Raphael Mazzucco has a professional relationship with beauty. The Vancouver born sculptor and photographer has shot multiple covers for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and sold his artwork to Damien Hirst. In spite of his globe trotting lifestyle, Raphael still finds time to live the good life in Montauk. We caught up with him at his pad to talk resin sculptures, the light in Montauk, and the infamous ‘butt book’ he worked on with Jimmy Iovine.
Hey Raph. Tell us about life in Montauk.
I lived in New York city for twelve years and came out here for a holiday. We were going to rent this house, and we ended up buying it the day we came out here. I never thought i’d live in Montauk, it just really happened super quick and very unexpectedly.
Does it feel like home now?
Montauk really is home.
Does the space of this house-the views, the architecture, the yard-does that factor into your work?
The house plays a huge role for me. A few years back, I had a studio down the road and I never really went there-I always ended up coming back here. I loved the whole idea of working out of the house I love.
How are the winters here?
It’s a great time to do a lot of printing and artwork. I mean it doesn’t really change, we just do it all year round but we just don’t go outside as much. You know who your real friends are in the winter.
Hah, I’m sure. What about the summers, are they a bit more fun?
Oh, god yeah, lot of fun. It’s like party central, we have a lot of great parties here.
There’s a big artistic community down here isn’t there? Why do you think that is?
Right, yeah. I think it’s just the nature of the place. If you’re living in Montauk the light is just super incredible and always changing from one sunset to another.
Let’s talk about your work. To start with, could you tell us who some of your favorite artists are?
When did you decide to start transitioning from photography into fine art?
I started working with the resin fifteen years ago, when I was living in New York. It was really a natural evolution. I just really loved the idea of painting over photographs. I wanted to make the photography look like sculpture. I didn’t know exactly where it was going and it’s like that to this day – I’m trying to grow as much as I can and work hard and always have something great to look forward to.
How long does it take for a piece to come together?
Each piece really varies in time…lately we’ve been working on canvases which take up to two or three weeks, but when we’re doing tabletops we work with many layers so that’s a much longer process. That’ll take two or three months. The way we work, we don’t just attack it: we have it, it lays around, and we see where it goes.
Does your creative process start when you’re out in some far flung locale shooting or…
When we’re on the road we have a computer and load everything in, but time we don’t print. I would like to, but it’s a process we do after once we’re back. The places we’re in are the middle of nowhere so we’re always shooting and moving and trying to make the best of that time.
But when you’re taking these photographs are you already thinking about some of the layers and colors?
Yeah. I think also, just the elements of where you are inspire you, and give you those ideas naturally. Then when i come back to Montauk and start working on them they start to change again. It’s always a very big surprise.
Are most of the trips you go on for private photography or your art?
Most of the trips we go on are strictly for the art.
Talk a little bit about how you approach photography that you do for a client, versus the work that you do for yourself. Do you approach it differently?
When I’m working commercially the shooting is pre-ordained. The client knows exactly what I’m going to deliver and they know exactly what they want so it’s about being able to work really well together with people. With the art you are yourself. You just go for it, eh? Which I love. But i do love both processes.
You’ve got quite the eye for beauty. What do you think makes a woman beautiful?
What makes a woman beautiful is absolutely, the inside, the spirit. People often ask me who is the most beautiful girl I’ve photographed and really, honestly, I could never answer that because everyone’s got a different spirit you know and they give different things. so it’s very hard to compare, but it’s very interesting to see so many different variables go into that.
Do you ever use models you find around the location? How does that go?
When we find a model at the location, it’s less about the model, and more about being in the element.
Can you give us an example of that?
In the amazon we found a tribe and we incorporated the girl with the tribe. It’d be awesome to show them the finished work but, where we were, they don’t have any internet access or anything like that. Someone would have to bring it to them by boat.
All right, we have to ask you about the ‘butt book.’
The butt book, the Culo project i did with Jimmy Iovine. I did a video video for Jimmy in Brazil and he came back with all these shots just from the waist down. It was really Jimmy Iovine’s idea to do that, to do a coffee table table book.
Can you talk about what went into Culo?
We shot in Vietnam then we went to Milan from there to Brazil and Iceland all over the place…I went back to my hometown Vancouver, Canada and did something there. I learned a lot too…I thought I knew what a great butt was.
You’ve been in the industry long enough to see major changes. What do you think about the rise of social media and its relationship to fashion photography.
I’m just a big fan of all that stuff. For a long time, I wasn’t a big believer in it, but you know it’s fun and it’s really great that people can see things so quickly.
Has your own process mirrored those changes at all?
Times are changing. I love film, I’m such a big fan of it but it’s a lot of digital we work with. Also i think the digital gives you something too you know..it’s so bizarre because one day it just happened so quickly I never thought digital would catch on.
What about Montauk? I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot about changes in Montauk lately, what are your thoughts on that?
When I first moved here it was all wetlands. We would golf from here, set up a tee and let her go. Over the last twelve years Montauk’s changed so much…back in 2008 there was like three thousand people living here. I actually like it more now-I like how busy it is, there’s a lot of energy. At sunset in Montauk, you can still hear all the people clapping, it’s great. Old school.
Finally, do you have any words of advice for aspiring photographers?
You have to really love and have a passion for whatever you do in this life. Everything else will happen in a really natural sort of state. I just believe in doing things that you love. It doesn’t matter how difficult it is. Just hang in there and be blessed that you love something.