C: Tell me about the creative road that has led you to where you're at today? How has it changed? How has the idea changed since the time you started?
V: The one idea that has stuck with me, in photographing people, to bring out the nobility in people. That was a very early goal and it may sound all high and mighty. You get all these other ideas and all these technical phases you’re going through, but that’s something I’ve never lost track of. If you could bring out the nobility in people you could be, in a sense, serving a positive purpose.

You’re even better at it because it’s more in line with the way you actually feel.

C: You worked, studied and traveled in Europe for several years. Tell us a little bit about that. How did that affect your life in general and, more specifically, your work in photography?
V: When I finished photography school and after having worked for several local Boston photographers who were big names, big money-makers, and seeing their technique and their style, I couldn’t believe that ‘Is that

all there is?’ But I would pore over these European fashion magazines and I’d say, ‘How do they do it? How do they do it? I gotta find out! There’s got to be more than this!" And that’s what got me to move to France.

In photography studios, it was different photographers every day; it was like a revolving door of talent coming in, photographers, editors, art directors, hair and makeup people, and you could pick and choose different aspects of a photographer’s style that you could use and/or discard.

So it was a good thing. It was incredible. I loved going to work every day and it was tough work, long hours. The first time I worked for French Vogue, I worked from 8am to midnight and at midnight we were taking all the equipment down and I realized that I had been working for 16 hours and I didn’t even get paid! And I didn’t care, it was such a total thrill to be working for French Vogue.

C: And how did this all affect your style?
V: I did a lot of tests while I was there. I was able to use the studios on weekends. You

could see how it was done from a technical standpoint but also you developed a taste level. There’s a big camaraderie amongst assistants throughout the city and you would cross paths with lots of them and spend a long time smoking cigarettes and talking about different photographers and poring over magazines. In school here it was all ‘I like that, I like this, I like that,’ but among the French assistants it was more ‘I love this, I hate this!’ ‘This is great. This sucks.’ So they had much more deeply felt emotions about one photographer’s approach over another.

And you definitely had to have strong convictions.

C: Is that just because you were in Paris or because you were in Europe?
V: Paris is really Mecca for fashion. Not just French photographers but photographers from all over Europe and, of course, the US and Canada, everywhere, go there. And the French definitely have their own specific thoughts but, for me, they were definitely running the show as far as all fashion photography was concerned. You have

different magazines in Britain, like The Face, which have an entirely different approach than the French style, but as far as I was concerned, the French were dictating how fashion and its photography operates.

C: So it affected not only the way you saw photos but the way you took photos?
V: It affected the technical aspect, definitely, but I also developed a taste that I didn’t have previously. So it came from trying to shoot what you thought was the ideal, an ideal which grew from talking to lots of people.

C: Since you've experienced both, what good and bad points do you see about European vs. American photography? Do you have a preference?
V: Well, the American style is very geometrically-driven. It’s all composition and all very proper composition while the Europeans aren’t really into composition per se. There’s certainly a composition going on, but not as neatly defined as the Americans. Everything’s so properly placed with the American style, while the European, it has more feeling. And with a good European

photo, you like it and you don’t know why you like it, you just like it. While with the American you like it because, well, because this is here and the X is there and the cross is over here and there’s a circle over there. And Americans have a big obsession with calling things ‘clean.’ They’re constantly using this adjective into the ground. And it’s hardly a quantitative adjective in that you never hear anyone say the opposite ‘Oh, it’s dirty.'

Likewise, new styles always evolve from taking existing components of

what’s considered good and subverting them. Suddenly people start shooting out-of-focus after 140 years of trying to shoot in-focus. If you wanted to start shooting in a completely different style, you should start shooting 'dirty.' Figure out what 'dirty' is and then start shooting it.

Brian Coleman is a freelance writer