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article imageInterview: Cindy Vasko talks photography and David Cook Special

By Markos Papadatos     Sep 19, 2013 in Entertainment
Veteran photographer Cindy Vasko took some time from her busy schedule to chat with Digital Journal about her passion for photography, discuss her favorite moments in the field, and offer advice for aspiring photographers.
On her inspiration for photography, Ms. Vasko remarked, "Music and photography are my daily comforts. Since ten years old, I embraced both art forms, and after abandoning photography for more than a decade, I rediscovered my passion for it, thanks to music. From an early age, creative outlets were my constant companions - painting, drawing, photography, interior decorating and gardening. Photography, however, has seized my life and takes the creative outlet crown. I would now need rehab to distance myself from this medium. A great deal of my free time is devoted to shooting, processing images or studying photographic techniques. In a subtle way, my father influenced me to take an interest in photography. From my earliest recollections, my father documented every family event with a camera in hand. He also had a trunk full of intriguing photographs that I loved to explore. Residing in his metal trunk were amusing, old family photographs, including tintype images; but most fascinating, were images from his military duty travels through Europe, Japan and Korea, during World War II and the Korean War."
Cindy Vasko s photography
Cindy Vasko's photography
Cindy Vasko
Ms. Vasko continued, "At an early age, I had visceral reactions to some of his World War II images, especially those images captured from his army company’s liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp. These shocking images made me realize that just one single image can be a powerful tool to instantly modify the way one views the world. Over the years, I was given many cameras – Brownies, Polaroids, an Agfa 35mm medium frame, a Canon AE1 SLR. My last foray into the film world of photography was via a Canon EOS 1N SLR. I acquired eight lenses for this camera body and even had a darkroom and Beseler dichro color enlarger in my home. I loved shooting rock concerts, friends, family and nature. In the 1990s, my husband, then President of a multinational commercial security division, based in Russia, shanghaied my camera suite to photograph international trade show displays. In 1997, my husband passed away in Moscow, and my camera suite disappeared with his passing. At this point, and because of enormous and multiple lawsuits I inherited following his passing, I made a decision to abandon photography. About eight years ago, I gave away all of my darkroom equipment. I purchased an inexpensive Kodak digital point and shoot and used this for random shots, but my urgency for capturing light and composition development vanished."
Cindy Vasko s photography
Cindy Vasko's photography
Cindy Vasko
Even though Ms. Vasko had abandoned photography for a while, music, nevertheless, was always a constant in her life. "Music was my friend during difficult times and was always spinning in the background in my home. Although I love all genres of music, I especially love rock music. Some of my favorite artists are, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Poets of the Fall, Nine Inch Nails, Alter Bridge, Bruce Springsteen, Staind, Pink Floyd, Shinedown, Broken Romeo, Daughtry, and David Cook, who by the way, was the force for pulling me back into photography. I attended many concerts in my early years, and as noted, I photographed live events. Because serious issues needed attention for fourteen years following my husband’s passing, I enforced a self-imposed social exile in order to focus on navigating the rough life seas. Toward the end of my exile, I became quite restless due to my lack of social activity. I was missing 'life.' When a friend invited me to join her for a 2009 David Cook concert in West Virginia, I thought it was time to get out and about," she said.
Rock singer and American Idol winner David Cook
Rock singer and American Idol winner David Cook
Cindy Vasko
Ms. Vasko continued, "I was also a big fan of David Cook’s music. In 2008, I heard his voice by accident while I was doing some work on my computer in my home office. At my mother’s request, I tuned in American Idol for her viewing pleasure, but for some unknown reason and contrary to my nightly norm, I did not power-up iTunes while I worked in my office. From the other room, I heard a magnificent voice belting a hard version of 'Eleanor Rigby.' I left my office to investigate this big voice, and from this point forward, I was a fan of David Cook. When an opportunity to see him in concert materialized, I immediately jumped. Seeing him in concert made me, nonetheless, nostalgic for my 'olden' days of concert photography. Additionally, David made eye contact with the audience – an ideal for concert imaging. I had to see him perform again, but the next time I would photograph him. All of a sudden, I was back in the camera business and once again, obsessed with capturing perfect images."
David Cook was the catalyst for her return to photography and as a result, she purchased a Nikon DSLR camera body and several lenses. "More than a decade after I abandoned photography, though, the new medium was digital, and I found myself in foreign technological territory in comparison to my film days. Even though the basics of f-stops and shutter speeds had not changed, the dynamics of digital photography presented a learning curve that was not intuitive, especially with regard to image processing. Given this, I enthusiastically enrolled in course after course – technique, Photoshop, Lightroom, high dynamic range, light painting, long exposure. After five years and now holding a Certification in Photography and Digital Arts, I still attend photography classes, as the learning process never ends. Photography has overtaken my life, and regrettably, my checkbook. This is not an inexpensive endeavor, as I painfully recognized with my recent purchase of Nikon’s flagship, full-frame camera body, the D4. I shoot every weekend, and if I could, I would shoot on a daily basis; but alas, photography does not pay the bills, so I am relegated to working with many attorneys," she revealed.
Ms. Vasko noted that she loves to shoot concerts and she subsequently revealed that David Cook is her favorite musician to shoot. "I also loved shooting Jon Bon Jovi, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Daughtry, and The Who. Nature photography and its remarkable splendor holds my interest too. I traveled to the Galapagos Islands and Kenya for nature shoots. Kenya was an amazing experience to behold and is National Geographic on steroids. To capture images of wild animals, such as lions, zebras, elephants and giraffes, mere feet from my lens, is extraordinary. Likewise, to be amidst the animals on the Galapagos Islands, where fear of humans is not in their DNA, is surreal. My favorite genre of photography, however, is the photography style associated with urban exploration (urbex) – urban decay. I am drawn to vacant sites with structural deterioration and putrefied artifacts. I am compelled to capture images of derelict places that hold peeling paint, rusty metal, collapsed roofs and broken glass. Some of my favorite urbex sites are: Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with its vaulted architecture and luminous skylighting; Pennhurst Asylum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where thick, overgrown vegetation embrace the lovely Jacobean Revival style buildings; and, Carrie Blast Furnace in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, with its lonely massiveness. I also enjoyed photographing J.W. Cooper High School, in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, because this was my parents’ high school. As I snapped images of this vacant school, I so wished my parents were still alive to see my images," she shared.
One of her proudest moments in photography was when she took first place in Eastern State Penitentiary’s photo contest last year. In addition, two of her abandoned images will be shown at the Third Ward Art Gallery’s Abandoned America Exhibit, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 4-31, 2013. "I am especially honored to have my work alongside the stunning works of the renowned photographer, Matthew Christopher, as well as other great photographers. To be among the fraternity of such masterful photographers is worth all of the time and expense that I devoted to my craft over the past five years," she admitted.
For aspring photographers, Ms. Vasko recommended that it is essential to get out and shoot with any camera. "Shoot as much as possible and never stop. Get up well before sunrise to capture the best light. I am often up at 3:00 a.m. to be on the road in the race for the best light. Be creative and experiment with settings. Learn as much as possible and keep pushing yourself to be better than the best."
Elephant in Africa
Elephant in Africa
Cindy Vasko
Ms. Vasko concluded, "I have a strong desire to shoot overseas abandonments, such as the asylum on Poveglia Island in Venice, Italy, the Ukrainian ghost city of Prypiat and the adjacent nuclear facility of Chernobyl. At the moment, acquiring permission and overcoming some serious safety issues are obstacles to access, but I continue to investigate any available option. I would love to return to Africa and visiting the countries of Southeast Asia is on my wish-list too. I am very fortunate to be involved with several groups of like-minded photographers. I am never wanting for weekend photo excursions, and photo-scouting with professional photographers pushes my skills to new levels. In the coming weeks, I will be visiting the abandoned Mount Moriah Cemetery and Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I might return to the Carrie Blast Furnace to do some light painting. I am also looking forward to shooting several concerts over the next three months – Nine Inch Nails, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and a few David Cook concerts. Of course, I have to attend a few concerts of the latter; after all, he is the man responsible for pulling me back into photography."
In summation, Cindy Vasko is a true force to be reckoned with in photography and hopefully her best work is yet to come.
For more information on Cindy Vasko and her photography, visit her official website.
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