No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.
- Ingmar Bergman

January 23, 2015

Dana Triano Designs

As They Are Now? -- Catching up with some of my wedding clients

Welcome to 2015!

What I love about filming weddings is getting to meet so many interesting men and women and to learn about their beliefs, passions and talents.  I love listening to my couples tell the story of how they were brought together and the journey that led to their wedding day.

The wedding day begins the new chapter in their lives.  Their story now shifts to the road they've been traveling since their wedding.  As a storyteller, I decided it would be interesting follow up on where they are now and what they are doing which is now being told in my new blog column titled "As They Are Now."

My first story centers on Dana Triano.  I filmed Dana and Rick's wedding in 2006.  It took place in New York City at St. Francis Xavier's and then moved to the Tribeca Rooftop.  Since that time, Dana and Rick have celebrated 8 years of marriage, relocated to California (NYC was home) and Dana has moved forward in creating her own business called "Dana Triano Designs".

I connected with Dana to learn more about what she's been up to over these last 8 years and here's what I learned:

You have been married for 8 years.  What moment(s) resonate with you from your wedding day?

We were married young and one of the first weddings that we attended together was our own!  The church where we were married was the same church that my parents said their vows 33 years earlier, and where my grandfather was an altar boy.  That was very special to us!  We also still get compliments on the reception at Tribeca Rooftop: the food, the drinks, the band (NY City Swing).
I wish we could do it all over again as guests.

Dana on her wedding day. @Karen Cunningham

What are some of the lessons that marriage has taught you?

Relationships get more meaningful with time.  Your partner can be a balance to you and be a counterpoint.  You realize that no one is perfect but it gets easier to play to each other's strengths.

How do you balance your business with your personal life?

I'm a workaholic so balance between business and personal life has always been difficult for me.  I'm very lucky to have an understanding partner.

When did you catch the design bug?

My junior year in college when I studied abroad in Rome.  I traveled throughout Europe and finally saw what was previously only in history and art textbooks.  Art and architecture grandly came to life before me.  Textiles and traditions unfolded.

Who has inspired you in the design world and why?

At work.
Charles Rene Macintosh, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright.  I love the idea of a holistic design concept.  Their designs involved continuity between the exterior and interior spaces; whether with ornament, principles, themes or actual furniture and objects.  They also thought about the relationships of design and nature.

When did you decide to move from working for others to working for yourself?

About one month into my first design job.  I lost the creative control of the complete design process that had so inspired me as a student.

Why did you embark on this adventure?

The timing was right personally and professionally.

Was this a smooth transition for you?  Any trepidation?

Very smooth.  I tend to be a glass-half full kind of optimist so for me it's all exciting and full of opportunity.

Can you describe your design aesthetic?

One of the best parts of this process has been taking the time to step back to define my own style.  My aesthetic is grounded in classical design theories.  I don't pay much attention to trends that are in one year and out the next.  Design can be timeless if executed properly.

For me, "the line's the thing" - the silhouettes and the curves.  The volumes and the resulting negative space.  I love natural materials -- wood, metal and stone -- for their purity and impurity.  My design leans towards the organic shapes and natural elements.  I have always loved Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movements for their design principles that praise natural materials and emphasis holistic designs and quality craftsmanship.

However, unlike some classic period styles, I dislike too much visual clutter and fussy ornament.  Impersonal objects and junk crowd our modern homes.  Something in me seeks to "simplify, simplify, simplify".  I'm not a minimal modern designer.  I just think that beautiful things need to breath and have the space to be appreciated.  It's not just about filling up a room.  There should be a history to the objects and the owners.

What part of the design process do you enjoy most?

Final installation.  The buzz of many teams pulling everything together and seeing the vision come to life.

Describe a Dana Triano client.

Well-traveled, creative, stylish, positive, open-minded and interested in sustainability.

Talk about some of the challenges faced when working with a design client.

I found that indecision creates bottlenecks in the process and leads to dis-unified designs.

How involved do your clients want to be in your design process?

At the end of the day, the home is the clients' so their opinions are essential to the process.

What are some of the factors that help in forming not only an inspiring creative process but a healthy client relationship?

Honesty on both sides.  It saves time and misspent energy.

Talk about compromise in your work.  If a client chooses a design element that does not fit into your overall design, how do you handle?

Discuss it with them.  If they are as passionate about their needs as I am about my design, there is a solution.  You can always photograph the room from a different angle!

What brought you to California?

The sunshine!  I constantly traveled here for work and it became harder and harder to deny the power of light and space.  One day, while I was driving the PCH to LAX from Santa Barbara and the sun was shining on the mountains and the ocean glistening, I realized I didn't want to leave.  I don't know if I took the time to look up at the sky when I was living in NYC.  In LA, you can step back and see the mountain line hugging the sky every gorgeous day.

Is there a difference between the California design aesthetic and the NYC aesthetic?  

Yes.  One day I was discussing the difference between East and West Coast with a rug vendor.  Antique rugs have two sides depending on the way the light catches the pile of the fibers -- a light side and a dark side.  He told me that in CA one tends to lay the rug on the light side and in NY, one tends to lay the rug on the dark side.  It has held true in my experience!

I also found that New York City is more polished and tends to be more formal.  You can use darker colors and rich materials like velvets or silk.  Because the sun is incredibly powerful here, fabrics and colors fade quickly.  There is more of an indoor-outdoor quality to living here.  Everything is focused around the sun and daylight whereas in New York City, the focus is on the evening energy and the skyline lights.

Where is Dana Triano Designs five years from now?

On the cover of a design magazine!

To learn more about Dana Triano Designs check out her website.....

or follow her on Instagram and Facebook at:  @DanaTrianoDesigns

November 4, 2014

What's New? -- Salt Flats Film Shoot, Widow, Part 2

The Bonneville Salt Flats is yet another breathtaking wonder of Mother Nature.  Located 90 minutes from Salt Lake City, the Salt Flats were created over ten thousand years ago when Lake Bonneville receded leaving behind mineral deposits consisting mostly of salt.   Today, the Salt Flats draw auto racing enthusiasts (The Annual Bonneville Speed Racing Event in August), and also lure tourists, photographers and filmmakers, who attempt to capture this magical gift Nature has given us with their cameras.

Cut to:  "Widow" - Part 2.

Jil Guyon decided the Salt Flats was the perfect background to film Part 2 of her "Widow" Trilogy.  If you aren't familiar with "Widow" Part 1, it is a 7 minute film created and performed as a solo by Jil.
We filmed it at Three Legged Dog Studios (NYC) in December 2012.  It has gone on to be included in numerous film festivals (USA + Canada), such as Lincoln Center's "Dance On Camera" 2014 and "Dance On Camera" Tour 2014.  It also won two awards from La Jolla's IndieFest Film Festival -- Best Short Experimental Film and Award for Excellence in Experimental Film.

Cut to:  Off we went! 

We filmed for 4 days.  Each moment spent on the Flats felt like I had crossed over into another dimension of space and time.  My aesthetic senses were overwhelmed by the ever-changing shifts of light, color and form, each new scene equalling the brilliance of the previous one.

I worked with my DSLR 5D Mark II, Mark III and GoPro cameras and I must confess that I was blown away by all of the footage.  I would love to take credit for creating all of the stunning imagery but I must give all the praise to Mother Nature for making my work very easy.

Below are images that tell a portion of the story.  Notice on Day 1, how the light dramatically shifted within a 4 hour block of time.

Where is she?  Day 1 after 4:30pm

Spreading her wings.  Day 1 after 5:30pm.

Hiding?  Day 1 after 6:00pm

Bending.  Day 1 after 7:30pm

Leaving?  Day 1 after 8:00pm

GoPro Image -- Day 3 after 5:30pm
After the night rain.  Day 4 -- water fills the flats
After the night rain.  Day 4 -- water fills the flats

September 25, 2014

Summer's end -- Taking it all in

It has been quite a busy summer -- I wondered why it went by in a flash!  I found myself traveling all around the Tri-state area and even bouncing down into Virginia and Pennsylvania, filming couples celebrating their wedding day.

It was also a rewarding time for "Widow", the experimental film created by Jil Guyon and filmed by moi.  "Widow" has been accepted it into numerous film festivals this year and most recently found itself being invited into Toronto's Urban Film Festival curated by well-known filmmaker Guy Maddin.  To top it off, it won La Jolla's Indie Fest Award for Best Experimental Film.  The "Widow" train continues as it will be in Columbus, Ohio's Music Festival and also showing at Musee de la Civilisation, Quebec, both in 2015.

I created an exciting project for S'MAC restaurant.  I worked with Sarita and Caesar Ekya, the owners of S'MAC , to create a promotional film for air on TaxiTV.  Not only was it fun drawing up the storyboard and filming, it was also delicious as Sarita and Caesar treated me to one of their many tasty Mac and Cheese dishes.  If you love Mac and Cheese, I highly recommend dropping into one of their two locations.  You will not be disappointed.

Finally, spent a few Wednesdays in August working with David Lackey, co-owner of Whirlwind Creative, Inc. filming and editing short pieces for Related Companies "Art in the Park" series.  Many food trucks, artists, and musicians participated in this outdoor event that was free to the public.  Everyone who dropped by the event had a blast eating and dancing in the beautiful summertime weather.

In case you haven't taken a peek at my work in awhile, I leave you and this Summer with a few glance-backs.

Welcome Fall!

Art Deco Glamour at Gotham Hall from Valerie Barnes Film on Vimeo.

All My Bright Tomorrows Belong to You from Valerie Barnes Film on Vimeo.

S'MAC Promotional Film from Valerie Barnes Film on Vimeo.

July 8, 2014

Celebrating Love in the Summertime

Summer weddings

Summer outdoor weddings always create interesting subject matter for cinematographers.  The natural light, the many colors and design choices, the environment plus the energy of people enjoying the outdoor space allows for stunning and lively imagery.

Angela and Mike presented us with all of the above!  Their ceremony was held in the grand St. Paul's Cathedral, and then they moved on to celebrate their reception at her parents' beautifully landscaped residence in Shadyside.

Sheila Weiner and her team ( converted the property into a tasteful outdoor modern space threading in colors of greens, pinks, red, and yellow flowers, flickering candles, and hanging beaded chandeliers. Numerous tents were put into place in order to shelter the over 300 guests from the elements.  Lastly, a white dance floor was added so that guests could show off their flashiest moves, and, indeed they did as they danced the night away.

All in all, it was a glorious summer day in Pittsburghh for Angela and Mike.

The couple reciting their vows.

July 3, 2014

26 Bridge Wedding Style Shoot -- Tropical Wedding Theme

What's New -- What I've been doing lately

The experience of participating in a wedding styled shoot is always an inspiring one.  Working with a variety of artists always keeps the creative juice flowing and it offers the chance to see what ideas are brewing in the minds of other talented people.

Which brings me to 26 Bridge, a newly opened event space in Dumbo.  The combo of bricks, mortar, wrought iron gives a very rustic yet industrial feel.  A great space for those who want to create their own design.  Jove Meyer ( and his creative band of merry men and women decided to showcase their work by using 26 Bridge as a backdrop for what turned out to be a fun-filled day of hard work and play.  I was invited to join in and film it.

Landon and Maddie, who graciously gave their time to model for us, are engaged to be married so even though it was a wedding styled shoot, it centered around two people who are in love.

All of our hard work paid off as we learned that Green Wedding Shoes (@greenweddingshoes) decided to publish the shoot.

The other artists who jumped in on the fun were:

Photographer // Amber Gress // @ambergressphotography
Accessories + Shoes // Hushed Commotion // @hushedcommotion
Ceremony Dress // Synderella Story // @synderelastory
Reception Dress // Shop Lovely // @lovelybride
Suit // A suit that fits // @asuitthatfits
Flowers // Blade // @bladenewyork
Paper Products // Katie Fischer Design // @katiefischercohen
Cake + Cupcakes // Lael Cakes // @laelcakes
Hair - Styles on B // @stylesonbnyc
Makeup // Morgan Gates // @mgmua
Videographer // Valerie Barnes
Catering // Pok Pok // @pokpokpdx
Jewelry // Anna Sheffield // @annasheffield
Bar Cart // Society Social // @societysocial
Vintage Palm Couch // Patina Vintage Rentals // @rentpatina 

June 3, 2014

Kara Walker -- "A Sublety" Exhibit

Filmmaker about Town --- what I film when out and about

Deteriorating factories have always fascinated me.  Perhaps it's because I grew up in Pittsburgh and watched the steel industry, once a strong factor in the economic incline of this country,  rot into ruin leaving behind dreams of economic stability and promising futures.

I've been looking at the Domino Sugar Factory sign from across the river for at least 15 years now, and during this time my curiosity about the space never died.  Domino Sugar was a staple in my family's household, but, as a child, it  never occurred to me how it arrived on a supermarket shelf.  I only watched my parents buy it and store it in our food closet.

Kara Walker's choice of sculpture material in her poignant exhibit "A Sublety" perfectly tells the story of how sugar was brought into this country -- through the sweat, toil, and blood of slave labor.

Sugar, resin and molasses were the materials she chose to create her sculptures.  Some were made with 100% sugar while others with resin and molasses.  Those made from 100% sugar are quickly deteriorating due to the climate inside of the factory.  As they deteriorate, pieces crash onto the floor. These pieces are then placed in the baskets being held by the sculptures that remain.

Towards the back of the space is the ultimate homage to the horrors of sugar production -- a sphinx sculpture made of 3-4 tons of white sugar.

The irony of sweet sugar being cultivated off of the backs of slaves who lost hands, arms, their lives, not to mention other heinous acts done in order to satisfy society's sweet tooth, resonates throughout the factory walls.  The walls are coated in dripping molasses and the floors are stained with molasses from some of the sculptures.   I managed to unstick my feet a few times after realizing I was stuck to the floor.

I highly recommend visiting the factory and taking in her exhibit.  It is up and running until July 6, but you may want to go as soon as possible because of the sculpture deterioration.

If you cannot visit, here's a taste of what hides behind the cold exterior of the Domino factory.  Shot with my trusty iPhone.

May 13, 2014

Pawel Althamer -- The Draftsmen's Congress

Filmmaker About Town -- what I film when out and about

A rain-soaked Saturday is always a good time to explore the museums in New York City, and so I did with a few friends by my side.  We stopped into the New Museum's exhibit showcasing Polish artist Pawel Althamer.  Though he is known for the figurative sculptures he creates of himself, his family and other people within his community, he also is an artist advocate who has gathered various groups of people to help push forward certain causes.  "Common Cause" initially began as a project to beautify a run-down park by turning it into a sculpture garden.  In New York, he initiated a coat drive for the Bowery Mission by offering free admission to "Draftsmen's Congress" to anyone that donated a free coat.

Althamer's The Draftsmen's Congress embodies his idea of community collaboration.  In this work, he invites visitors to express themselves by drawing or painting whatever inspires them on white sheets of supplied paper taped to the New Museum's walls.  The idea was met with much enthusiasm as people picked up their instrument of choice and began coloring the walls and floor with images and words in different sizes, colors and shapes.

Using my iPhone, I shot and created a short film showing the energy and excitement inside of the room with the white papered walls.