Story 117: Scott Rossi

What is your backstory?

I grew up in the suburbs of Vancouver, B.C. When I was 5 years old my father arrived home one evening with a go-kart. I spent the next few days driving up and down the suburban street our house was on, unaware of the impact racing would have on my life. I spent the next thirteen years racing go-karts around the world, from British Columbia to the streets of Monte Carlo. Racing was my life.

I started taking photographs in my last year of university where my professor introduced me to Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz’s work. I spent the next two years primarily photographing my surroundings without much intent or reasoning behind my actions. I simply wanted to capture beautiful, fleeting moments. Soon, I began to feel detached from the practice altogether, chasing perfection along a well-trotted path of the legends that came before me. I began to feel that street photography lacked a connection to the subjects I was photographing.

It was at this point that I began to pursue long-form projects. In them, I discovered the power of visual storytelling. I began to value not just the results, but the process of engaging with my subjects, establishing an intent to the work that previously lacked. The first two projects I worked on, Burned Out (2018-19) and Jazz House (2018-20), I documented coming-of-age stories, while drawing from my own experiences. Whereas Common Place (2021), which I began shortly after moving to New York City, explores the history of Central Park and the relationship between New Yorkers and the public space in the context of a global pandemic. I plan to continue this body of work through 2021.

What camera gear/editing setup do you use?

I shoot primarily with a Mamiya 7 and Mamiya RZ67. I edit my work in Lightroom and Photoshop.


How do you achieve the look of your photographs and could you take us through the process?

The portraits are a result of photographing people as they are. I gave little guidance and treated them more like candid moments that I kindly interrupted. People were very receptive to this process which allowed them to remain comfortable while we worked together.

I have been visiting the park almost every day for the past nine months. I have been down nearly every pathway in Central Park and many of the moments I was able to photograph were simply because I was there. I would say this project is the result of committing myself to the work and being in the right place at the right time.


What is ‘Common Place’ and what is the story behind it?

Common Place is a visual meditation on Central Park, beginning in January 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic. The project explores the results of intentions set forth by the park’s chief architect, Frederick L. Olmsted, who wanted Central Park to be a democratic space that allows all New Yorkers to escape from the distractions of urban life in Manhattan. Olmsted believed that, by recreating the peacefulness of nature, parks would soothe and restore the human spirit. Never has Olmsted’s vision been more relevant than during this global crisis, which has taken millions of lives while stay-at-home regulations swept across the globe. Whether using the expansive landscape as a place to relax, to escape or to love, this project translates these actions photographically. Common Place illustrates the importance of public parks and how during this moment, New Yorkers are finding what they need within Central Park.


Could you tell us the backstory of some of your photographs?

I don’t have much to say about the individual photographs as I like the work to speak for itself. What I will say is that this work coincided with my own quest to understand New York City. I found myself quite lost and uninspired as someone who moved here during the pandemic last fall. It was on my long walks through Central Park that I began to feel inspired and grounded in New York. I met people from all the five Burroughs with distinctly unique backgrounds. It was a community that accepted me.


What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

Be open and kind to others and their work and build a community around you that is also open and kind to you and your work. I cannot stress the importance of having a positive community of people who share the same passion as you.


Scott Rossi


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