You never know what you’ll find in New York. Perhaps, if you’re a photographer and it’s your lucky day, you may even run into a man in a bright red suit and hat who is smoking a cigar. That’s what happened with Thomas Baccaro was wandering along 14th Street in the East Village neighborhood with his vintage Rolliflex 6x6 camera. It didn’t take long for Baccaro to recognize that he was in the presence of a great photograph just waiting to be taken.
Except that there was a problem. When Baccaro approached the man and asked if he could take his picture, the answer was, “No.”
Baccaro was undeterred, however—because even in New York a sighting like this doesn’t come along every day. “After I passed on a few compliments, he said okay,” says the photographer, who quickly framed the scene and shot the image on Kodak 120 film. In the photo, the man in the suit still looks somewhat dubious about having his picture taken.
Baccaro cross-processed the film to add a touch of surrealism to the image. “There was no retouching in Photoshop,” he says. The final image has gone on to win a number of prizes, including first prize in the Mostra Istituzionale Forte Sangallo Nettuno Italy, as well as being named a winner of the Latin American Fotografía 3 competition.
Now based in São Paulo, Brazil, Baccaro was living in New York City in 2011, when he shot the astonishing street portrait. The son of a noted art dealer, Giuseppe Baccaro, and Fiorella Giovagnoli, an artist and restaurant owner, Baccaro notes at his website that he was "born and raised between frames, prints, photographs, books, galleries, museums and artists." He says he grew up in a number of different cities in Brazil, from São Paulo and Recife to Salvador. And when his mother married the famous Brazilian photographer Mario Cravo Neto, he gained more than a stepfather: “He was my master, my good friend; I made several works with him as a photography assistant, where I started to get interested in the art of photography. He was directly responsible for this choice; he had a lot of influence.”