Jake Stangel: I thought it would be interesting to begin by looking back on 2017. I had an interesting one myself; you not only looked like you had an amazing year work-wise, but you and your lovely wife Jordan also had a beautiful baby girl, Paloma Canziani.
João Canziani: Yeah, that was the main event, that put everything in perspective. It was a very special year – jobwise, it started really hot, I was doing a lot of very good assignments, Verizon, and a few nice editorial shoots. Then Paloma came along and then it was summer. I heard it was slow for a lot of people, but for me, I really didn’t care anymore (how I used to freak out if weeks went by without the phone ringing!). It was really nice obviously to take that two-month break, thinking I was just going to be an “artist,” and have my daughter, and go work out or running and just do personal stuff… But it was a very, very intense two months. Having a child is no joke obviously, and no matter what people will tell you, your expectations will be blown off the roof. That kind of mellowed out, slowly, and I got back to work and I became a bit more focused, a bit more selective about assignments, because life took a new meaning… I was trying not to miss the beginning period of her life and I was interested in things that were good and valuable experiences to me, that would allow for me to grow as an artist, and obviously for financial reasons too, I was trying to support a third member of my family now…
JS: Did you talk to photographer peers who have recently had kids, like Geordie [Wood]? Did you feel remotely prepared for that new balance?
JC: Sadly, I haven’t talked to Geordie about this… I felt like all my friends and people around me were starting to have kids. We have a lovely couple who are very good friends of ours that live literally blocks from us and they had a kid a year before ours was born. We learned a lot from them, and a lot from other friends who have kids as well. So, I think we were prepared. But the encouraging thing is that a human being grows across a period of months and years, it’s not like a little puppy who’s suddenly “boom!” a full-grown dog and it’s done. It still feels as if I’m in some fantasy land, enjoying this very long honeymoon period of seeing my daughter grow into a lovely, lovely being. But we’re not yet dealing with the responsibilities of like, ‘Oh my god! we have to find a school for her, we have to set up an account…’ Or we have to do all these responsible things that you have to do for a human being. But those things are coming slowly, where you have to start thinking about insurance, about taking her to the doctor, all that kind of stuff. It’s not as overwhelming as I thought it would be, although the couple of first months were a bit tough, but I wasn’t working much, so that was alright.
JS: And now that you started working again, I’m curious to know, how has your relationship with photography changed? We’re in an interesting position because photography is both a creative outlet as well as the way we pay for the roof over our heads, the food we eat… There’s a pragmatism to it that I could imagine either goes way up, or way down, after having a child. It could either re-invigorate a dreamy sense of how you document the life around you or be a pressure point to really have to bring in the cash to help provide for a family.
JC: Well, I think on a very personal basis – just around the same time that Paloma was born, I was starting to think beyond photography. As a photographer, I started to think about film, about directing, or even about what’s happening about photography per se. Frustrations, all the shifts that are happening in the industry, photography becoming commodified. The prevalence of Instagram and how everything is homogenized. So, it’s still my passion and I still do it to validate myself, and to validate my life – I cannot imagine myself not being a photographer, not being a creative person. But to answer your question, it’s going a little bit beyond, I want to create things that are, I feel, a bit more about storytelling than just a series of photographs. What about your year?
JS: It does make sense. I definitely had the most odd year of my career last year, most of which was summarized in a long-form instagram post midway through the year, and the response to that really resonated way deeper than I ever thought it wood, which was heartwarming, and nice to understand that many people were going through a similar moment. Like you, the year started out strong, shooting for Amex at the same time that you were shooting that Verizon project. Then I went straight from Amex into a large project for Samsung in Montreal, then on to Amsterdam for Rapha and Telluride for T+L, and during those shoots, inquiries for future projects were coming in, things were buzzing like crazy, then each and every one of those potential gigs fell through, I came home and the phone almost entirely stopped ringing for about 4 months.
And like you were saying with Paloma, one begins to have these external forces that affect your relationship with photography as a career, and it becomes as much of a focus to maintain the balance, you know? We all started out with photography being this incredibly pure, joyful, and creative outlet; anyone who is fortunate enough to turn photography it into full-time job needs to manage this balance between art and commerce.
There’s such a gravity that comes into play when this creative service you provide is also what pays your mortgage, and then there are all the elements of legal and taxes and LLCs and bookkeeping, and before you know it, you’re running a business 90% of the time and shooting photos—the whole reason you became a photographer—sometimes as little as 10%. And I say this not as a complaint, but as central element of where my mind is at these days, and ruminating on how to reclaim some of the creative time I used to have more of.