Monday, December 30, 2013

Michael Carrino: Basic Photo Tools Create Elegant Art

Art patrons study the sharp detail in a triptych by photographer Michael Carrino.

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush


The photographs are impressive, more so after learning that Michael Carrino only used a simple set-up: an old Nikon SLR film camera with a standard 50mm lens, black and white film, and when needed a soft-focus filter.

His exhibit at ROTA Gallery, "In Natural Light," demonstrates how artistry can be achieved without an array of various lenses, an extensive studio set-up, or the latest digital technology.

During the opening reception Saturday evening Michael, a retired SUNY-Plattsburgh lecturer/instructor of composition and poetry, was pleased to discuss photography and art.

The exhibit features portraits and figure studies that use available light to its best advantage, either bringing out sharp detail or rendering gentle forms.

Michael Carrino (right) gestures as he discusses his work with Don and Vivian Papson.

While Michael prefers film over pixels for his own work, he has nothing against digital photography; he appreciates what the medium can create.

But he does have some reservations with how digital manipulation can blur the lines. For example one time he was examining an image at an exhibit, trying to determine if it was a photographic image or a painting.  It was labeled as a photo but without that information a viewer could easily assume it had been painted.  Michael doesn't mind if a photo has been digitally manipulated as long as the viewer knows how the image was created.

With one exception the images in his exhibit are black and white: a color photo was added for contrast, Michael said.  All were printed with traditional darkroom equipment.   He prefers to keep his prints relatively small, around 8 X 10 inches in size, to maintain detail.

The images use available light such as sunlight through a window.  His work proves simplicity – a basic camera and lens combined with natural light – can produce elegant results.

Besides mastering the technical details, he explained a photographer should have the knack to let a model feel relaxed.  Sometimes Michael has to shoot for a while until the model is accustomed to the camera, appearing natural, not posed.  His images appear natural, candid, evincing the extra time and effort he took to capture the right shots.

A patron points out a detail in another work by Michael Carrino emphasizing soft focus.

The exhibit will be on display until January 12th at ROTA Gallery, 50 Margaret Street. For more info about ROTA, email

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