Mickey Mouse And The Promised Land: Fernando Decillis
Portraiture has become my favorite type of photography. Partially, because I am fascinated by faces (and the stories that often accompany them) and partially because it’s a never ending supply of wonderful subject matter. There are only so many ways you can photograph Half Dome, or the Grand Canyon, but faces are infinitely interesting. I also love how no two photographers can photograph the same face the same way. I have poured over the work of iconic portrait photographers like Avedon, Karsh and Winters looking for the Elusive Thing that makes them great, and I’ve discussed the Elusive Thing with a number of photographers and every one of them agrees on the following: it’s not the camera or the lens or even the lights. The Elusive Thing is the connection between the photographer and the subject, whether or not they are even looking into the camera. It’s finding a way to merge your world with someone else’s, if only for a second, or at least 1/125 of one, and, in that moment, magic happens. Bill and I have talked about this at length on the show. He says it’s like porn, you can’t really define it, but you know it when you see it.
When Fernando Decillis was ten, he had no idea that he would one day be a photographer. What he did know is that he and his family were leaving his native Uruguay for a better life in America. The “Promised Land”, his father called it. A land of dreams, of Disneyland and of Mickey Mouse. Fast forward eleven years, to Dicillis’ 21st birthday, when a group of friends invited him to come to Hawaii. His first thought was that he needed to take pictures, which would be difficult, at best, since he didn’t own a camera. Fortunately, a neighbor loaned him one, along with the advice to “keep it on automatic.” Two weeks later, Decillis returned from his trip with 50 rolls of film. He had found his passion. After three years at Portfolio Center in Atlanta, and an instructor who introduced him to the work of Richard Avedon, Decillis knew he wanted to pursue portraiture. He now works with some of the top advertising agencies in the world and pursues personal projects that allow him to travel across North and South America, however, he points out, “I still have not met Mickey Mouse.”