The Boston-based Tarantola shoots more than just portraits. Much of her work involves photographing corporate CEOs and the likes of musician Kenny Rogers and astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Her corporate clients include Fidelity, Aramark, Tufts Health Plan and Akamai Technology and she’s shot for such magazines as Yankee, Financial Advisor and Entrepreneur.
Ironically, she is not a Yankee-American. Tarantola came to her second home circuitously, via New Jersey and Martha’s Vineyard, having been born and raised in Milltown, N.J. “It’s one square mile,” she says. Her father was a ladies’ hairstylist, having sagely learned a practical trade during the Great Depression, while her mother was a bookkeeper at the Rutgers University Credit Union. Kathy’s brother, one of two siblings, is a musician who graduated from the Berklee College of Music and works as an arranger for the likes of the Boston Pops and the Boston Symphony. Their sister in Virginia didn’t do badly, either: She’s a vice president at the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, a.k.a. Freddie Mac.
Tarantola entered photography, she says, “because I was drawn to making images and wanted to find a career that wasn’t office-based — something where I could work for myself, meet different people, and be creative.” This desire led her to apprentice with a local photographer. “I helped him paint and move when he was redoing his studio,” Tarantola remembers, “and in exchange he let me use his darkroom.” She earned an associate’s degree in photography from Middlesex County College, and got a job assisting a photographer who specialized in corporate annual reports.
After that? Waitressing on Martha’s Vineyard, naturally. That helped pay the bills while she worked as a darkroom technician and general assistant at the Martha’s Vineyard School of Photography. After a year of that, Kathy headed for the mainland. “I thought, ‘Let’s try a city.’ I really didn’t know anybody in Boston, but I called photographers and told them I could assist. And it worked!” Tarantola says with a chuckle. But it was the ’80s, she recalls, “and there was a lot of work, a lot of money flying around, and a lot of photographers needed assistants. The second person I went to see started hiring me on a regular basis as a second assistant. That was my base, and when I could I filled-in for others.”
She gradually began getting assignments of her own, and then packed her film and lenses, bought a Eurail pass, and spent a summer snapping all over France, Italy, Germany, Sweden and, in a side trip, Egypt. “I had a camel ride in the moonlight around the pyramids,” she says, with a bit of a daze still in her voice. That summer proved a crash course for her career. “I learned a lot about shooting and dealing with people,” Tarantola says. “That’s sort of where I ended up — I shoot a lot of corporate portraits, I put people at ease, I make them smile. I like being on that side of the camera.”
Tarantola, who continued her education under the likes of Nicholas Nixon, Abelardo Morell, and Laura McPhee at the Massachusetts College of Art, expanded her creative work. This led to Kathy’s art-photo side as expressed in such alternative processes as cyanotypes, Polaroid transfers, and large-format black-and-white portraits. “Cyanotypes are basically blueprints made into images,” she describes. “To create the multilayered images I wanted you have to make two separate full sized negatives that are sandwiched together, paint the emulsion onto the paper in the dark and make a contact print.” A couple of samples on her website are like cool-blue surrealist dreams. She’s shown her work at such juried art fairs as the Boston Arts Festival, as well as in galleries all over the Northeast.
Tarantola had her own commercial studio in downtown Boston for a while. But after the Big Dig traffic-tunnel project commenced, many firms there were suddenly deluged with noise and dust, and decamped. Now, Tarantola says, “If I need a studio I rent it, but I do almost all location work.”
The challenge in that, she says, is “arriving at a place and trying to find a way to take an interesting photo. Because 99% of the time they say, ‘Hey, we have a board room you can use!’ I shoot in stairways, on the roofs of buildings. One place had a lobby with big glass windows, and outside was this barren tree. So I did a lot of lighting to make it look dramatic and like nighttime even though it was day, and posed the people in front of it, and it ended up looking great.”
Kathy has also volunteered to photograph children with cancer at the New England Floating Hospital for a group called Flashes of Hope. “I believe in giving back as much as possible,” says Tarantola, “and volunteering for Flashes of Hope was a very rewarding experience. The kids were so amazing.” She also just returned from a trip to New Orleans to document some of the home rebuilding projects in the devastated area. If that’s not enough, Kathy also holds the responsibility of being treasurer for the New England Chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP.org). Whoever said you can’t mix beauty and brains?
The goes likewise for Panasonic DMC-TZ3 point-and-shoot she’s been trying out. “It’s a very smart camera,” Tarantola says. “You try and trick it with your settings, and it’s smart enough to balance light and pick the right speeds. But you can also go in and modify it, which is a very nice thing. It also has a setting for shooting black-and-white.”
As it happens, you could be talking about the photographer herself. “Just make it fun,” she says. “There are rules, and you can break them. As long as you know the basics, you can still make a great photograph, perhaps something unexpected.”
Call Digital Photo Academy at 1 877 372 2231. Lots of people seem to hang up if our welcome recording comes on instead of a live voice, but we promise to return your message within a day or two if you leave one with your name and number. It would be even better if you included your e mail address as well as the date and city of the class you are considering. If leaving a voice mail message is not your thing, please email us at DPAbooking@digitalphotoacademy.com or Richard@digitalphotoacademy.com.
“Took the composition in the field class at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and learned some good tips about photo composition as well as some tips and tricks on getting off the automatic setting! Thank you DPA.”
“The DPA class was terrific! I was always one that appreciated photography but never brought my camera along. As I near retirement, I really want to pursue photography as a serious endeavor. Kathy was an outstanding instructor who brought out the best in all of us. I would recommend this class to anyone.”
“I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed the workshop on Sunday. It was great to be able to put the lessons into action and then get immediate feedback. The one thing I learned was to always double check my settings…I tend to change settings and then forget to reset them for the next photo.
I am signed up for the upcoming full day Photoshop and Advanced workshops and am looking forward to them both!”
– Donna DeSimone
“We had a fantastic time at your class – very helpful and informative. In fact, you’ve inspired us to take time out every day to continue learning about the D90 (and consider a Canon in the future – haha).
We’re looking forward to exploring more photo-taking after getting some details under the fingers.
Thanks for your previous email with class photo and that great church image (love the info on “how” you managed it). It’s neat to read the specs of the photo and know what they mean!”
– John & Nancy Forcucci
“Thank you for the class program. Also, thank you for a great workshop. I understand so much more about my camera and about photograph and that there is so much more to learn. I so appreciate your ability to make everyone feel comfortable, and to answer all our questions no matter how small. You were so enthusiastic about photography and were able teach it as well. I look forward to my next class after I practice a bit.”
“Thanks for making it so much fun! See you around!”
– Alsya Affandi
“Thanks for a great class! I’ve got a lot of “practicing” to do, but looking forward to it! I”m hoping to catch some great shots in Belize the end of this month. If I have any questions, you’ll be hearing from me :)”
– Darlene Dykas
“It was so nice to meet you and thanks so much for a great class. Very informative and helpful… now to just get out of that auto mode all together! LOL Thanks so much for any info. The class was great!”
– Tara Golden
“Thank YOU! I enjoyed meeting you and getting more info on my camera and shooting with it. I’m sure that I will be taking other classes, so I may see you again…. ;-}”
– Mary Beth Griscom
“The intermediate course was everything and more that it was supposed to be! Kathy’s relaxed style and enthusiasm for photography really made the class very enjoyable and informative. I look forward to taking numerous other classes with DPA very soon. Thank you Kathy and also thank you to the DPA team. You guys are great!!!!:
I would definitely be interested for myself and if I can spread the word I think we could definitely get others interested. I know the class would be awesome.
Please stay in touch with me to keep me updated on the class info. The sooner I know, the quicker I can get out there and spread the good news!”
– Gary Fournier
“The beginner’s class in Boston, with Kathy Tarantola, was great. Small size, comfortable setting and relaxed atmosphere. Kathy’s approach was casual, relaxed and informal also, which helped me take in the information in a different way. I felt as if I had absorbed the knowledge rather than just ‘learned’ it. Thanks Kathy!”
– Dotty Tribeman
“I wanted to let you know i enjoyed the class yesterday with Kathy Tarantola. I learned a lot and know I have a lot more to learn. This was a great first step into the learning process. I am thinking of taking the advanced class offered in August that Frank is teaching, and will be looking for more classes to take and if you teach other places please let me know as I would like participate.”
– Cathy Curtin