Thursday, May 7, 2015

Interview with Teddy Sczudlo

From the Infinite Gaze series by Teddy Sczudlo
Edward (Teddy) Sczudlo sees art everywhere. His work intertwines with his own spiritual journey, which includes the mantra "Life is art. Art is life" (one that this interviewer also espouses). He has worked with high profile clients including MTV, Newsweek, Time, The Washington Post, Getty Images, among others. He has also worked with world famous photographers Bruce Weber and Steven Meisel. His travels - especially to the Himalayas and South America - have given him perspective on the value of introspection and the importance of seeking beauty and joy...the wide pursuit of which is perhaps lacking in America today.

His website is and you can find him on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook.  Teddy - currently based in New York City - answered some questions for Arts Com Con...

Arts Community Connection: When did you start taking photographs?

Teddy Sczudlo: I started taking photographs at around 15 years old.

ACC: If you had to describe your aesthetic...describe your aesthetic.

Teddy: I would describe the majority of my (work) as surreal or hyper real. It can vary from shoot to shoot.

ACC: You've worked with Bruce Weber, as well as Steven Meisel, who are both among the most famous and acclaimed photographers alive. They both have an affinity for human subjects, but different approaches and aesthetics in how those subjects are captured and presented. Could you share a bit about what it was like working with them, what you think makes them each most unique, and what you learned about your own artistic process as a result?

Teddy: Working with Bruce Weber I learned the difference between being an artist and a creative. Bruce is an artist in the sense that he lives and breathes his craft. He is in the mind-state of photography, visuals, lighting, and beauty for most of his day. In that sense he is seeing potential images all of the time. I learned that to really be a successful photographer, you need to be immersed in the craft. I also learned lighting and specificity of gesture when guiding models. Bruce is very specific about the directions he gives models. His work reflects a full immersion into the craft where the whole of daily life is around attention to visuals. In that sense I feel Bruce is an artist…a fully immersed practitioner of the craft.

From Steven Meisel I learned about lighting and how to conserve energy on sets. Bruce is outgoing and very social. Steven is the opposite. Steven keeps his crew really tight and he conserves his energy in a direct way only communicating with people who are directly related to a task at hand. With lighting, Steven is specific and articulate. He works with his first assistant to make sure the lighting and tests are exactly as he wants and/or has storyboarded. Sacred Objects (a series by Sczudlo) was partially inspired from working with Steven on a Louis Vuitton campaign with (model) Giselle and (designer) Marc Jacobs.

Working with both Bruce Weber and Steven Meisel was invaluable and magical. 

ACC: You used your own parents and stepparents in your "American Divorce" series. As a viewer, the effect of knowing that two of the individuals in the images are formerly married, and that the two others are their new spouses, is palpable. But as the artist and son/stepson behind the camera, what was the experience like? How was this work conceived?

Teddy: The experience of working with my family and stepfamily on this project was cathartic. It was gut wrenching, it was honest, it was pushing the limits of our comfort zones and it was thought out and planned. On some level the internal dialogue that my family had about remarriage, respective partners, and their new partners was dissolved once we were actually together. In that sense it was cathartic. The work was conceived through study of other artists and a wish to create a body of work that related to society and others. The initial thought process was entirely random however. I just thought it would be powerful. We did a spec and my mentors and teachers at the time strongly encouraged me to push the limits and continue.

From the American Divorce series by Teddy Sczudlo, featuring the artist's mother and father
ACC: What is the "Infinite Gaze" series? Why is it password protected on your website?

"Infinite Gaze" is password protected only because it’s not a complete body of work yet. The images are up online for me to share with participants and I also like to see my work on the site before I make it live.

ACC: There is an ethereal quality in much of your work. One could say a spiritual element is clearly evident in your "Ordained Teachers" and "Sacred Objects" series. Would you speak to the influence of spirituality - whether personal or general - to your work? 

Teddy: Spirituality has heavily influenced my work. One of the theories within spirituality that I study which has influenced my work is the Buddhist presentations on interdependence…that things come into being due to a large number of factors and causes and conditions, not just one or two factors. This multi-layered and wide nexus of explanation for how things arise into being has influenced my approach and dynamic to making shoots where many things are going on within a frame. You can see some of this exploration in "American Divorce" and also "Sacred Objects". I try to elucidate that through multiple gestures of models, lighting variation, and theme.

From the Sacred Objects series by Teddy Sczudlo
ACC: What specifically about South America and the Himalayas inspire you? 

South America and the Himalayas are inspiration places because of the culture, landscape and spirituality. The Himalayas are so inspiring to visit. When you stand on a vista at 18,000 feet and look out into the expanse of the Himalayas its like nothing you have ever seen before. I remember on one vista we had pulled over at around 15,000 or 16,000 feet and we stopped and my breath literally was taken away. About ten seconds later I realized I hadn't breathed. It was out of the sheer observance of this magnificent beauty of the landscape. That had a beautiful impact on my mind for a couple of days, and now it’s a nice memory. The culture of the Himalayas is deeply focused on spirituality. There is something that brings you into your own heart by seeing people around you constantly in prayer and immersed in compassion. You can see that through the light of their eyes, their warmth and friendliness. Many of the people that you encounter are friendly and warm people.

South American culture is warm, friendly and sensual. They have a special way of life there where I feel like the balance between life and play is almost on a level playing field. Something about that allows me when traveling there to let my guard down...its like a permission. Especially when traveling alone. I appreciate that experience and its impact on my life.

ACC: Is there a question you've always wanted to be asked?

Teddy: ... What do you want to do with your life?

ACC: What is your answer?

Teddy: My response would be to raise my understanding and positive vibration high - be creative, healthy, and contribute to my own and others' welfare while making something memorable.

(Jameson Freeman interviewed Teddy Sczudlo on behalf of the Arts Community Connection.)

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