Photographer Lisa-Marie Mazzucco has over 100 classical music albums covers to her credit, photographing such luminaries as Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Rachel Barton Pine, David Finckel and Wu Han. Her photographs are often influenced by her natural surroundings found on the East End of Long Island, New York, where she lives with her husband, Raphael Mazzucco, the renowned fashion photographer, but it is her innate ability to put her subjects at ease and to capture their strengths and natural beauty that are her hallmarks.

Stay Thirsty Magazine had a chance to visit with Lisa-Marie Mazzucco at her home in Montauk, New York for this Conversation about her photography.

STAY THIRSTY: What is your preference - digital or film? Is the medium part of your strategy in achieving certain effects in your photographs? How much post-production do you do before a photograph is finished?

LISA-MARIE MAZZUCCO: I definitely prefer digital for what I do. I worked with film for years processing and printing, etc., so when digital came onto the scene, I jumped on it immediately! I also started retouching very early in my career so I do quite a bit of work in post-production. I can spend anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours on an image depending on what I need to do. Sometimes it’s just skin retouching, but other times, it’s moving a body closer to another subject or swapping heads in a quartet shot. But the usual fixes are straightening noses, removing stray hairs or fixing tired eyes; simple tweaks like that.

Itzhak Perlman

STAY THIRSTY: Do you think about photo shoots with one person differently than if there are two, three or four? Are there different strategies that you typically use?

LISA-MARIE MAZZUCCO: Yes, there are definitely a few more things to consider when shooting a group rather than a solo artist. One thing is the relationship aspect. It can be difficult to shoot a male and female together in close proximity and have them not look like a couple romantically. That can be a challenge. I also work with natural light so focus can be a challenge for me in low light situations and of course, as I do all the hair and makeup, time can be an issue. I usually start a bit earlier for a larger group and for the most part find outdoor locations with good light and space.

The Naughton Sisters

STAY THIRSTY: You have photographed some of today’s greatest classical musicians, among other famous artists and performers. How do you go about making your subjects feel at ease in your studio or on location? How open are you to suggestions from your subjects?

LISA-MARIE MAZZUCCO: That’s an interesting question. I certainly have never thought consciously about making an artist feel at ease or comfortable. I think that comes naturally for me in the way I am as a person and how I work. I get to know my subject while doing hair and makeup and during that time, I’ll talk about everything from their kids or relationship or what’s on the news that week or whatever, usually not about the shoot itself. I shoot in my home so people will occasionally come in and out and chitchat as well. I thing the mood is already set before we even get started. I know that musicians aren’t models so I tell them to leave everything up to me and I will place them exactly where I need them. That way they feel like they don’t have to “pose”. Of course, when I direct them, they are actually posing but they don’t think they are.

David Finckel and Wu Han

I also gained a lot of experience working with my husband photographer Raphael Mazzucco for many years as a makeup artist before I branched out as a photographer myself. I learned a lot from watching him work, and anyone he has ever worked with will tell you he’s the easiest and most relaxed photographer they know. I hear it all the time. I think I tend to work the same way, as he was my main influence all those years.

I definitely take suggestions from my subjects as they are usually shooting for a specific album or they have a “feel” they want to present to their audience. Once I know where the direction is going, they leave the rest to me for the most part.

Bridget Kibbey

STAY THIRSTY: It is easier to photograph women or men and if so, why?

LISA-MARIE MAZZUCCO: I think it’s easier to shoot men, but it’s more fun to shoot women, for me anyhow. I like playing dress-up, and makeup and hair are a big part of shooting women, and that’s my background and my first love.

Alessio Bax

How do you decide on whether to incorporate an artist’s instrument in your photographs?

LISA-MARIE MAZZUCCO: I leave that up to them, but for the most part, they want their instrument visible for promotions reasons. Especially newer artists. Some of the more famous artists choose not to have their instrument in the image as everyone already knows what they play. I usually ask them what percentage of images they would like with their instrument. It’s usually 75% with and 25% without, on average.

Chad Hoopes

STAY THIRSTY: Your work has both interior and exterior locations. During a photo shoot for an album cover, do you typically do both or do you concentrate on just one type of location for a particular shoot? How does lighting figure into the effects you create?

LISA-MARIE MAZZUCCO: Like I said earlier, I prefer to work with natural light, but I can achieve that indoors or outdoors where I live and work. When I travel for work I just have to find the light. I also try to shoot a good variety of locations and wardrobes so that my clients have lots to choose from in the end.

Sometimes you plan a specific shot and then you end up using something completely different once you see the images. For instance, the Emerson Quartet. I was shooting their album on the beach and at the very end of the day, as we were walking back to our cars, I turned around and shot a few frames of them walking and talking. That ended up being the album cover, not the two hours of shooting before that. You never know! Nice to have a variety; and, not always stick to a plan.

Rachel Barton Pine

STAY THIRSTY: How involved are you in the selection of wardrobe, hair and makeup for your subjects? Do you often go through various wardrobe changes during a shoot and how much input do record executives have?

LISA-MARIE MAZZUCCO: That can change from client to client, but for the most part, when it comes to wardrobe I have the client make the first choices and then I narrow it down from there. If I am working with the record company directly, they will discuss the album with me, and go over ideas, but they never micromanage. If the record exec brings a stylist onboard, then I leave all of that to them and the client, and it becomes one less thing for me to do. Usually it’s me doing the styling, and since I’m not a professional stylist, I try to keep it as simple as possible. The nice thing about shooting classical artists is that they have a plethora of beautiful gowns or suits. They don’t come with jeans and T-shirts so that makes my job a little simpler in the styling department. I tell them to bring enough clothes for about 6-8 full changes.

For the makeup and hair I usually just discuss for a few minutes beforehand and then go from there. I have always done all the hair and makeup for my shoots, so at this point, they trust my judgment and just want to look beautiful.

Trio Celeste

STAY THIRSTY: Do you intend your photographs to tell a story about the artist being photographed? How does placement of arms, legs and head position figure into how you orchestrate your photographs?

LISA-MARIE MAZZUCCO: Yes, sometimes I do think along those lines of storytelling when I shoot. I was surrounded with fashion early on so I tend to shoot as if I were shooting an editorial. Over the years, I started seeing which images were being used and which ones weren’t so I have definitely refined my storytelling to a more portraiture nature, if that makes sense. A lot of my favorite images were landscape with a smaller subject but those kinds of images were rarely used. You have to remember that with all the social media uses these pictures have to look good when viewed on small screens.

When I photograph artists I tend to place arms legs and heads myself to start especially if someone is a bit stiff or nervous. If not, I can usually just direct them while shooting if something is out of place or not looking natural. That is really the crux of what I do. Making people look natural in a photo when they are not use to being photographed can be a mighty task. Over the years, that’s what I feel I have become best at.

STAY THIRSTY: Do you feel that you capture the soul of the artists you photograph?

LISA-MARIE MAZZZUCCO: One could only hope! That’s not always my goal when I’m shooting, but once in awhile, I get that picture where you feel you can just “feel” them. I like when that happens.

Lisa-Marie Mazzucco and Nina

STAY THIRSTY: What do you consider to be your finest photograph?

LISA-MARIE MAZZUCCO: It’s funny, but I actually don’t have a favorite. I’ve been kind of agonizing over this question because now I should be showing you some incredible photographically genius images! Some of my favorite images are my favorites not because of the photography itself, but because they brought out something unique in a person that I hadn’t seen or noticed before. They are my favorite for personal reasons not necessarily because of the photography. One of my favorite photographs is of one of my roosters. They are my babies. I have to shoot them too!

Clyde the Rooster

(All photographs courtesy of Lisa-Marie Mazzucco)


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.