impact on the way you look at people and at life on general?
TS: Wow. I’d have to say it’s been a culmination of all of my experiences. Documenting life and resistance under apartheid in South Africa. Seeing the resilience of the Haitian people after the devastating 2010 earthquake. The good will of people after crises like hurricanes and the 9/11/01 attacks in NYC. Citizens coming together to protest against the verdict in the Travon Martin case and Washington’s endless wars and occupations. Witnessing these events have shaped who I am, and has given me great hope that we as a species can get our act together and be better stewards of the planet and create authentic democracies based on economic justice.
L: Your work has focuses on documenting an array of social issues and much of your work focuses on issues of human injustice. If you could travel anywhere right now, what specific cause would you be most interested in exposing through your photographs?
TS: I have been photographing the Bateyes, communities that have grown up around sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic. I plan on continuing with this project. The majority of workers and their families are Dominicans of Haitian descent. The Dominican high court recently issued a ruling stripping them of their citizenship. Integral in this whole equation is a complex crisis of identity – of denial and internalized racism. In spite of the majority of Dominicans clearly displaying various degrees of African ancestry, one would be hard pressed to find a Dominican who self-identifies as “Black.” The elite have miseducated and manipulate sectors of society to their own benefit.
L: In your artist statement you talk of the “shallowness of corporate media”. If you could have controlled mass media in November 2013, which 5 issues would you have given the most attention to?
TS: That is a difficult question as there are so many. It is more a matter of how the issues are presented, as well as the depth of the coverage. I grew up seeing the Washington’s war on Vietnam every night on my TV. It was the first time Americans saw war up close right in their living rooms. Today, when one watches television news in the States, there is little mention of the wars. I live in NYC, where the United Nations is located, yet none of the debates and resolutions of the General Assembly make the news. Off the top of my head: Palestine, Climate Change, Drones, Who is Washington supporting in Syria?, How are lobbyists limiting and controlling the US healthcare debate?
L: One of your slogans is “We provide visual solutions”. In your opinion what is the first thing that would need to happen in order for social change on a global level, to occur?
TS: Education: Working people need to be presented with more objective coverage. Autonomous organizing: We need to understand that we are the majority and that together we can make a change if we organize in our own class-based organizations. The issues can be overwhelming, but we are not powerless.
L: How do you feel about revealing other people’s personal lives? Is there anything you would refuse to photograph for ethical reasons?
TS: I have photographed people in crisis, and I always try to be sensitive to peoples’ feelings and privacy. Interestingly, I have usually found that people want their stories told. I can’t think of anything that I have refused to photograph. Again, I think it is more about how one approaches it.
L: Photography holds a lot of power, especially when dealing with documentary photography. There is always some amount of manipulation involved in photography, even if it is simply in how the image is cropped. What are your thoughts on deliberate manipulation of documentary images for the good of any specific cause?
TS: The photographer is injecting his or her point of view the minute he frames the picture and clicks the shutter. What to include in the photo and what moment to capture are all editorial decisions. It is all very subjective.
L: Could you list a few words that you were thinking about when you made this work?
TS: I love New York…every culture in the world is here!
Thank you so much Tony!!