Today we’d like to introduce you to Brandon Rizzuto.
So, before we jump into specific questions about what you do, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was very much an outsider where I grew up in a suburb of Denver, Colorado. I felt like I didn’t belong. It was the early 90’s, I was gay, and kind of weird and into alternative and goth music and teased all through school. I remember finding a polaroid camera and I began taking photographs and I instantly fell in love with photography. Even though I hated school and wanted to drop out, it was an extensive vocational course in photography that fueled my passion and gave me the strength to get through high school. I loved the beautiful but slow darkroom process of developing and printing film. It was a labor of love a lesson in patience and solitude, and an escape from the reality of the times.
I attempted to enroll in Art School after high school, but my parents couldn’t afford it, so I began to apply my photography to an underground music magazine that I created in the mid to late nineties. I photographed concerts wrote interviews and made my own dark-themed model shoots for print in the magazine, all the while working for photo labs and camera stores to be close to the medium.
Eventually, I fell out of love with Denver and Moved to Los Angeles in 2000. I moved here with no plan and only $800 that I had saved up by photographing exotic dancers and dominatrix I had met in goth clubs. They liked me because I was creative and being gay not a threat to them. Much like Denver, I worked in various camera stores and photo labs, but still had no clue how to turn my passion for photography into a career here in Los Angeles.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I’m almost embarrassed to say how much of a long difficult road it was for me to finally get on the path of doing what I knew I would be so good at if only given the chance. I had no clue how to apply myself.
In the early days of living here in Los Angeles, in my twenties, I became jaded, frustrated and financially burdened by life here. I had made several great creative friends in the underground music scene, no one had any money we just did what we loved. Taking photos with no plan and only if I had money for film that week. Instead of pushing my passion I succumbed to partying and drugs.
My everyday life was difficult and I was choosing to escape it. I developed a terrible addiction to crystal meth, which I initially thought was making me more creative, more social and more productive. That drug is an addictive lie designed to trick your brain and it took me down in textbook fashion where my behavior caused me to crash my car, lose my job, and lose my apartment.
I ended up homeless and wound up in an LGBT Recovery House in Hollywood called the Van Ness House. Being there was the most difficult thing I had ever done in my life, but I followed their instructions, did my best to embrace sobriety and recovery in both the house and their sober living units for a year. Recovering from my addiction was like starting my life all over at nearly 30 years old… and it took several more years for me to feel normal, to feel comfortable or to even feel passionate about anything.
Eventually, I decided to pursue art through the traditional academic approach despite my own self-doubt that I was too old, too poor, too uneducated to be doing this. I enrolled in community college at LACC and in a process which took me a while to complete working full-time, I earned my associate’s degree with honors in Art and got back in touch with photography and art. It was a thrill to discover I actually enjoyed school and was good at it!
Several art professors there urged me to apply to ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena for my bachelor’s degree, which I initially scoffed at due to the expensive tuition. Despite the expense, I immediately knew this was the place I NEEDED to be at. I applied for any grant, scholarship or funding I could find in order to make it possible. I worked several jobs on the campus, I drove for Lyft in the evening and interned with one of the world’s most famous photographers while I was there. Eventually, I graduated from ArtCenter in 2018. It was there that I learned the discipline of the craft, the business side of being an artist, embraced the drive to make it happen and most importantly the confidence to believe in and promote my work. It was the best decision and most rewarding time of my life.
Brandon Rizzuto Photography – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I specialize in creative portraiture that elevates my subjects. I love collaborating with other artists and creative types to enhance their own already beautiful styles and personalities. Although my main passion lies in creating images with stylized studio photography, I have always enjoyed the unpredictability of photographing in nightclubs and at events. Adapting to changing conditions and new personalities is both a challenge and a privilege. I suppose I am best known for my work with the Drag community here in LA creating both still and video work. I love the creativity and the passion I have been seeing with emerging drag artists. I often begin photographing them in a club setting then moving to a more highly stylized collaborative creative shoot. Of course, I don’t shoot drag artists exclusively, but I do love giving special attention to subversive creatives and interesting weirdos in and outside of the LGBTQ community. Some of my fine art photography is currently on exhibit at the Tag Gallery here in LA until Dec. 14th
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I’m not sure I know how to define success. I feel like I am at the beginning of my journey and I am certainly no stranger to failures. At this point I don’t feel like there is a finish line to success, Perhaps success is merely being able to navigate through a series of small victories and frustrating disappointment.
Learning from both and proceeding forward with your heart still intact feels successful to me.
- Website: brandonrizzuto.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @bkrizzuto
All images by Brandon Rizzuto