John Nassari is world renowned for his photography, with a career spanning three decades and comprising careers in photography for advertising, editorial, portraiture, luxury hotels, and the Belgravia Wedding Quarter – an institution for which he is the only photographer. He has undergraduate and Master’s degrees, and a PhD. There is almost nothing he doesn’t know about the art – or is it science? During my day with him at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel last week, he made it seem like an inextricable combination of the two.
To celebrate World Photo Day, John invited a lucky few to Back Stage Project – Life Through The Lens; a day of discussion and workshop, in the banqueting room at the magnificent Hyde Park Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where he has been working on a six month project of behind-the-scenes, documentary style photography focused on the hotel’s hospitality side. We spent a while experimenting with Olympus cameras (for which Nassari is an ambassador), photographing the hotel’s doorman, for an insight to what John’s latest project has meant to him.
I’ve been a practising photographer for over 13 years, and shoot numerous weddings every month, but had my inspiration renewed by a day in the care of this industry expert. John is capable of illuminating the theory behind the practice, even for seasoned photographers. He talked at length about the work of Charles Peirce, and his seminal theories on semiotics, and exemplified the work of Garry Winograd as a cornerstone of modern portraiture. And yet, even at the extent to which Nassari, a seemingly bottomless fount of photography knowledge, talked about the minutiae of his vocation – about depth of field, decoding and encoding images, the types of photography ranging from documentary to classic portraiture, pictorialism – I got the impression I left with still more to learn from him.
As a photographer, it is great to take advantage of World Photo Day and have our moment in front of the lights, to highlight how detailed and complex an art form photography is. It’s so much more than ‘point and shoot’ – a truly great photographer can capture things in one 4 x 6 frame that take photographs from being simple mementos, to the most evocative and stirring works of art.