Interview with Urban Decay Photographer, Michael Pietrocarlo

How did you get started doing what you do?
When I lived in New York, I was taken by the scale of the city, and mystified by its hidden corners. I’d pass by abandonments – immense empty factories, boarded tenements – and wonder what happened. In a city continuously searching for space, why were those structures ignored? What secrets do their interiors hold?

How would you describe your creative style?

Revealing, though from a perspective that’s not necessarily obvious. Reverent of and faithful to the subject.

Interview with Urban Decay Photographer, Michael Pietrocarlo on Jung Katz Art Blog for Artistsimage (2)What is art to you?
Art is beauty, art is expression; it makes day-to-day living worthwhile and is essential to the human experience. It is both a mirror and a door.

How do you keep motivated?
Through the thrill of discovery, exploring for new subject matter. By observing viewers’ reactions to my work, and challenging myself to make a stronger impact.

How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?
Existence is ephemeral. We build structures, raise monuments, create communities, and then neglect them when economies fail. The constant transformation that cities undergo provides an endless source of inspiration. Toronto, my current home, is experiencing hyper growth, and there’s little left to explore. That’s pushed me to travel more.
Interview with Photographer, Michael Pietrocarlo on Jung Katz
Interview with Photographer, Michael Pietrocarlo on Jung Katz

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
I hope to draw attention to forlorn spaces, to reflect upon and respect their history. My aim is to preserve not only in the image, but in situ as well – encouraging rehabilitation and reuse efforts where possible.

image (3)
What do you want others to take away from your work?
These places deserve your attention. Their past is significant; their lasting presence is beautiful. I want the image to occupy the viewer’s imagination and encourage wonder, inquiry, and even action.

What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Grab a camera and start exploring NOW. 

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Study the masters, and use that knowledge to shape your own style. Be receptive to feedback – good and bad. Constantly push yourself to grow, and evolve your style to maintain interest in your craft.

unnamedimage (5)What’s your process like?
When I enter an abandonment, I put myself in the shoes of former occupants. What would a worshipper feel during mass before the vaulted ceilings started to collapse? How did a steelworker react during layoffs – was the coffee mug left on his deck an indication that he hoped to return? My process begins with a lot of contemplative observation, then I shoot. I use wide lenses to capture the whole scene faithfully, and any editing is done with obvious intent to amplify the emotion of the scene.

Interview with Urban Decay Photographer, Michael Pietrocarlo on Jung Katz Art Blog for ArtistsimageHow could the art industry become better in your opinion?
Emerging artists face a catch-22: recognition is needed to get attention from collectors and galleries, yet attention from galleries and collectors is what drives recognition. Social media has helped by opening new channels, but the traditional art market can remain difficult to access. I’d like to pull back the curtain a bit; but on the other hand, that mystery is a large part of the allure. I think a larger mid-tier market would serve artists and art lovers well: work that’s accessible and supports the artist. Because what art lover wants to buy art from a chain store? And what artist wants to work part-time behind a desk?

Follow Michael Pietrocarlo on Instagram and Twitter.


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