My name is Chris Spano. I am the photographer and creator of The Faces of New Jersey Project. When I was young there was nothing I wanted more than to get my license. I had a love for cars ever since I first drove a go-kart, I guess you can say I had the need for speed. I started working at as a Photo Lab Tech when I turned 16, so I could save up and have a car for the day I turned 17. While working in the lab I got to reveal the negatives of 35mm film from camera’s all around town. This is when I began my interest in photography.
I joined a photo forum called The Agents of Fortune. It was ran by a bunch of guys who where hobbyist photographers and would go out and shoot landscape photography as a group. I tagged along with my little point and shoot camera. Even though my images couldn’t stand up to the quality of work these guys showed, I felt like I was where I belonged. The Agents of Fortune forum no longer exists but the guys who ran it are still around and they now go by Slama Photography. They have been my mentors throughout my entire photo journey and I am proud to call them my friends.
My wife purchased my first DSLR camera for my birthday almost three years ago. It was an entry level Nikon D3000. This is when the bug set in. Around the same time I got the camera my buddy from work Ed Owens was writing music and searching for musicians to put a band together. Ed eventually had a solid band and wanted me to come out and photograph their first big event. The band’s name is Loaded Gun and they played one of their first gigs at The Trocadero in Philadelphia. It was the first time I had ever photographed musicians but people seemed to enjoy the photos I had created. I was later invited by a production company called Glitter City Productions to come out to a few shows and photograph their concerts. I really enjoyed this because I felt like a Rock Star. I had an all access pass and could get as close to the bands as I liked. Through this journey I met a lot of famous artists and a few that some people would consider legends of Rock n Roll.
Since I was shooting in low light, my entry level DSLR just wasn’t cutting it, so I bit the bullet and traded all my gear in for a brand new Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-105 f4 lens as well as a 50mm 1.8 what is also known in the photography world as the nifty fifty. This is where my images started to shine. Living the Rock Star life wasn’t working well for me as I had a family at home, so I decided to stop photographing musicians.
I was searching online for other things to photograph and I stumbled across an ad for Professional Roller Derby in my area. It was a long shot but I sent out an email to the event coordinator and asked if I could photograph a bout just for fun in return I would supply them with the images that I create. It turns out that Roller Derby is extremely awesome and the Derby Teams were so appreciative of my photographs that they invited me along to other events. I photographed quite a few bouts at Derby Ink in Philly. It was a Bank Track for Professional Roller Derby Teams. I met a lot of cool people photographing Roller Derby. If I had the time to put into it I would love to be a team photographer but right now its not in my cards since I work 45-55 hours a week.
My love for portraiture began when my daughter was born. I photographed her just about everyday for the first year of her life. I learned a lot about portraiture just by trial and error and YouTube videos. I one day got an idea to photograph and tell the stories of our Nation’s Veteran’s and asked my neighbor George who I knew was a World War II Vet to participate in my new found project. George was happy to oblige. The photo turned out to be the best photo I had ever taken and one month after I was hit by the disheartening news that my friend George had passed away. George never shared his story with any of his children because he didn’t think they would be interested hearing about war. Luckily I kept a recording of our conversation and presented it to his family. The gratitude that I received back from them was so rewarding. I have been chasing that feeling ever since.
The Faces of New Jersey project is inspired by a project on Flickr called 100 strangers. I got addicted to viewing the 100 strangers project after I found Danny Santos. Danny photographs strangers in the street of Orchard Road in Singapore. I had a different approach to a similar project; however, I didn’t want to limit myself to 100 people and I certainly didn’t want to limit my project to just strangers.
Now that you know a little more about me and my project, I would like to invite you to follow along with my blog. My goal is to meet at least one person a week and post a new entry by Sunday night.
If you or someone you know lives in NJ and has an interesting story they would like to share please encourage them to LIKE my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ChrisSpanoPhotography and send me a private message.