James Porto was born in 1960 in Saudi Arabia to an Italian American father and Belgian mother. He began photographing at age eleven and, as a teen, documented the desert community of the Aramco Oil Company and discovered a passion in experimental printing. He received a BS in Professional Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1982 and moved to New York City, where he established a studio on Franklin Street in 1985. A pioneer in multi-image composition techniques, his surrealist aesthetic gained popular visibility in campaigns for Absolut, Adidas, AT&T, Blue Man Group, Showtime, Sony and others. In 1992, he received a fellowship from The New York Foundation for the Arts and began experimenting with emerging digital technologies to further the potential of in-camera and darkroom composite practices. His enthusiastic pursuit of photographic innovation has been featured in American Photo, Photo Italia, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, New York Magazine, Time, Wired and more. For more than thirty years, Mr. Porto has created radically progressive imagery from his Manhattan studio that blurs the accepted line of demarcation between art and commerce.
Winged Women, a fine art series begun in 1994, engages classic photo craft and digital innovation in compositions that simultaneously reflect and anticipate.
“Winged Women is a personal mythology composed in metaphors of femininity and flight, staged on an imagined landscape, the features of which have been drawn from a lifetime of photography.
Variations on a recurring protagonist, the winged female nude, describe personal undulations between the binaries of creativity and fear, power and limitation. Beginning with the exuberant, contemplative and passionate gestures of the female dancer, each composition’s narrative evolves from the masterful expression of emotion through form. Wings are added digitally, photographed from both living and stuffed birds. Landscapes are chosen from the artist’s lifetime of travel and include additional elements shot specifically for the composition. These become theatrical stages, active and inhospitable, but suggestive of environmental origins, upon which the winged dancers perform. The resultant ballet reflects an autobiography lived and felt, and the pursuit of an ideal across a landscape in tumult.
Over 17 years, the artist’s methodology has evolved as a marriage of classic and contemporary techniques. The final files combine scanned 2 ¼ film and digital images, most output to a black and white negative and printed in a conventional darkroom as editions of gelatin silver prints of varying scale, while the primary pieces are printed digitally in life size.”