“I’ve never really been a big studio shooter,” says photographer Laura Barisonzi. “Long before I was into photography, I was into being outside and hiking. I really like being on location and the challenge of changing light.” This makes perfect sense for a photographer using the tagline “Difficult Locations and Extreme Conditions.”
Barisonzi left Wisconsin to study painting at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Majoring in Foreign Languages, travel was essential to her education. While traveling, she began to photograph in earnest, and upon graduation, began assisting professional shooters.
With her work appearing in such publications as Cigar Aficionado, Forbes, GQ, Newsweek and Outside Magazine, she’s proven her ability to capture not only sports, but corporate leaders, book reviewers, rock bands, and other clients in need of portraiture. Regardless of subject, her colors are consistently rich without being blown out, rarely falling victim to trendy overexposure looks.
Thinking differently on her personal projects is one of the standout qualities of this young photographer. Having shot for Yoga Journal and done other yoga assignments, she wanted to breakout the ancient practice from elegant studios and pristine beaches to something a-typical. In “Yogasana,” Barisonzi had accomplished yoginis and yogis perform their practice in outdoor locations never normally associated with the peacefulness we find in yoga. “I wanted to show yoga in a stressful environment,” she says. “I also like to use real practitioners and not models, who can typically only do a few basic poses. That sort of defeats the purpose for me. I do this on ad campaigns, too.”
Her “Free Running” series shot in New Mexico features two athletes performing their moves in some well-composed shots against backgrounds of adobe beige and blue sky. “I wanted it to be visually stunning and not have the setting interfere with the action,” she recalls. The completely stopped motion and carefully controlled shadows show viewers Barisonzi knows what she’s doing.
In “Winter Surfing,” she captures a different set of athletes attempting to surf while there’s snow on the beaches of Maine and New Hampshire. Carrying surfboards in thigh-deep snow and paddling out to catch waves as wind blows stinging, nearly-vaporized water into your face is not for the weak-spirited. “That was definitely pretty terrible,” she laughs, recalling the weather.
Barisonzi’s corporate and editorial portraiture is at least as strong as her personal projects. “I always try to shoot portraiture in an interesting location, if I can,” she says. Examples are pediatrician David Kaelber on a kiddie swing next to one of his supposed patients, to musician Greg Lato at the counter of an old-fashioned diner. “I try to make the people stop posing. That’s a real struggle with editorial work. The people are usually very conscious of posing. They have a lot of expectations of what you’re trying to portray. If you can get them to forget all that, then something good can happen.”
“I’m really into lighting. I’ll frequently have it all set up, and then look at it, and change everything. I’m very picky. It makes my assistants crazy,” Barisonzi says. “My goal is to make it look like it could be natural lighting, even if it’s not. I’m not a lover of ring flash or raw flash effects. I use a lot of big reflectors and grids. I’m into controlling every single light as much as possible. I like things to be warm.”
Always emulating the sun and eschewing cold studio lighting, Barisonzi feels passionately about advice she was given when she began her career. “There’s so much pressure to specialize. People say you need a recognizable look. Early on I was told I’m too all over the place, and that I need to concentrate on one style,” she says. Barisonzi rejected this advice. “If you shoot just one thing or style, you might have limited success for a short time. I believe if you’re going to have a full career, you should have a big repertoire of abilities and skills.” This has suited her well, as she regularly shoots lifestyle and sports portraits for a wide variety of clients.
Preferring to get most of her signature saturation and lighting effects in-camera, she uses Photoshop and Lightroom for a minimum of processing. Barisonzi is more particular about the hardware she uses. Owner of an Induro monopod, she only uses it “for shooting over my head, in the air, or at weird angles,” she explains.
Profoto is her choice of packs and heads. “I like to rent the Pro-8a, depending on the location. Sometimes I’ll get Pro-B2 generators,” she says. “They always do a great job for me.”
Barisonzi’s choice of camera body is a Nikon D3, and triggers her strobes with the PocketWizard MultiMAX and Plus II units. “I use both Plus II’s and/or MultiMAXes on every shoot I do,” she says. “PocketWizards are indispensable for me. I also have played with the MultiMAXes to get creative approaches to capturing motion, such as my shot of the guy pitching. That effect is all in-camera with MultiMAX.”
In the future, Barisonzi plans continuing the growth of her client base, staying diverse, yet having the quality her portraits are known for as being the element which pulls it all together. Seeing how easy she makes her results look, this shouldn’t be difficult or extreme at all.
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