I first became aware of photographer Joe Oppedisano when he shot a porn star friend of mine back in the early 2010’s. The photoshoot involved said buddy dressed in a red wrestling onesie that left little to the imagination and is still something I think of from time to time all these years later (for educational reasons, of course).
Joe has done so much more than just that one shoot to the point where he’s considered to be a massive icon in the photography world. He has so many books out there (see here) that showcase just how diverse his portfolio is. The pics he takes are jaw-dropping as he’s shot legends including the late Gianni Versace and Joan Baez just to name a few.
Things have changed for him recently as he left NYC, his home for many years, for a quieter life in upstate New York with a different but fascinating career choice.
Joe chatted with me in an exclusive interview about how it all began (including a photoshoot with the yummy Channing Tatum), his thoughts on how photography has changed with so much social media influence going on as of late and how he’s blending his old career with his new one.
How did you get involved in the art of photography?
I first picked up a camera in 1990, when I was a fashion editor for the now gone DNR Magazine. I had been working as an editor and stylist for about 5 years and had ideas in my head about photography and wanted to try them out myself. I bought a Canon EOS 6 camera and self-taught myself the art of lighting and photography. About two years later after shooting a bunch of male model friends (Channing Tatum was one of them) I got a call from Bruno Gmunder, a gay publishing house in Germany to do my first book.
Did you have any inspirations before getting into the industry?
My inspirations were many and varied. I loved the work of classic photographers like Horst and Irving Penn, but I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, obsessed with Bruce Weber, Patrick Demarchelier and Steven Meisel.
How would you describe your specific style?
I love conflict, shock and sexuality. I like to have two or more models contemplating a dilemma or something dramatic and about to fight, or kiss, or…
You’ve shot some pretty yummy looking guys during your career. Do you usually search for them or do they come to you?
When I lived in NYC, I had a huge choice of the most amazing looking men in the world, and I was lucky enough to have them all very willing to do anything I asked. When I’d shoot, one rule was I didn’t pay them, they didn’t pay me, and we would go into the shoot with the intent of creating amazing shots, so we both won.
What has been your favorite shoot to date and why?
One of my favorite shoots I ever did was a series I shot of NYC club celebrities as religious icons. I had my good friend and incredible stylist David Dalrymple dress them, and he helped me reimagine the Pieta, Saint Sebastian, Adam and Eve, Jesus, Moses and a few other saints. It was magic.
If there was one event that you could cover what would it be?
The event I’d most like to cover is hopefully November 4th, the date Donald Trump is declared the loser of the 2020 election and has to step down…either that or the day he and his entire family and every Republican senator goes to jail.
Do you feel photographers are not as appreciated these days due to so much of the focus shifting to social media selfies and filters?
It’s strange now…everyone has a cell phone with a good camera on it and everyone shoots themselves with filters. Photography isn’t special anymore…well, great photography is, but the worlds been over saturated and under developed.
What does the future hold for you and what are you looking forward to the most in your career?
I always used to cut my models hair on shoots, the Maverick Men loved my haircuts, so, now that I’m living upstate, I’m actually in cosmetology school, learning how to really cut and style hair so I can incorporate my own styles into my shoots. Maybe shooting more women, maybe not. I do love men, but, expanding my knowledge and creating something new.