The photography exercises related to Tony Vaccaro’s exhibition Life is Wonderful offer fun summertime activities for all ages. The tasks can be completed with any type of camera, from a mobile phone to an SLR camera. The tasks are suitable for photographers of all levels and backgrounds — the most important thing is that the tasks put a smile on your face and motivate creative experimentation with photography.
1) Cozy snapshots
Tony Vaccaro started taking snapshots at a young age by capturing moments featuring his family and friends. He often carried a box camera with him. Practice makes perfect!
Pick a relaxed vacation day when your whole family is home. Take pictures of your family throughout the day in the midst of summertime tasks. If you are able to print out some images, you can even make a small photo book out of your snapshots.
Photo: Tony Vaccaro, Big Hug With You, 1965, Helsinki, Finland. Courtesy of Monroe Gallery of Photography and the Tony Vaccaro Studio
2) Portrait of a busy artist
Tony Vaccaro’s lifework includes many portraits of well-known artists. Often these artists have been captured alongside their creations, either working on them or presenting them.
Invent some artist characters with a friend. Describe the characters in writing or make sketches portraying them. If you are not able to write yet, you can describe your character to a friend. How does this artist character speak, and how do they dress? What kind of art do they make? Do they, for example, blow artistic bubbles using chewing gum? Bring your characters to life and get into character. One of you will first take the role of the photographer and document their artist friend at work. Switch roles whenever you feel like it. You can even carry on playing for the whole day if you want!
A tip for the photographer: Tony Vaccaro tends to play around with different perspectives in his photos, along with other tricks enhancing his photography. He has taken some images from high up, and some from down below. Try out different angles and other tactics while taking photos of your artist friend. You can also place some see-through objects in front of your camera and see what happens.
Photo: Tony Vaccaro, Georgia O’keeffe with Pelvic Series, New Mexico, USA 1960. Courtesy of Monroe Gallery of Photography and the Tony Vaccaro Studio
3) A not-at-all boring group picture
In Tony Vaccaro’s Say cheese! we see something very familiar in a get together: a photographer taking a photo of a group of people.
With your friends, think of a reason to celebrate and choose a nice location for a group photo. You can ask a friend or a family member to take the photo, or use the timer in your camera. Just before the photo is taken, tickle your friend; smiling faces and laughter are guaranteed!
Photo: Tony Vaccaro, Say Cheese! Marimekko House, Helsinki, Finland, 1965. Courtesy of Monroe Gallery of Photography and the Tony Vaccaro Studio
4) Rainy day colours
Allow the lush locations and playful characters seen in Tony Vaccaro’s work to inspire you through colours, accessories and scenery. Take your friend on a rainy summer day’s photoshoot!
Dress up in your most colourful clothes and rubber boots on a rainy day. Take along your most beautiful umbrellas and head out on an adventure in your nearby surroundings. Take photos of one another jumping into puddles, running around and having fun! Can you notice how gorgeously the greyness of a rainy day accentuates your colours?
A tip for a more experienced photographer: Tony Vaccaro has captured jumping motions in two ways in his works –– either by stopping a movement, or making a movement visible. The photographer can influence this by regulating how long the object lingers in the shot, or in other words by monitoring how long light enters the camera’s sensor. If you are curious about cameras on a technical level, you can get to know the shutter speed, which you can adjust to experiment with different ways of capturing your friend’s movements with different exposure times.
Photo: Tony Vaccaro, Fun in Finland, Helsinki, Finland 1965. Courtesy of Monroe Gallery of Photography and the Tony Vaccaro Studio