Friday, December 21, 2018

meet Ben Veronis ... the accidental photographer


For many of us of a certain age, we find ourselves at a crossroads which usually entails reinvention or adding one more rite of passage to our individual lists. The occurrence might not actually be due to age but in fact might be a choice rather than a necessity. Having myself been in both situations Ben Veronis is of particular interest to me as he not only chose to reinvent himself but he picked up roots and moved cross country and to begin his new “book”... not just a chapter!
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For some reason, those of us who have been part of the fashion business in some way, shape or form never really leave it but instead we reimagine ourselves in a whole other capacity employing creative abilities or skillset that we may never have known we possessed. Ben found his hidden or latent talent was behind the camera and with his lifelong experience in men’s fashion; it became a logical decision to concentrate on men as his subject of choice after trying out other areas of interest.  I might add here that Palm Springs is certainly rife with male pulchritude of every age and in endless variety!
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 What you will read is that we are all on own particular journey and some of us are constantly evolving and reimagining ourselves with great success. As you can “see” Ben is still on his life’s journey and from the sound of it, he couldn’t be happier and is mastering his new found ventures with great results. So no more of my words... now it’s time for his... Here is Ben Veronis in HIS words…
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Jeffrey Felner: Can you catch us up as to how you arrived at your present position?
Ben Veronis: Becoming a photographer was one of those unintentional things that happened along the way. the fashion industry was my previous  lifelong calling  but I sold the company  before moving from New York to Palm Springs .when I arrived  in California, I had to reinvent myself since I no longer had that connection to the fashion industry. I had always dabbled in various forms of male oriented art, whether it was menswear, fashion illustration or painting, but I had never tried my hand at photography. I began with real estate photography which worked out quite well, and then gradually turned my lens toward the male figure, and eventually opened a photo art gallery in Palm Springs. Ironically it turned out to be the medium that I should have pursued all along. It is the only “place” where I feel the results come so close to matching my expectations and standards.
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JF: If you could choose what or who would be your dream collaboration / collaborator and why? … Plus you juggle 2 careers... preference? And why?
BV: My dream collaboration would probably be to work with some of the male models that I admired so much in my early days of fashion. Of course, I would need a time machine to make that happen since neither they nor I would be quite the same as we were 30 years ago, but they are still an incredible influence on me years later; Walter Schupfer, Marcus Able, Jeff Aquilon, and Todd Irwin to name a few.   In my professional life I have always juggled various, often divergent skills. I think I just have very separate right and left brain functions that I need to indulge in these various skills in order to feel complete. I’ve always been quite good at anything aesthetically-oriented…and at the same time many things scientifically oriented. So I have just learned to live with being “creatively bi-polar” and always have my hands in different pots.

 
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JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why? 

BV: My choice of 5 dinner guests would be something like: Julia Child, who of course would have prepared the dinner (even though I am a very good cook myself!). Diana Ross, who was a very early influence while growing up, and inspired the sense of “drama” that I try to bring to my photography. My partner, Chris Gilbert, who is always with me and has been for over 30 years. One of my very favorite models, Matt Dealy, who not only is beautiful in a male model sense, but is the most caring, creative and kind human being I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. my dear friend Cathy Paul, who has been a long time good friend  and who is endlessly interesting being that she  can converses on any subject in a social setting. One final guest would also be Herb Ritts, because he was such an influence on me photographically in terms of light and shadow and we also share the same birthday, August 13.
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 JF: You are both provocateur and story teller; which aspect of your career do you think most defines you as an artist and why?
BV: I have learned quite a bit about the photographic process in the 3 years I have pursued it, but I am always learning and always striving to achieve more and to understand my own style which is never apparent to me. One thing that I have realized recently about photography is that it is not always just a pose, or the lighting that makes a great photo, but it is somehow making a connection with the model and bringing that to the final photo. Usually I meet my model and then work with these guys for only 2-4 hours; I have to get to know them, and capture them in an artistic way in that very short span of time. I have also realized that just that initial choice of model informs a lot about the ultimate final feel of the photo.
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JF: Is there any part of your career that you could rewrite and why?
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BV: One of the ultimate challenges for me is how to convey the model in a sexy way because I think my photos inherently are all about sexiness.  I always want to do it in a way that fits with who they are as a person. I never try to push them too far, but at the same time I like to get them to go right up to the edge without pushing them over.
Ultimately with photography I feel like I am moving on from being a “one great dramatic photo” kind of guy, to telling a complete little story in 12-18 shots…Almost like frames from a movie that appear as still images; that is my current goal. I think one of my very recent shoots of model Connor Field is pretty good at conveying this new direction.
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