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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.