ABOVE: Damon Pablo Escudero says he looks for moments when someone is
“experiencing something in their own mind,” he says, “maybe before or after
an interaction happened.”
PDN: How did you get started in
DAMON PABLO ESCUDERO:
When I was going to the Art
Center College of Design in
Pasadena, I was in the film-directing program and one of
our requisite classes was a black-and-white photography class.
The teacher showed Robert
Frank’s The Americans [and]
I really connected with that.
I have been attempting street
photography since around 1995.
PDN: What’s the appeal for you?
D.P.E.: There is this amazing
feeling of walking around, and
knowing there is so much beautiful
stuff out there to photograph.
You never know what you might
get, what iconic moment you might
capture just by chance. That’s really
exciting. And when you see an
image you completely didn’t even
realize you took, you think, Oh my
god, that’s amazing, and it makes
you want to go back out the next
day and do it all over again.
PDN: Do you situate yourself in
places that look like they might
make a good backdrop, or do you
walk around and hunt?
D.P.E.: My process is essentially
to walk around. I don’t usually
like standing in any particular
area too long. I try not to focus
too much on backgrounds. I know
that is pretty popular and it can
be really beautiful. But I prefer to
just walk and shoot. If you look
at The Americans, there aren’t
that many juxtapositions, or
interactions with backgrounds.
There are some but it’s a lot of
just: This is what life is.
One thing that’s not my favorite
is that over-juxtaposed style where
a little girl is eating a scoop of ice
cream and an old man walks by
with white hair, or a kite flying and
an airplane goes by, or lines in the
street. Mine is more documentary
street photography. It’s more of a
feeling than a clever moment.
PDN: What mood or feeling
are you striving for?
D.P.E.: It tends to be a little bit
more moody. It could perhaps
be described as sadness, as
loneliness, solitude. I look for
those moments that happen
when someone is experiencing
something in their own mind,
the moment maybe before or
after an interaction happened,
or the quiet moment when
somebody is sitting in a park.
The everyday boring moments
can be quite beautiful.
WHAT YOUR NICHE?
DAMON PABLO ESCUDERO,
Commercial director Damon Pablo Escudero, who has
practiced street photography on the side for more than
20 years, explains his process. INTERVIEW BY DAVID WALKER
Washington Post photo editor
The other Getty grant
winners related in some way to
international news events. One
that jurors had no debate about
was Antonio Faccilongo’s “Habibi,”
a story about Palestinian women
who, in order to have children,
have resorted to smuggling
sperm from husbands who are
stuck for years in Israeli jails.
“That was unanimous, because
it was a story we felt we hadn’t
seen before,” Gabriner says. “It
was an approach to a region and
[to a] conflict that has been going
on for decades that took us into
that story in a different way.”
Two other grants went to
photographers working on stories
that have been widely covered:
Alessandro Penso won for his
project about the refugee crisis
in Europe, and Alejandro Cegarra
for his story about life amid
Venezuela’s economic decline and
social turmoil. “With these topics
that people might get fatigued
by, you need to make sure [local]
photographers, who are there
day in and day out, continue to
get support,” Matiash says.
Although the rules allow
photographers to apply for
grants for projects they haven’t
yet started, all five grant winners
this year applied for support
of projects already in progress.
And Davies says, “I’ve noticed
that judges have a bias toward
projects that are already started.”
He advises photographers to
“approach applications like you
approach any pitch to an editor
for assignment. You should be
specific about the story you
want to tell, and your logistical
approach to telling it.”
Gabriner emphasizes that
applicants should “be clear
about what you intend to do
with the money. List out: I need
to do these things.” She also
says she was surprised by how
weak a number of the written
proposals were. “Take the time
and effort not to write it the
night before,” she advises. “Get
someone you respect who has
good judgment to read it. And
if you’re a non-English speaker,
find someone whose English is
better than yours to read it over.”
Gabriner says photographers
should keep in mind the
unpredictability of grant
competitions. For the Getty
grant, each juror brings 10 or
15 favorite applications to the
table, and then they begin a
difficult process of winnowing
40 or 50 contenders down to
five winners. One application in
this year’s contest was a hands-
down winner in the minds of
two of the jurors, Gabriner
notes. But the other two jurors
“didn’t like the photography.”
So out it went.
“If [your application] doesn’t
win, that doesn’t mean it’s not
good,” Gabriner explains. “It just
means it didn’t win in that
conversation with those jurors.”
In other words, in the face of
rejection, do what Peacock did:
Try, try again.
For more advice from photo editor Chelsea Matiash on how to
appeal to grant jurors, see our story this month on PDNOnline.
BELOW: A man in Jay, Maine. Although Peacock’s project wasn’t tied to a news
event, jurors liked that it presents a view of a particular time in America.