Watercraft, Through Dragonetti’s Lens


East End photographer Michele Dragonetti is known for her Boat Hull photography series. Dragonetti will share what inspires her about the sea and the vessels that explore them, and discuss her approach to composing these photos, at “A Night Out With Michele Dragonetti” on March 21. The night will start with a talk at The Golden Eagle Studio in East Hampton, and will be followed by a dinner at Nick & Toni’s.

She said she will discuss her architectural and street photos as well, and expects the night to be informal and interactive, and useful for those with or without photographic knowledge.

When did you take your first photo of a boat hull?

Several years ago, I was out with my camera and taking photos in and around the marinas of Montauk. I saw a boat out of water, on stands, to be repaired. I was struck by the texture, colors, and structure, and photographed it in different angles and compositions. I ultimately decided on a square format to highlight the essential geometry of the images. It started out as a single image, and [shooting boat hulls] has grown into a very personal and unique series of work that continues to inspire me.

Any interesting boat stories?

Photographing boats in the boatyard just outside of Havana where Hemingway kept his boat, Pilar, was an unforgettable experience. Boats are a closely guarded resource in Cuba, and I saw the remains of those that were part of failed defection attempts. Above all, I’m mindful of respecting the time of the people working on the boats and at the boatyards, and want to make sure that I don’t disturb them in what they’re doing. Boat owners are incredibly creative in naming their boats, and I have come across some fun and quirky names. There are so many: Vermonstah, Thunderduck, Waterfront Property, Wet Willey, S.O.B.

What’s your next destination?

I don’t have my next trip planned yet, but am eyeing Iceland, Nova Scotia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Greece internationally, and Seattle, North Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maine domestically. The list is limitless. I will be exhibiting images from my Boat Hull series in Barcelona this autumn, so I may try to work in some shooting if I travel to the show.

How have the boats differed in countries you’ve visited?

I did find those cultural differences, with the traditional colorful wooden fishing boats known as saveiros in Portugal, as Dgajsa or Luzzu in Malta, and similar boats in Sicily. While I’ve been able to see boats that are specific to a region in terms of purpose or design, I’ve also seen boats in these countries that are indistinguishable from what I see domestically or anywhere else. I like that. While there are unique aspects, ultimately, they are all very alike. It’s about celebrating what is unique and universal. [There are a lot] of parallels to be drawn there.

What do you look for when taking an urban photograph? 

I’m always drawn to geometric qualities, and particularly seek that out when I’m shooting architecture. Modern, as well as older or even ancient architecture, draws me in. There’s always so much visual interest, as different as it may be, and it’s fun to capture. I love exploring and finding the human element in my street photography — revealing human truths, capturing a moment, conveying a mood in an image.

What are the dimensions of your photographs?

My Boat Hull images are all square photographs in limited editions of 25 at 20, 25, 30, 36, and 40 inches. I started out mostly showing these images at 20 inches. I’ve come to think of them as abstract portraits, each portraying the unique identity and experience of the subject. More recently I’ve also printed them larger, and I appreciate the drama of that presentation. In all cases, utmost care and attention is given to the quality of printing and mounting or framing, while keeping a dynamic and creative approach to how I present my work.

Upcoming projects?

Images from my Boat Hulls series will be exhibited in a Biennial exhibit of Fine Art & Documentary Photography, to be held in Barcelona this September and October. I also continue to work with Roman Fine Art in East Hampton. Of course, I’m shooting as much as I can, here on the East End and elsewhere.

What inspires you as a photographer?

The ever-present potential for discovery. When I go out with my camera, I know I’m going to see and capture and create something that I could never have imagined. I never know what I will see when I’m out in NYC or in a city that I travel to. These are moments that I love. Creating these images is a must for me, and sharing them is a great joy.

What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?

Don’t hesitate. Get started by taking photos — with a camera phone, with a traditional camera, with something. Shoot what you are drawn to. Think about what draws you in and how you can explore it in different ways, or how you can take it further. It can be about seeing the familiar in new ways or simply expressing how you see things. Shoot portraits or candids of yourself or a family member, photograph something in your home or elements of your local community. Your work should express your vision and ideas.

Reserve your spot at www.goldeneagleart.com. To see more from the artist visit www.micheledragonetti.com.

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