Tim Mantoani remembers the moment he first held a 35mm camera in his hand and raised it to his eye to take a photograph of his high school counselor. His love of image-making drew him to Brooks Institute of Photography, where he specialized in advertising photography. These days, when Mantoani's not shooting on assignment, he's documenting venerable lensmen who have collectively captured decades of culture and celebrity with their own cameras. Legendary rock photographers Jim Marshall and Ethan Russell have sat for 20 x 24-inch Polaroid portraits, as have Walter Looss, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Pete Turner, Mary Ellen Mark, Elliott Erwitt and Roberto Salas. (Click on images for enlarged view.)
How did this project begin and how did you come to choose the photographers that you captured?
This is an ongoing project that I began in December of 2006. It started in San Francisco with Jim Marshall and Michael Zegaris. I knew both of the amazing shooters and asked them if I could make a portrait of each of them with one of their iconic images. I had seen the 20×24 Polaroid advertised for several years and it seemed like it would be fun to shoot. Since so much of my work had gone to 35mm digital, I was looking for something personal to shoot that would take me back to my roots of shooting with a view camera. After that first session I was hooked and started calling and emailing other photographers. Each time I have done a shoot, the photographer I was working with suggested other photographers to contact. It has been an amazing journey and collaboration with the photo community.
Who decided what print the photographers are holding up and is this meant to be a career defining image?
In some cases it is obvious which image the photographer would bring. For the most part, I leave it up to the photographer sitting for the portrait as to the image and the size of the photo. It can be very telling of how they see themselves as an artist. The images are career defining, iconic or images which they feel the most proud of creating.
Going into these shoots, do you have a specific idea on how you would like to photograph the subjects and how much does this change once you get going?
I really don't go into the shoots with many preconceptions. The image becomes a collaboration between myself and the photographer. Oftentimes, they come to the shoot with ideas on how they would like to see themselves in the image.