Michael Stonis

Jimmy Fontaine

Michael Stonis
Jimmy Fontaine

How did you get into photography and when did you know that this was going to be your career?
I started shooting during high school. With no more intent than to document all the things I was involved in as a hobby. I didn't realize it would be something I would want to pursue professionally until a couple years later. I grew up in the skate, snowboard and punk/ hardcore scene in Southern California in the late 90's so there were plenty of great things happening in front of me at all times. I was extremely unskilled at shooting and like I mentioned had no intent of pursuing anything on a professional level. However, it was still an extremely satisfying thing to get back images every week, especially as i started to notice progression.

How did you end up in New York? How has living there influenced your photography?
I moved to New York almost seven years ago after a a brief stint in Portland, OR where i was shooting snowboarding. I made the change as I started to realize my draw towards music portraiture which in turn let to celebrity and fashion. Every aspect of this city has made an impact on my photography. Creatively, you're constantly inspired by people, places and opportunity. It makes you work hard and stay conscious of your progression and creativity as you need to stay sharp. From a business stand point the pace and cost of living alone motivates you to strive to be your absolute best. You have to, to stay afloat. I feel like laziness and a mediocre approach to any creative trade will in time cause you to fail or be passed up by someone with more ambition and creative motivation.

You have photographed quite a few musicians in your career. Has anyone stuck out when shooting with them?
There have been a few. Some unexpected and some purely for the fact that they were someone I admired creatively even before getting the opportunity to work with them. It was definitely exciting to get to work with Nick Cave and Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. Working with Brandon Flowers of the Killers was also a great shoot. You can never tell how things are going to go. Sometimes you leave disappointed that someone you thought would be incredible to work with ends up nothing more than an ego and an entourage. Sometimes you walk away having a beer with someone you've looked up to for years. You never know, but i have to say I've been very lucky so far.

Before shooting with someone what do you look for? Do you try to direct or just let them be?
It really depends on the person. Sometimes people work better off direction and sometimes some of the strongest images are obtained by just documenting the situation as is. I approach most shoots subtle and as noninvasive as possible. Creating a comfortable work environment is very important to start any job with, then take it from there.

You tend to shoot much more black and white is there a reason for that?
Im influenced by an older era of both cinema and photography. I think black and white comes across as classic and romantic and to me at least, leaves a much more impacting image. This is my personal opinion of course but its a way of shooting that I'm drawn to.

Who are some photographer's that influence you?
Horst P. Horst, Cecil Beaton, Peter LIndbergh, Paolo Roversi, Sam Haskins, James Natchway, Hilary Walsh etc..

If you can photograph anyone living or dead who would that be?
Id really love to photograph Blixa Bargeld from Ensturzende Neubauten. One of my favorite bands of all time.

Who would be your dream client?
There are a lot I guess. A dream client is someone you work well with creatively at achieving the best possible final result. Ive gotten to work for a few and hopefully many more in the future.

Any projects we should be aware of in the future?
Im working on a book with Paul D'elia from the band, Tear it up in conjunction with CHAPTER out of Los Angeles. Its going to be a mixture of the hardcore and punk images I've taken over the last 15 years mixed with Paul's artwork and posters.

Thanks Jimmy!