Emily Falcigno is a photographer who is about making a strong statement-- she boils people and things down to their essence. She is not after the sizzle but the steak. I was glad to catch up with her.
DH: First off-- tell me about your experience as a photographer--here in Somerville. How does it compare to other places you have lived? One person told me if you are taking pictures in the streets of Medford--they think you are an insurance person or a real estate agent--in Somerville they think " Hey just another artist."
EF:Ha ha ha! I never knew that about Medford. My association to Meffa is Italians, fig trees wrapped for the winter, and wine making. I can totally relate to the Somerville analysis.
My first real foray into photography was photojournalism and as they say in that industry, “if you wanna shoot a good story, look in your own backyard.” As a local photojournalist in my hometown, one of the hardest assignments we had was to shoot “enterprise photos”. We had to go around and look for single filler photos for the gray space in the paper. One time I hopped in the back of a landscaping truck to get a shot of the landscapers on the move. Another time, I was walking through a state park, and a ranger who could have been Hagrid’s brother, was carrying a fawn he found alone in the woods. To see the soft side of this huge guy with a little tiny wild animal was so moving. The day was really foggy so it made for a beautifully moody photo.
Somerville is chock-full of eye candy, like the DPW during snowmageddon, unicyclers, School of Honk parading on a snowy day. Festivals galore! Honk and The Independent Film Festival are tied for my favorites. I have been volunteering for IFF since 2011 and got to photograph Dennis Leary, Miranda July, Jason Segel, MIT researcher, Joe Davis (look him up!), etc. It’s a great opportunity to see films people care about deeply, and rub elbows with filmmakers in your own backyard.
I learned that no matter where you are: the more you look around, the more you see.
DH: In my research about you, I read you viewed a sexist video and this propelled you to create " In her Words: A Collective Diary of Everyday"Women." Tell us about this project?
EF: Yes. In Her Words Diary started the day I heard about Trump’s pussy grabbing video back in 2016. I refused to watch it, I was so angry. Instead, I pulled out my camera, and asked myself, ‘How do I show disgust and anger in a self portrait?’ I have a whole series of me flipping the bird. After that, I decided to illustrate small battles and triumphs of other everyday women to tell a bigger story. We illustrate tiny things that go unnoticed and women brush off. The problem is, those little issues build up and trigger us when they’re not acknowledged and healed. What started as a venting project, became an inspirational one through women’s stories of sisterly support.
We took the project to new heights in 2018 when I got a billboard in Times Square; and photographed AOC and Ayanna Pressley for it.
For 2019’s Women’s History Month, Heather Balchunas and I collaborated on “Visible Voices” for the Inside OUT gallery in Davis Square. We collected battles, triumphs, and supportive stories from all genders around the city to display on paper dolls alongside IHWD photos. Anonymous stories included one on collecting breastmilk for a baby who had lost his mother, and another was about a guy who got a job, had no idea what he was doing, and relied on a female colleague to teach him what she knew. We heard countless stories of body issues. And one of an older single woman who never married and felt outcast from society’s norms. That one hit home for me.
DH: You are the founder of Savvy Singles. You photograph single people for the digital dating era, According to material I read you want to capture people in a natural way. How do you go about capturing the essence and energy of your clients?
EF: Savvy Singles Studio started as a way to help people with their dating profiles. People were posting car selfies. Frankly, those kinds of selfies talk behind your back. All they tell me is: You wear a seatbelt, and you drive distracted.
Remember the point about photographing the story in your own backyard? We help singles pull out the real story they want to tell about themselves, not the story they think they should be telling because it’s convenient.
Over quarantine I deepened my clients’ Roadmap to Savvy by creating The Visionary’s Journey workshop (and podcast on IGTV). I teach people how to get back to their core values, build a vision of their ideal lifestyle, and teach them how to manifest it. By giving singles permission to break society’s rules and make their own, we help them cultivate confidence and enthusiasm.
I specialize in photographing people who don’t typically like how they look in photos. We don’t do styling makeovers, we do soul makeovers.
DH: Do you define yourself as a feminist?
Yes, however, I don’t like to put myself in a box. I don’t like labels. If you ask different generations, you’ll get different responses to what “Feminism” means. I like Gen Z’s definition: Feminism is the equality of all genders.
A Black Lives Matter member once said to me, “Feminism: the White is silent”.
Intersectional Feminism is important to keep in mind. This refers to one person who belongs to more than one oppressed group. For instance: Black + female + LGBTQIA + other-abled. When we do the work to lift up the most oppressed of us, everyone is lifted up.
In all of my work, I lead with compassion, and promote the acceptance of feminine values in our society. Balancing feminine energy (empathy, community, fluidity) and masculine energy (pride, action, efficiency) in our bodies will help us find balance in society.
DH: Did you formally study photography? What photographers are your role models?
I was obsessed with my mother’s Kodak camera in the 80s. I picked up my first photography class in high school, and in college I couldn’t wait to get into the dark room. I was the photo editor on my paper for three years, and started learning Photoshop as soon as it came out. I was mostly interested in photographing people.
When I moved to Boston, I started photographing rock bands. I really loved Liz Linder‘s work, and 13 years later I got to work for her which was incredible! I also loved Annie Leibovitz’s work for Rolling Stone and referenced her in an homage photo I did for In Her Words Diary. I spent a long time with Lorna Simpson’s work at the ICA too.
I am a painter first, so I look to Renaissance painters for inspiration. Caravaggio’s dramatic lighting makes my heart sing.
DH: Any new projects in the works?
EF: I’m really excited about The Visionary’s Basecamp (an intro to TVJ) coming up on November 14th. I’m teaching people how to manifest new opportunities - like I manifested my billboard, my pop up at Bow Market, and small miracles every day. One client got her dream job after piloting TVB. It really is a game changer when you change your mindset.
Beyond that I’m mastering the art of the remote photo session. I am happy to help people who are curious and willing to do the work to upgrade their lives over quarantine and beyond!