About Francesco Mastalia Photography

Educated at New York City's School of Visual Arts and the New School, Francesco Mastalia has traversed the globe, from Ethiopia to Japan and places in between, to photograph tribal, spiritual and indigenous people, but his most recent work has taken a domestic, hyper-local turn — to the faces of the Hudson Valley’s farmers and chefs. In a series of portraits, anthologized in a book entitled “Organic,” Francesco confronts and captures the various states of mind around the “organic” concept.

To Francesco’s subjects, “organic” isn’t a supermarket label. Rather, it’s an approach to living with integrity. Although harvests are never guaranteed, and seasons cannot be controlled, these farmers and chefs eschew pesticides and hormones, and instead perpetuate the time-honored and holistic agricultural and cooking methods of their grandparents. By doing so, they bear witness to a process that takes time into its own hands.

In parallel, Francesco’s photographs are made at the mercy of time. After hand-coating a glass plate, Francesco steps under the veil of his brass-lensed wooden camera and against the clock, gauges the exposure by the amalgamation of the ultra violet light, the temperature, humidity and age of the collodion mixture to capture and create the striking images for which he is known. This wet plate collodion process emerged in the 1850s and largely fell out of use over the next 30 years due to the advent of the dry plate. In contrast to the burst modes of today’s digital cameras, there are no second chances with this technique, nor is there any post-production editing. The pictures Francesco shoots are the pictures we see: portraits bathed in shadows and silver tones that inspire conversation about what it can mean to be simultaneously historic, modern and timeless — a reflection of the human, organic experience.

In this book and photographic series, all available on the NewYorkMakers.com, Francesco uses the integrity of his photographs alongside the words of the subjects themselves to tell a story that defines “organic” in the Hudson Valley in greater depth than any USDA label ever could, and with respect to the essence of the term: “of, related to, or obtained from living things.”

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