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julian sparacino photographer musician scranton pa

An Eye for the Unexpected

For Pennsylvania musician/photographer Julian Sparacino, taking photos means making art by altering reality, in addition to a decidedly different way of looking at things.

“I usually take my camera everywhere. If I see something I find interesting, I take it. Most times, I get more out of tweaking the photo. I don’t consider myself like a painter who paints realism, but like one who alters the reality.”

Many photographers capture history, moments in time or events, but Julian’s focus is not on documentation; it’s more artistic. “It’s like seeing something...there are multiple realities. I take a photo and go back and look into it for texture, contrast, lighting…just like in music.”

Julian got into photography in his mid-20s after becoming inspired by album covers of the German jazz label ECM and also the works of photographers hired by the Farm Security Administration to document the dust bowl of the Midwest: Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams and Walker Evans along with Robert Frank’s book, The Americans, and the later works of Bill Brandt, Sebastiao Salgado, Minor White and Helen Levitt to name a few.

“They were an inspiration to my creative process because their photography was so different from anything else,” he says.

A decade later, his eye for the unusual and often unobserved led him to delve into black and white, convert bathroom-to-darkroom and make his own pinhole cameras out of ordinary cardboard boxes and oatmeal containers. He shot local musicians in black and white, experimented with pinhole photography and created abstracts using transparencies. “Anything can be an abstraction. It depends on how you look at it.” Indeed, his penchant for seeing the unexpected in the ordinary is his skill and art.

“I was always attracted to contemporary visual artists like Chagall, Kandinsky, Miro and outsider artists – anything that’s kind of out of the norm. I like the idea of textures, forms and lines. It applies to music also – the rhythm of the piece, the composition. It’s just like orchestrating a piece of music using different timbres, different colors. It’s all connected to me. I love nature, the outdoors. It’s an organic kind of experience just like music. Photography is a different medium but a different way of expressing one’s feelings.”

Music paralleled Julian’s photography and it was always at the forefront, begun when he was just 11 with music studies in accordion, clarinet, then sax and flute. Today, his musical ensemble includes tenor, alto and soprano sax, flute, piano and bass clarinet, an imposing and earthy instrument.

So what does the future hold for Julian the photographer? “I plan on doing a few exhibits. For me it’s like meditation regarding the creative process. I just like the process. With digital vs. film: I like the idea of seeing the instantaneous.

“I always thought I had some connection to the European sensibilities, a little less orthodox and open, more earthy because of the longer tradition of the arts, although there are a lot of great artists here in the U.S. American expressionism is more toward exploration. Harry Partch is one of my biggest influences in the idea of exploring different avenues of expression.”

Photos are for sale. Contact Julian Sparacino at
Visit Julian's Upcoming Exhibits:
First Friday March 4 thru 12 at Library Express at The Mall at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave, Scranton, PA 18503 Phone: 570-558-1670
Month of April at: The Abington Community Library, 1200 W. Grove Street, Clarks Summit PA 570-587-3440

** All photos are copyright by Julian Sparacino

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published September 18, 2015

Photos to enlarge

Photographer/musician Julian Sparacino. Mary Jasch photo

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Poolside Chairs. Julian Sparacino photo

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Waterfall. Julian Sparacino photo

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