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Freeze Frame

Culture Watch
Danilo Lauria, better known as @danilo.

by Mieke ten Have

I have been rejected by certain people in the industry—and I completely understand why,” says Danilo Lauria, a video artist with an Instagram following of 91K and counting. “There are photographers who work their whole lives behind a camera, and then this kid comes along with an iPhone.” Though he may be self-deprecating, Lauria, or @danilo as he is best known, has been enthusiastically embraced by a great many fashion and cosmetic houses, artists and museums. He is proof of concept for Instagram as a showcase and champion for unknown talent—and while embracing the platform that gave him a voice, Lauria is keenly aware of the perils of being an artist in the social media age.

It was neither an interest in photography nor film, however, that drove the young Spanish Argentine to find his distinctive niche in a largely oversaturated market, but rather a nostalgic childhood hobby. “When I was 12 years old, I used to draw flip books all the time. Eventually I went to art school and I studied traditional animation—and that is really what I am doing, except I am taking it to the digital world.” Lauria’s shorts are familiar and fun for that very reason; they are a modern take on whimsical, short form illustrated narrative. While working for an ad agency in Miami, Lauria shot stop motion videos for fun in his free time. Hired by interior decorator Samuel Amoia to doc­­­ument a showhouse Amoia had designed, he shot a short promotional house tour in his flipbook style. Shortly after being uploaded to Instagram, Stella McCartney called.

Since then, Lauria, who is the creative director of video at the Fusion media company, shot the Met Gala three times for Vogue, including an insider’s 360-view of the event where he got up close and personal with Rihanna and Kim Kardashian; a humanizing and playful look at the process from maquette to installation of KAWS’s anthropomorphic sculptures at the Brooklyn Museum; and most impressively, a musical homage to the Guggenheim Museum on the anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s unveiling of the building in 1959. “We turned the Guggenheim into a piano,” he says of the elaborate project, which included hiring a composer to create a musical score. “We took a black sheet and moved it along the floors of the museum to the score of the song and I ‘played’ each key from the opposite side of the circular room.” Lauria kept his iPhone on a tripod and controlled the shutter with his Apple Watch; the video playfully distorted scale and perspective of the iconic landmark.

Another one of the artist’s favorite projects include Stella McCartney’s Spring 2016 ad campaign which was modeled after a retro street fighter video game, with two models wearing McCartney in freeze frame battling each other. Lauria is wary of being type-casted by his genre, however. “When you do a video, everyone calls you to do the exact same thing. It’s a problem—a good problem—but it’s still a problem. I want to keep changing,” he says. While he knows Instagram gave him a platform, the artist is conscious of its ephemeral nature and doesn’t view himself as an Instagram artist. “It is such a democratic tool—both the iPhone and Instagram. But it is a field with more competition. Everyone is a photographer these days.”

Lauria hopes evolving is the antidote, and now that he has a broad audience, he is taking aim at causes that are important to him, specifically socially conscious material dealing with the refugee crisis and climate change. Lauria spent time in a refugee center in Rome, and has been deeply influenced by his uncle, Claudio Lauria, who founded FICMA, the International Environmental Film Festival. He is currently working on a documentary with model Jillian Mercado about diversity—or lack thereof—in fashion. While Instagram may have granted Lauria a platform, it is his nostalgic appropriation of time and perspective, that defines and sustains his appeal. “What I do, it’s a collage of reality,” he says, “like telling a story in a very short time, but in my style.”

 

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