Creative Quarantine: Photographer Paul D’Amato

Paul D'Amato in New York City | Photo Credit: Kelli Connell

Paul D’Amato discusses his current project, Midway with Esthetic Lens. He touches on having to adjust his strategy for making pictures by staying outside and using a longer lens.

1. How are you holding up?

Fine. It’s a confusing time in the sense that it is hard to know where to be along the scale between neurotic-don’t-leave-the-house and complete knuckle-head, storm-the-state-capitol with no mask and an assault rifle.

Bungalow Family, Chicago, Illinois, 2018 | ©Paul D’Amato

I’ve been surprised that the folks seem just as willing to be photographed as before this pandemic.

Jewel, Chicago, Illinois, 2017 | ©Paul D’Amato

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

For the project I’m currently working on – Midway – it has effected my work in two ways. First, it has put on hold all of the things I was planning to do that required going inside of anything, houses, businesses, events. And secondly, it has meant being more cautious about how close I get to my portrait subjects. I use my 180 MM lens a lot more.

That said, I’ve been surprised that the folks seem just as willing to be photographed as before this pandemic. In fact, I have to always remind myself that things aren’t as they were and to remember to keep my distance and always grab my mask.

Bob, Owner of the Midway Motel, Chicago, Illinois, 2018 | ©Paul D’Amato

Christine, Sam’s Submarine Sandwiches, Chicago, Illinois, 2018 | ©Paul D’Amato

4 Half-Gallon Crew, Chicago, Illinois, 2019 | ©Paul D’Amato

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?


Lady in Green, Chicago, Illinois, 2019 | ©Paul D’Amato

Reese, Used Car Salesman, Chicago, Illinois, 2017 | ©Paul D’Amato

Sarah, Bus Stop, Chicago, Illinois, 2019 | ©Paul D’Amato

4 .Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?

Sorry, none come to mind. Studio artists are still in the studio and those who can’t bear to be cooped up are still out and about. 

Tom with Tiny Hat, 4th of July, Chicago, Illinois, 2020 | ©Paul D’Amato

Angelica & Bobby, Chicago, Illinois, 2020 | ©Paul D’Amato

Supalerk & Long, Buddhist Monks, Chicago, Illinois, 2020 | ©Paul D’Amato

Rachel & Marla, Chicago, Illinois, 2020 | ©Paul D’Amato

Paul D’Amato was born in Boston where he attended Boston Latin School at the height of racial unrest and civil rights. He moved west to attend Reed College and claims to have learned as much from traveling cross-country – often by hitch-hiking and freight trains – as he did in class. After receiving an MFA from Yale he moved to Chicago where he discovered the community of Pilsen. The pictures and writing D’Amato produced there were made into the book, “Barrio”.  His most recent book of images made in the African-American community on the west side of Chicago, entitled “Here/Still/Now”, was awarded the Lucie Foundation Book Prize in 2018. He has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation and his work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Art Institute of Chicago.

You can find Paul D’Amato online:


Instagram: @paul.damato