If you’ve been to any of our music or cultural events in Burnside Park, such as the Burnside Music Series + Beer Garden, or the Doppelgänger Dance Collective’s performance last August, you have probably seen James Lastowski moving around the park taking photographs.
What makes James so invaluable to the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy, is that he just shows up, takes amazing photos and does this all entirely pro bono. For a nonprofit like ours, with a limited budget and small staff, we are overwhelmed by his generosity in donating his talent and time to photograph our events.
It got me wondering: Why does James do this?
I recently touched base with James to learn more about the work that he does with local artists and nonprofits.
Tell us a bit about the work that you do photographing arts and nonprofit events around the city.
I strive to provide images that support and lift up those whom I shoot. Most of my work is pro bono for nonprofits’ events and performers with little or no means to afford photography services. I aim to be a reasonable alternative for the underfunded and underexposed.
What inspired you to start doing this type of photography?
Corny perhaps, but to help others and share what my passion and skills can muster. That my images might help them not just share memories, but help them document and build their path before them.
What does your Facebook page name “Why I left Harmony today” mean?
My wife, Nancy Bockbrader and I live in the east village of Glocester, RI, Harmony. The name is a pun, as to why I would want to leave such a bucolic place as Harmony to go out and photograph…the answer is to photo-document and interpret the exciting events occurring throughout metro Providence.
What are your favorite type of events to photograph?
I love almost all types, but if I had to limit to one…it would be theatre. It often has it all, plenty of facial expressions, body language, varied lighting, costumes and makeup, dance, and music. In particular, I am graced to have a strong relationship with The Wilbury Theatre Group in that I am covering their plays this season. Thank you to Josh Short, Founder and Artistic Director.
How has the arts scene in Providence changed over the years?
I cannot say as I was doing other things – living elsewhere, raising a family, running for years (nearly 300 events) was a consuming passion.
Are there any events that you miss that don’t happen anymore?
In the short time I have been active with metro PVD events, I miss Ladies Showcase, a monthly event that was hosted at Dusk. The thought that DOT AIR (an Experimental Music Festival in Downtown Pawtucket) potentially may not continue in 2017, would be a tremendous loss.
James followed up by talking to me about a personal experiment that he has begun. In an effort to document the “seemingly bottomless needs” of the “underfunded and underexposed groups, events, artists, in need of adequate photo and video coverage” in the area, he’s reaching out to other photographers. He has been actively encouraging anyone with an interest in photography or videography to go out and meet him at events. “My grassroots idea is offer people to meet me at select events to co-shoot, shadow, or assist.” He has backup cameras and lenses that he’s willing to lend people who don’t have their own equipment. So far, around 6 people have joined him, with various skills levels, and some have even gone on to shoot events he couldn’t attend. “It is a win win all around. The focus is to provide it pro bono for the client and the experience and satisfaction of helping others and enjoying getting some cool snaps.”
If you’re interested in participating in James’ experiment, get in touch with him through his dozen or so Facebook pages, which all include his name.
All photos in this post are by James.