Tony DiGiorgio spent 50 years as an educator, including 24 years as university president at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. During most of his career, he never spent much time in the arts. When he ended up as family photographer, he bought a digital camera in the ‘90s and figured out how to use it.
As he explored photography, DiGiorgio discovered that he had a natural sense of form, shape and color. “I see life through a series of frames. The trick is deciding which one to use,” he explained. “Like many people, I took photos of our travels and then I started playing around with those images.”
Calling himself a frustrated painter, Tony DiGiorgio said he can’t translate what he sees into paint, but using a digital camera gives him the ability to master these translations. “I heard about various ways to enhance photographs and I started exploring. I’m pretty much totally self-taught. I learned to crop, highlight, alter and enhance images to create something new,” he said. “I learned how to play with color, to use filters to enhance the images. I generally begin manipulating an image and experiment to see what’s best.”
“I love to design and to play with idea boards. I started out doing this as a way to relax from my university job,” he said. “I showed a few pieces to people at work and got encouraging comments, so I moved to larger sizes and had some pieces printed on canvas. Our Art Department chair asked to hang a few pieces.” DiGiorgio agreed to show his work, but only anonymously. He was also soon giving pieces to visiting speakers and guests. A watercolor artist asked him to show his work in her gallery and the Development Department started requesting pieces to give to donors.
“Only after I was sure that they weren’t just encouraging me because of my position, did I sign my name,” he reflected. “I create because it gives me a deep sense of satisfaction. It’s a space I can go into where I lose sight of the pressures in life. I love the creative challenge and the esthetic sense from fulfilling this deep-seated need. I only create one piece. I don’t make copies.” In addition to images on canvas, DiGiorgio has turned some results into one-of-a-kind wearable art, producing silk wraps, ponchos and scarves.
DiGiorgio starts with an image and then begins to create. “I don’t know what I’m going to behold, I have to behold it first. I ask, ‘What can I make from this? What can I draw from this?’ That’s how I create the emotional element. Now I have the time to try new ideas, to collect new images as well as go back through some older files and explore in new ways.”
He explained that some pieces are relatively quick to come together. Others can take as long as a month. “I’ve started playing around with inverting colors, like what you see in a negative. For instance, I’ve started a Southwest series and I’m experimenting with the sky. Turning a blue-sky orange gives you a whole different feeling and doubles the possibilities,” he smiled.