learning how to see

a portrait of audia


i could always hear him coming around the corner.  he'd sing out my name "ceel-ya" and saunter into my grey cube, lighting it up with his childlike enthusiasm. though he was a successful photographer, audia didn't have the typical brooding "artiste" attitude. he was warm, quirky, sometimes irreverent, and he arrived at every shoot in his typical uniform: a pair of jeans, black t-shirt, crumpled blazer, his signature rectangular blue glasses and shiny bald head...oh and always a smile on his face.

when i worked at the merchandise mart, we hired photographers to shoot our interior design events. the shot list consisted of showroom visits, designer vignettes, VIP parties and crowd shots. at all of my shows, audia was my go-to guy. sure, i knew that if i needed him to shoot for 6 hours, i had to book him for 8 (just to accommodate his chill, laidback approach and occasional ADD in pursuit of bright, shiny objects), but that was no matter.

audia had something special. a way of scanning a room, snapping the obligatory photos on the shot list, and then honing in on details that were much more subtle—and infinitely more beautiful. the elegant curves of a baker sofa. the scrolled arm of an antique chair. the pristine lines of anything in holly hunt's glorious showroom. the gentle cascade of buttons down the back of a designer gown. he'd pick up on colors and texture, light and shadows. he'd find beauty in the minutiae, not just in the elaborate, perfectly planned vignettes that the designers meticulously laid out.

occasionally he'd even piss off the haughty showroom managers, rearranging furniture, shuffling around a $20,000 chaise here, standing on a rare wenge wood Christian Liagre sculpture there, getting fingerprint smudges on the swarovski crystal figurines—all in pursuit of the money shot. they'd watch us leave the showroom, grimacing, feathers ruffled, shammy in hand, scampering to polish and return every item its exact spot...and then they'd gush when the photos came back, seeing their show pieces transformed into art pieces.

when the camera shutter clicked, he wasn't just taking pictures of objects, he was infusing them with emotion—bringing them to life.

the perfect case in point: the photos above. no they're not sculptures or exclusive objets d'art from a museum installation. they're simple drawer pulls, mounted on a wall with 50 other handle designs like you'd see at restoration hardware. instead of the expected, full frontal shot of the entire line of pulls, audia went in, close.  and captured images that could personify the human struggle to achieve, our quest to overcome obstacles, a moment of contemplation or agony...or simply just a cool artful image.

a photographer. an artist. an in-the-moment visionary. he taught me how to see. how to find the signal in the visual "noise". how to sharpen my focus on details, subtlety, lines and curves. on moments. how to create a canvas that the viewer can map their own emotions and experiences to. how to take photos that aren't just beautiful, but make you feel.