If there's one thing we have to say here at Plaid Pony its: thank goodness Robert Tardio found that camera in his father's study. It was just meant to be. His superb eye and dynamic perspective make him an amazing photographer. His easy going personality and wit make you want to know more about the man behind the lens. He just reels you in. We were lucky enough here at Plaid Pony to sit down with this industry titan and pick his brain for information and advice and he was gracious enough to oblige. We're so excited on this Friday morning to share with you, Mr. Robert Tardio.
Tell us about your art and how you got involved with photography.
My history in photography starts in a classic way. I found an old camera of my father’s in our study and asked if I could clean it up and see if it still worked. It was a 1950s era viewfinder camera but it piqued my interest and my passion grew from there. By high school I was heavily involved in photography and worked as the photo editor and chief photographer for my HS yearbook. In college, I was a huge fan of Ansel Adams and Irving Penn. I also fell in love with the work of Paul Strand, Elliott Erwitt and Edward Weston. My original exposure and interest was classic black and white imagery by the american masters. The guiding principals of my work are still rooted in these masters. Elegance, simplicity, clarity, and thoughtful composition.
What was a pivotal moment for your photography career?
I guess the pivotal moment in my photography career was when I was exposed to commercial still live photography during my senior year of college. I was supposed to intern for a fashion photographer in NYC during my senior mid semester break. At the last minute, the photographer lost his studio and cancelled our engagement. He suggested that I call an old assistant of his who had recently gone out on his own shooting still life. After only a few days of working his studio, I knew I had found my passion. After graduation from Colgate University, I immediately headed to NYC to pursue work as a photo assistant in a still life studio.
What has been your favorite set to work on? Why?
I’ve worked on so many different sets over the years, it’s hard to pick a favorite. Some notable ones would be crushing, spinning, flinging, and dripping makeup and liquids for different visual effects. I also enjoy the meticulous aspects of lighting electronics, watches, and jewelry. For a still life shooter, they are the ultimate challenge. My favorite projects tend to be the ones that require problem solving in rigging and lighting. I try to do as much problem solving on set so my images require less work in post.
What is one of your proudest moments in your career?
I’ve been proud of my growth and longevity in a very challenging career. I’ve watched the photography business change drastically over the past 30 years and we’ve managed to stay busy and relevant through some very challenging times. I am always focused on my clients and making sure they leave my studio with both great work, and a fun and enjoyable studio experience.
What are some other things you enjoy when you aren’t shooting?
When I’m not shooting, I love spending time with my wife, two amazing sons and my Brittany Spaniel. I also enjoy fly fishing and travel and tennis.
What is your favorite part about being on set?
My favorite part of being on set, like most still life photographers, is being in total control. I think what separates still life photographers from other types of photographers and that we get to control all aspects of the shoot. Light, composition, propping, angle. Still life shooters get to make all the decisions. Very little is left to chance. This is something that is unique to still life photography and one of the things that most appeals to me.
What does #createmoments mean to you?
#createmoments is actually quite appropriate to what we do as a photographers. Many times, I am working on an image and I know there is something special there. I just haven’t found it yet. If you push through the frustration, the creative moment will come and you will arrive at your vision.
What is one thing your fans may not know about you?
Although I’m pretty much an open book, there are two things that any visitor to our studio will quickly realize. Firstly, puns are encouraged, used often, and tend to deteriorate as the day progresses. Secondly, chocolate is ever present in the studio and it’s use is strongly encouraged.
What advice can you provide for future photographers?
As far as advice to future photographers, all I would say is that you better love it! It is a demanding career with many challenges and no shortage of talented competition. If you love what you do and constantly strive to improve your body of work, you will find success.