Updated: Jun 9, 2020
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BAIT is a publication made by creatives for creatives in the Clicke community. 'Meet the Clicke' posts will provide you with an intimate look into the origin stories of our featured artists. You can view more of their work, with accompanying narration, in the Exhibitions Section.
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Mikko Castaño wants you to see the Asian-American community through a new lens. Every photo Castaño captures contains a masterfully curated blend of Asian style, music, food, and subjects spotlighting the dynamism of contemporary Asian culture- neatly packaged in his signature, self-described “retro, hypebeast aesthetic.”
Castaño’s work is intriguingly dualistic, simultaneously satiating modern media’s demand for aesthetically pleasing content while subtly stirring a cultural revolution to redefine society’s image of Asian youth and young adults.
“Especially in pop culture, the stereotypical Asian is a nerd who isn’t cool or is desexualized. I really wanted to counter that, which is why I lean heavily into shooting Asian-American people,”
Filipino by birth but raised in Los Angeles, Castaño spent his teenage years inspired by Japanese streetwear, youth culture publications like Complex, and 88Rising, a media syndicate known for its focus on immigrant artists. Castaño received his first camera as a parting gift from his father when he left home for his freshman year of college at Georgetown University. While Castaño enrolled at Georgetown as a Computer Science major, he quickly put his camera to use, landing a gig as a writer and photographer for the campus fashion magazine.
“They saw that I had potential, a good eye for symmetry, and I decided that I was going to see what I could do with photography,” Castaño said.
And so he did- starting with committing to at least one photoshoot a week- a commitment he continues to stand by as a current college senior. While Castaño enrolled in photography classes to gain technical expertise, he attributes his development as a photographer primarily to his experience photographing his friends.
“In the beginning, it was a little awkward for all of us, but now I whip out the camera and they immediately know what to do- not just in terms of posing, but in feeling comfortable in front of the camera. I like to think my photography has made them more comfortable with being seen in other aspects of their life too,” Castaño said smilingly.
For Castaño, photography is about both elevating the characteristics of his subjects and expressing himself. He views every subject, every moment, as a blank canvas. Rather than simply capture what is, Castaño is an artist in the truest sense of the word, seeking to transform what is and who people are into the highest form of what they could be. Not only does Castaño capture his subjects’ best angles, but he also adds his own perspective and agenda to the photographs. Castaño creatively directs every aspect of the photo’s composition- the subject’s outfit choices, the location, external lighting, and creative editing- often including graphic design.
Playfully subversive, one of Castaño’s favorite photographs features his sequin-clad friend comfortably seated in the luxurious parlor of an elite, men’s only social club.
“We were only allowed in through a guided tour, and then we snuck off to shoot this,” Castaño confided.
"There was just something fresh about my friend, who is…obviously not white, in this historically white, male place,”
Bringing color, literally & figuratively, into otherwise predominantly white spaces is, after all, one of Castaño’s specialties. Castaño is extremely intentional in his creative direction, electing to shoot predominantly Asian subjects, or minorities in general, in Asian-streetwear inspired looks, often in Asian locations like Chinatown or a neighborhood, Asian restaurant.
In addition to featuring the Asian community, Castaño continues to expand his stylistic repertoire influenced by everything from his favorite arthouse films to local museums. For example, the lighting in the photo below, created using a projector in his dorm room, was inspired by the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.
Ultimately though, Castaño attributes his primary source of inspiration to his friends. “Working with my friends brings me the most joy,” Castaño said.
Book Mikko Castaño and other photographers easily through Clicke!
Upon graduating from Georgetown this Spring, Castaño will be working in New York City. You can view his full portfolio at https://www.mikkocastano.com/.
Updated: Apr 16, 2020
Brian Brigantti wants you to strip...yourself of your insecurities, your preconceived notions about portrait photography, and...sometimes your clothes.
Although it appears simplistic to take a portrait, there is a special quality that is lost if the photographer does not know how to capture not only the person, but the moment. One can clearly see that there is a significant difference between awkward school yearbook photos and the iconic works in magazines like Vogue or museums like the Guggenheim; a difference that we often attribute to the models, exotic locales, and the seemingly arbitrary designation that they are art.
However, upon closer examination, one quickly realizes that many of these amazing photos were shot in a studio, with normal people, in everyday locations.
“So many people can capture an image, with iPhones, everybody’s snapping photos nowadays, but it’s the connection that’s hard to achieve,”
Brigantti told Bait.
In Brigantti’s eyes, in order for a mere photo to become a portrait, a connection must be formed between the photographer and their subject.
The subject must trust the photographer in order to let them see their true self. This connection, this trust, is what distinguishes a photo from a portrait and a person who takes photos from a photographer.
It would normally seem cliché to hear a photographer declare that, “perspective is everything,” assuming that the perspective referenced is that of the photographer. However, if you’re shooting with Brigantti, the perspective that matters most is not that of the person behind the lens but that of the subject in front of it. Every photo shoot with Brigantti is first and foremost focused on “helping people love and appreciate themselves.”
Brigantti found himself through photography and uses his photography to help others find themselves too.
“I see people reclaim their lives in front of my lens”
A story all too familiar, Brigantti was raised in a conservative household, lacking support and accessible opportunities to explore his creative interests. Brigantti was born and raised in Illinois, but he seized opportunities to explore the world and himself, traveling to France, Italy, and Serbia on high school trips and attending college at San Francisco’s Academy of Art.
Upon graduating, Brian moved to New York and began developing his career in both the modeling and photography industries. Building upon the portfolio he started at the Academy, his work focuses on a minimalist style of naturalism - commonly displaying subjects in the nude. Brian’s portfolio consists primarily of nature and portrait photography, often a combination of the two - always grounded by a sense of intimacy.
As a mecca for art and design, New York facilitated much of Brigantti’s initial development as a photographer. Ironically, New York’s saturation of art and creativity was both the impetus that brought Brian to the Big Apple and the reason he recently left.
About a year ago, Brigantti was inspired to leave New York to bring his creative spark to the fringes of the creative world - rural Tennessee. Brigantti and his boyfriend relocated to a large tract of land in a small-town in Tennessee, where he is working on further developing his craft...and gardening skills.
Brigantti’s Tennessee homestead became his sandbox to design and test the limits of his art. "I learned during this time not just how to capture an image, but to show the world how to see it."
Brian often plays both the photographer and the subject in his
work. In this piece, for example, captured at his Tennessee homestead, Brigantti recounts running naked back and forth between the camera and the tree for the perfect shot. When was the last time you put a timer on the camera and ran a 200 meter dash in the nude?
Just as he often appears nude in his own self-portraits, Brigantti also encourages his subjects to appear nude to mirror the nature that often surrounds them, which we always see in its natural and naked form. With many of his photos featuring nude subjects in natural landscapes, Brigantti aims to illustrate how naturalism can be just as much of a forum for expression and self-determination, if not more so, than as a forum for the assumed sexuality that accompanies the state of being undressed.
Brigantti’s work evolved when he moved westward; like the pioneers, he explored nature and found tranquility among the quiet, rural roads. He is inspired by National Geographic photographers like Paul Nicklen to venture parts unknown and to be what he wants to see in the photography world: deeper connection with oneself and one’s subjects.
Brigantti provides something to society beyond beautiful photos; he strongly believes in helping people find their creative spark and appreciation for themselves. The authors of this article were so inspired by Brigantti’s artistic journey and self-love philosophy that they may just want to be his next clients...Who’s next?
While Brigantti maintains his residence in Tennessee, he continues to work in New York City and can be found at https://www.brianbrigantti.com/. Bookings can be made here for his photography. Please contact Brian directly if you are interested in purchasing prints from this exhibit.
Book Brian Brigantti and other photographers through the Clicke!