Europe, Somewhere in Time: An Interview with Artist & Photographer, Maurice Sapiro

I recently happened upon the beautiful, timeless work of Maurice Sapiro, an accomplished photographer, painter and sculptor who calls Connecticut home. The images from his Europe gallery, circa 1956, are what captivated me: honey-toned scenes of Venetian gondoliers gracefully powering delicate boats across a lagoon; black and white images of Bavarians in frenzied celebration; silhouetted-figures spying London’s Tower Bridge under a veil of fog; and tiny figures standing among the lacy rivets of the Eiffel Tower.

When I look at the photographs, they make me yearn to travel back in time. Perhaps that is why I enjoy Maurice’s gallery so much, for seeing its classic imagery makes me feel as though I have.

Tower Bridge London copyright Maurice Sapiro
Tower Bridge – London, © Maurice Sapiro
Paris copyright Sapiro Maurice
Paris © Maurice Sapiro

Impressed by Maurice’s work, I explored his site further, interested to learn that he is a modern-day Renaissance man that not only paints, photographs and sculpts, but is also a musician who even crafted his own harpsichord.

Play it again Sam copyright Maurice Sapiro
Play it Again, Sam © Maurice Sapiro
Homage to Mondrian copyright Maurice Sapiro
Homage to Mondrian © Maurice Sapiro

Maurice graciously answered my questions and agreed to participate in an interview. I wish I was just a bit closer to Connecticut, for I would love to meet him in person to talk about what was on his mind as he snapped each image, and learn about his transition from the darkroom to the digital age.

Sunset Venice copyright Maurice Sapiro
Sunset – Venice © Maurice Sapiro
Florence Bridges #3 copyright Maurice Sapiro
Florence Bridges © Maurice Sapiro

Could you tell us a bit more about your background, Maurice?

In 1957, I graduated from the Eastman School of Music, with a BM and MM in music Education. Then I was drafted, serving two years with the 279th Army Band in France. These two years turned out to be “the golden years.” I realized that painting and photography would be central to my life.  Well, life has a way of intruding on art—I spent the next 40 years teaching instrumental music in elementary school, and raising a family. I painted and did darkroom work in the summers, and it wasn’t till ’96, when I retired, that I was able to get to my art work full time. My son John is doing the web posting. My computer abilities are rather primitive. It took months to get Photoshop to work.

Bavaria copyright by Maurice Sapiro
Bavaria © Maurice Sapiro
Parade Bavaria copyright Maurice Sapiro
Parade – Bavaria © Maurice Sapiro
Box Seats for the Parade copyright Maurice Sapiro
Box Seats for the Parade © Maurice Sapiro

In ’77, I was doing pottery, and thought I could do a book. Davis Publications accepted the book proposal, sent me an advance, and royalties are still coming in. I’m trying to get the photo book published the same way, but so far no luck. If it doesn’t fly, as they say in the movies, “we’ll always have Paris”.

Paris copyright Maurice Sapiro
Paris © Maurice Sapiro
Eiffel Tower copyright Maurice Sapiro
Eiffel Tower © Maurice Sapiro

You are an accomplished photographer, painter and sculptor. Do you have a favorite medium with which to express yourself?

The medium I am working on at the moment is always my favorite. The various activities seem to have a life of their own. I go along for the ride. There does seem to be a pattern to the changing, but I think it’s best not to overanalyze it.

The Critic copyright Maurice Sapiro
The Critic © Maurice Sapiro

At what age did you begin painting and photographing? How did you learn the art of photography and painting?

My painting and photography go back to my teen years, and even earlier. In fourth grade, my art teacher hung my painting in the neighborhood butcher shop window. From then on, I was hooked. I had a very supportive father, who encouraged and financed each activity.

Paris Cafe de la Flamme copyright Maurice Sapiro
Café de la Flamme – Paris © Maurice Sapiro

You described your years spent in Europe in the 1950s as your “golden years.” What made that time so special for you?

Before being drafted I felt a heavy responsibility to be a good son, and a good student.  After the Army, I knew there would be responsibilities as a teacher, a husband and father—for these two years, I was free to be me.  I could totally immerse myself in photography and painting.

Morning Commute London copyright Maurice Sapiro
Morning Commute – London © Maurice Sapiro

How would you define your style?

As to style, I try not to label what I do. I am influenced by every painting and photo I have seen.  John, my son, in setting up the blog, needed a stylistic title, so we went with “Tonalism”–(in the tradition of Whistler, Iness).

Louvre IV copyright Maurice Sapiro
Louvre © Maurice Sapiro

What words of wisdom can you share with individuals who are passionate about becoming better photographers?

Keep shooting, never be satisfied, the best photo will be the next one.

Parisian Auto copyright Maurice Sapiro
Parisian Auto © Maurice Sapiro
Fountains of Paris copyright Maurice Sapiro
© Maurice Sapiro

Thank you, Maurice, for taking the time to share your artistic words of wisdom and allowing me to showcase a bit of your gorgeous gallery here. I wish you and your family all the best in 2013.

Readers, please spread the word about Maurice and his work. I would love for him to get his fantastic mid-century photos from Europe published! View the gallery in its entirety here and to see Maurice’s paintings, visit his painting site.

Finally, please contact Maurice directly should you wish to use any of the images featured in this post.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

36 thoughts on “Europe, Somewhere in Time: An Interview with Artist & Photographer, Maurice Sapiro

  1. Oh my god, Tricia, what a treasure collection of Maurice Shapiro, thank you so much for sharing, I LOVE his work. It is old school of photography and nothing like that is done nowadays anymore. It reminds me of the days I went to photography school, and I have so so many images so similar to his work and they are sitting in boxes. It gives me encouragement to re explore my own work again and make it visible for others. Thank you. Are still in Oberammergau? I am still searching for the name of a place I would like you to go, close to Garmisch. It’s a restaurant where they make the most delicious and biggest Windbeutel, you have to research on the translation on that, it is a bakery, desert, everthing, just heavenly!!!!. Some locals call it the “Windbeutel Alm” , maybe that helps. I have to ask my cousins for the name.

    1. I’m honored to have been able to share it, Cornelia. I hope it will inspire you to dust off your photographs and share them with your readers. How intriguing!

      Yes, we are still in Oberammergau. That’s so thoughtful that you’re researching yummy places for us to explore. I had to look up the translation for Windbeutel, and I think we’d call it a cream puff. The pictures of them look divine – especially that cream! As a gluten-free eater, I probably won’t be able to feast upon one, but I think they would make my parents and husband very happy, because they “have a sweet tooth.” I’ll be happy just for the adventure and the opportunity to photograph a new spot in the region. :)

      1. Thank you Tricia, for your encouragement I’ll let you know when I get my work out of my photography treasure box!! i have just googled that Cafe where they serve the greatest Windbeutel of the World. The translation of cream puff is correct, but by far doesn’t deserve what you will experience there. Even you as being gluten free will enjoy what’s inside of the Windbeutel and that’s actually the more important.So here it goes the name and address: BERG GASTHOF ALMHUETTE, Maximilianshoehe 15, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Tel. 0882171417, there is a most beautiful walk from there with views of the mountains like the Kramer and so on. Enjoy if you can !!!. Have you been in Mittenwald yet?? The place where they built world famous violins, there is also a museum called Geigenbau Museum. It is a craft which was brought over from Italy in 1684!!!!! I am sure that will be a great photo op for you as well ! From Oberammergau it is a bit of a drive, a great day trip though, but worth it with beautiful sceneries of landscape. Oh I wish I could be your tour guide right now!! Have Fun!!! Cornelia

      2. Cornelia, sorry to hear of the computer problems you’ve been having, and in light of all the troubles, thank you for making such an effort to share the information with me about the Windbeutel restaurant. I hope that we will be able to make it to the Berg Gasthof Almhuette as the setting alone sounds stunning! I know that my family would absolutely love the Windbeutel. They sound divine!

        My parents went to Mittenwald a few months ago, and I’ve been wanting to visit, but we’ve been too busy to make it there yet. It would be so interesting to see where they make these famous violins. I’ll have to look up the directions for getting there, and if we don’t make it during the winter months, it will definitely be something to do when we come back this summer. I too wish you could be here to be our tour guide and language teacher. :) Perhaps one day soon.

        It’s a beautiful day here in Oberammergau. The sun is illuminating the Kofel as I type. Have you ever climbed it or have any family who has? I bet the views from it are spectacular!

        Looking forward to seeing your vintage-type pictures sometime soon. Thank you again for the recommendations.

      3. Dear Tricia, having computer problems so this is my third attempt to retype. Thank you so much for your encouragment, I will let you know comes out of my photography “treasure box” . I just googled the place ofthe biggest Windbeutel, your translation is correct, but by far what you will be served there, doesn’t deserve the name of just cream puff. Even for you as a gluten free it will be delicious because it is important what’s inside of the Windbeutel!….. BERG GASTHOF ALMHUETTE, Maximilianshoehe15, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Tel# 0882171417, check for the days they might be closed, ” Ruhetag”! for sure they are open on weekends. Enjoy a walk from there with a magnificant view of the mountains!! Have you been in Mittenwald yet?? The place were they build the most famous violins!!! It’s a beautiful day trip from Oberammergau, really worth it with beautiful sceneries. There is also a museum called ” Geigenbau Museum” , well just another great photo op for you! Wish to be your tour guide right there, becaues it is just so beautiful. Enjoy what you see and have great adventures! Cornelia

    1. Mekala, I can take no credit for this post except for being the interviewer lucky enough to chat with such a talented photographer. :) If you get a chance, do check out Maurice Sapiro’s websites linked above. His work is indeed beautiful!

    1. I agree, Ruth. When I first happened upon Maurice’s European gallery, I savored each photo one by one, taking in the glorious details. There are many more photos in Maurice’s complete gallery too, at the above link to his site. Such lovely work.

  2. Splendid post and interview! What a treasure! I admire Maurice Sapiro and his work very much and am delighted and grateful that you took the initiative to interview him. And am even more delighted and grateful that he accepted! Thank you!

    1. How nice to connect again!
      Interviewing Maurice was a pleasure and it seems he is rather well-known for not only his beautiful artwork but also his music teaching. One of his former music students contacted me to say that Maurice is one of his favorite people. How nice to learn of the many lives he’s touched through music as well.

  3. Super interview! Loved every word and picture. His advice: “Keep shooting, never be satisfied, the best photo will be the next one.” So wise. Might have to quote him some time. :)

  4. Wonderful interview! I love his philosophy; Keep shooting, never be satisfied, the best photo will be the next one! Love it.

    I hope you don’t mind if I reblog your link on my reblog page?

    1. It was a pleasure chatting with Maurice, Madhu, and then sharing his words of wisdom. As you probably know from having been his follower for some time, he’s multi-talented. What an inspiration!

  5. His work is stunning. I love people who pursue their dreams in spite of setbacks and discouragement. The two of you are inspirational for those, like myself, who work in the arts. Keep on making beautiful things.

    1. Bernice, I agree that Maurice’s work is incredible. Though I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him in person, it was certainly a joy profiling him here. Bravo to you for spreading the word about artists who inspire you!

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