Toronto photographer/illustrator Dominic Bugatto never ceases to amaze me. His social documentary photographs of Toronto neighborhoods, and his dynamic and thoughtful illustrations are bursting with life and creativity. I like the way that despite the success he’s achieved, he continues to hone his skills and progress in his work. Be sure to check out his illustration portfolio, photography portfolio, as well as Facebook and Instagram.
I asked him eight questions about his work and his current projects. Our online conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
You have two sons (and take some really wonderful photos of them). As a parent of two girls who are now teenagers, I know how full-on being a dad to young children is. Can you say a bit about how parenting has affected your work?
It was becoming a parent for the first time that reacquainted me with the camera. Naturally you start to document this new life and by extension you’re soon documenting your own. We live in Toronto, a big cosmopolitan city with a lot of places to go. The kids have always been a great catalyst for getting out of the house and exploring it.
Your urban landscape photos of downtown Toronto are a joy. Do you find it meditative walking around with a camera?
Thank you; it’s a great city to photograph. There’s a broad range of topography to it, with the various neighbourhoods having their own particular characteristics and personalities. It’s completely meditative, though the camera encourages a heightened sense of awareness.
You do illustration work for big clients–the New York Times, Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal. Does your photographic sense help you in that realm, or do different skills come into play?
I often go out and take photos to provide references for illustrations that I’m working on. Google has its limitations; when you need something more specific it’s often easier to just make your own pictures.
You are both a photographer and an illustrator. Is there much overlap, for you, with these two mediums?
I think each influences the other. Composing a frame and telling a story as an illustrator is akin to looking through the viewfinder. It’s just a different way to organize a picture’s environment—the stage and the players within it. I’ll often photograph either of the kids or a family member when I need such a reference for an illustration. They’ve appeared in some A-List publications like Vanity Fair and the Wall Street Journal, but to them it’s just another drawing by Dad.
I’ve been really struck by your vintage jazz album illustration project, and it reminds me that over the years there has been such a strong and interesting body of art documenting jazz musicians—both illustrations and photographs. Can you say a little about that area?
I’ve had a long running love affair with the LP covers of jazz albums from the 50s and 60s. They really pushed the boundaries of typography, design, illustration, and photography. The series originated out my appreciation for them, but also as a disciplinary exercise for me to hone my design chops and experiment with different approaches to drawing and portraiture. I initially planned on doing one or two; I think I’m up to around twenty now. In some case I’ve even incorporated my own photographs into the pieces.
Have your photography and illustration changed in recent months or years?
Hopefully. To quote the old adage: it’s the journey, not the destination. I always maintain that I’m a perpetual student of my craft–there’s always room for improvement and growth.
What’s a new interest of yours?
I’m currently looking into the prospect of making a photography book of my Pay Phone series. I was quite pleased when the Government of Canada chose to purchase six prints of them for the National Archives. It’s a pretty daunting prospect and the editing and design process seems all-encompassing. Ideally, I’d prefer to have someone publish it, but I’m not ruling out print on demand either.
One final question: Can you tell me briefly about a couple of photographers I may not be familiar with yet but you would recommend checking out?
I’ll try and steer clear of the obvious ones, especially because you and your readers are likely to know their work already. Two great books to check out: Once by Wim Wenders, and Buzzing at the Sill by Peter van Agtmael.