Photo Throwdown has arrived! Finally, after years of watching bad reality TV shows, there’s a show for us photography junkies.
Two photographers duke it out in a photo challenge. But before they begin, they have to solve a mini-challenge. Whoever solves the mini-challenge gains an advantage. When the mini-challenge is over, that’s when the real fun begins. The show’s creators call it a Refocus. The Refocus is designed to change the game. The best part is, you pick who wins.
Who came up with this brilliant show? Damian Battinelli and John David Pittman along with the help of Chris Fain, Levy Moroshan and Dan Hughes. All of these guys are hand picked protégés of photography god, Peter Hurley.
Where did you guys get the idea for this show?
Damian Battinelli: I came up with this idea after watching a bunch of cooking shows with my wife. Why isn’t there any shows for photographers? I would watch it.
I thought, maybe this is something I can do with one of my buddies. Right away, I contacted JDP. He was a great fit. I love his work. He’s an amazing artist and great friend. I pitched it to him and he was like, let’s run with it.
JDP: From a philosophical standpoint… Our goal is to create something that will push them creatively and make them better artists. The challengers on our show are not the rockstars in the industry (for now). Our goal is to find photographers that are very talented but don’t necessarily have much exposure. We can take a couple of dynamite photographers and give them a platform to showcase their work. Maybe, they can get more jobs or notoriety because of it.
Breakdown the first Throwdown for us.
Chris is a commercial portrait photographer. Jen is a phenomenal lingerie photographer.
The theme for the shoot was going to be whatever they saw when they walked into the studio. When I walked them into the studio, they saw a beautiful female model laying on a couch wearing intimate attire. Jen’s excited because she’s a boudoir photographer and this is what she shoots every day. Chris was a little freaked out because that’s not what he shoots.
What was the mini-challenge?
Damian Battinelli: For the mini challenge, they had to run to Madison Square Park and look for me like Where’s Waldo. I had the cable that they needed to tether into their camera. Whoever got the cable from me first, won the mini challenge. Our camera operators were a little winded. Our two challengers were hauling ass through the streets of Manhattan.
Tell me about the refocus
JDP: We gave them what we call a refocus. It’s designed to screw them up. In the production world, things happen. We’re taking all these scenarios that could happen on set: your camera breaks, the agency changes something on you, the time limit gets shorten, or something happens that you can’t control. We’re taking these circumstances and turning it up to 11. Then we just watch what happens. It’s awesome.
Damian Battinelli: They basically entered the studio once again. Except this time, the model was a guy in a speedo instead of the the girl in lingerie. The guy’s name is Matthew Silver. He calls himself the Whack-a-doodle love portal or something. He’s a street performer in New York City who has kinda gone viral.
JDP: This is a perfect example of little things that happen on shoots – then we ramped it up. We explained, “The agency has decided to go in a different direction. They decided to change the model from female to male.”
Damian Battinelli: We want to push people. Like Jen. She’s not used to shooting anything like that. She’s not even used to shooting tethered. When we finished filming, she was so inspired. We forced her to step outside of her realm.
JPD: Jen primarily uses natural light or constant light. Profoto gave us a bunch of strobes to work with. It was so cool to watch her trying to figure out how she was going to shoot a man, on top of that, she shot her whole session with strobes. She never shot with strobes and she loved it. With each throw down, we sit down and do that one-on-one with the challengers. The viewers will get to see what professional photographers go through during the creative process.
Who won the first challenge?
Damian Battinelli: We don’t know yet. We want Photo Throwdown to be interactive. Viewers will be able to vote over the course of the throwdown and choose the winner. They will also be able to vote for themes and refocuses.
JDP: It’s important to get feedback from creative professionals in the industry, like creative directors or rock star photographers.
What’s Damian’s style?
JDP: The cool thing about Damien’s work is that he’s a mild mannered, soft, super sweet, teddy bear of a guy. His work is epic. He’s a big post-process guy. He’s a phenomenal retoucher and composite artist. He’s a great portrait artist too. You’ll see that epic dynamic creep into his portraits. All of his portraits have that same larger than life grandeur.
People come to him because his style is epic.
What’s JDP’s style?
Damian Battinelli: He calls me a teddy bear but I can say the same thing about him. He’s so full of love and respect. It shows in his work. He respects the person that’s in front of him. He loves what he does.
He just gets it. For picking up a camera five years ago to where he is today is – It’s not normal.
If you look at his work, you would think this guy was a lifer. He sees light in a beautiful way. He knows how to create moods using his light. He’s so talented and artistic. It blows me away.
How did you get started?
JDP: I first picked up a camera five years ago as hobby. I’ve been doing it professionally for over two years. My focus is commercial and editorial portraiture. I want a human being in front of my lens.
Damian Battinelli: I got started in 1995. My father bought me a 35mm camera at the World Trade Center in New York City. He was an amature photographer himself. I always loved what he did. My grandfather was a product photographer for Kodak. I was always around photography. I guess it was just a natural progression.
I joined the Air Force in 1999 for graphic design. However, I wasn’t a graphic designer my whole career. I went the exact opposite and worked maintenance on ejection systems for F16’s.
I got out of the military for medical reasons. There was no way that I was going to work for anyone but myself. There was no way. I spent my retirement money and got some startup gear and just told people I was a photographer. If you bust your ass and stay focus, if you want it enough, you get to where you want to be. I don’t even know what that is. I’m not where I was a year ago, I’m definitely not where I was in 2010 when I started. I love my fucking job.
What’s the state of photography?
JDP: I’m starting to think we’re the old guys in photography. Every day, there’s somebody better and younger coming along. We’re entering a creative reawakening. We’re flooded with creatives. Damien and I have come to realize, if you’re willing to collaborate with people, share knowledge and push yourself creatively, you will escalate faster.
What we’re trying to do with this show is to see what happens when we work together. Here are two people going head-to-head and throughout the two days we’re filming, we watch them talk about collaborating. “I want to learn this from you.” We’re starting to see more collaboration.