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Chris Ameruoso: Photography Gone to the Dogs
All photos by Chris Ameruoso unless otherwise indicated
By the end of 1998, Chris Ameruoso found himself at a major crossroad. As someone who had spent most of his youth performing in a family rock band, he had moved to Los Angeles about 10 years previously “with a dream of music.” Then suddenly he switched gears, and found his calling shooting portraits of celebrities and their pets.
Ironically enough, Ameruoso says that a photographer friend asked him, “So
when did you become a professional photographer?” This gave Ameruoso pause.
He responded, “What is professional, anyway?” After all, he hadn’t
been in the photo industry for years, paid his dues, or “knew the lingo.”
But this didn’t stop him. So, armed with access to some of Hollywood’s
most sought-after stars, an artistic eye, and a great “just do it”
attitude, Ameruoso has become a self-made professional.
When asked what came first, a love for animals or for photography, Ameruoso professes to always having a fondness for both: “I’ve always had a love of animals, but always admired photography as well.” He says it was from his father, Vito—who was an artist and studied photography—that he first heard about about f-stops and shutter speeds. “My dad did a lot of black-and-white and superimposed work. He has a great eye,” says Ameruoso.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Long Island, Ameruoso was in a rock band (who bore the family name) with his three brothers. He says that although this commercial rock band had some success in the late ’80s, the music industry changed, and grunge took over in popularity.
Then, while working on Sunset Boulevard about five years ago, Ameruoso noticed numerous celebrities “wandering around with their pets.” He thought, “It would be nice to take pictures of them, but just not all ‘done up’—more like a step above home pictures.” He wanted to photograph these stars looking very comfortable and relaxed. So he made it a goal to shoot pictures of celebrities in their own environment, wearing little or no makeup. He also decided to use only black-and-white film.
His first subject was Janeane Garofalo, who was very approachable. He photographed her with her dog, Dew, at a park near Sunset Boulevard. “The pictures came out the way I had envisioned them,” says Ameruoso, “and I knew I was onto something.” From this first contact, opportunities seemed to snowball. He approached some stars, but others came knocking on his door once his work became known. All in all, his first efforts encompassed about 90 stars with their pets—and all were photographed with nothing more than a Olympus IS-20 point-and-shoot camera and natural light. The resulting pictures were very appealing, and showed a real side of celebrities that we don’t often see. The culmination of this project resulted in Ameruoso’s first book, Pets and Their Celebrities. (To see more of Chris Ameruoso’s work, log onto www.starpetsonline.com.)
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