Interview #31: Amber Ortolano


CUS: First of all, the most standard question in the book: how did you get into photography?

Amber Ortolano: About two years ago my father came home from Iraq and brought a camera, and eventually I just started to play around with it. Then I stole it and just kept taking photos. 


CUS: Tell us a little about where you live.

AO: Well my house is very nice, all Victorian and antique, but my town is so dumpy. I guess that shows that there is beauty in everything, you just have to find it.


CUS: Do you have a favorite photographer?

AO: I love Paolo Roversi a lot, and of course Tim Walker, but I like Marlene Marino, Elle Hardwick, Anna H, Lauren Poor, Frenchie Jane, Chrissie White, Margaret Durow, Ananda Serne and a whole lot more that really deserve more fame.


CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true?

AO: I don't even think of myself as a photographer. Technically that is true, but I don't think everyone can actually create good photos. But what is a good photo anyways?


CUS: Do you have a favorite subject you like to shoot? And why?

AO: People! And windows and weird shit like that but I don't know . . . it's like you can see a whole person's past when you see them in a photo, or you can make up what happened to them, it’d seem foreign to shoot anything other than people.


CUS: What’s playing on your iTunes right now?

AO: Swarming - Efterklang


CUS: If you could go anywhere in the world to take photographs where would you go?

AO: I would go to Berlin. I don't know, something about Berlin really attracts me.


CUS: Tell us a little about your family.



AO: We're very close, and very weird and perverted. My dad is in the army and is on his 2nd tour to Iraq. My sister is 18 and is a writer. My brother has autism but you don't really notice it, and I love him no matter what. I'm really close to my mom and I'm fascinated with her life for some reason. I have 9 indoor cats and they are all freaky as hell.



CUS: What did you want to be when you were a kid? Do you wish that you could do that in the present?

AO: I wanted to be a science/math/English/everything teacher [laughs] and hell no, I hate school so much.


CUS: Which technology do you think has most benefited our generation?

AO: The computer, it's helped a lot of people to get their work out there and communicate, even if it has created a lot of problems as well. I just don't focus on those.


CUS: What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you on a photo shoot?

AO: Well, this was a failed photo shoot but I was at an abandoned house and this guy pulls up in a truck and starts asking me questions while my sister was petting a horse and the little kid was so freaky, and he heard me and my sister make fun of him when we were walking away so they probably hate us [laughs]


CUS: What was the last movie you saw in the theatre?

AO: Uhhhhh holy shit I never go to the movies but the last one I saw was Where The Wild Things Are.


CUS: Who, or what, is your biggest influence?

AO: Everything. It's not just one thing, I mean it can't really, you know? Everything I see makes me want to go and take more photos, it could just be the way someone is sitting and that inspires me.


CUS: What are your other hobbies besides photography?

AO: I love to write poems, draw, and sing weird songs in the shower.


CUS: Our last interviewee, Maggie Lochtenberg, wants to know: Do your photographs reflect your mood at the time? In other words are your photos meant to be visual expressions of your emotions?

AO: I'm not really sure, sometimes it works out that way, but most of the time my photos are not very happy, so even when I'm happy, my photos don't look happy.


CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?

AO: What do you do when you get into a photography rut?




Amber Ortolano, b. 1996 from Hermon, NY


Images provided by Amber Ortolano. All rights reserved.