“…I think it is more about perceptions of what people think I can/can’t do,” says Jaime Del Pizzo. Born with a severe hearing loss, Del Pizzo finds many areas of life a challenge, including photography. But it’s a challenge she’s accepted and one she fights to overcome on a daily basis. Despite the hurdles she faces, Del Pizzo lives a life rich of adventure, and through that she’s become an extremely talented photographer, armed with a portfolio that shows she’s breaking down her barriers.
I’ve recently thought about the number of excuses I make when I’m not making photographs. “It’s cold outside,” “my camera is getting old,” or “there’s nothing good to photograph” tend to be the common excuses. All of them are perceived limitations that I create to justify my lack of output. So when I see photographers like Jaime Del Pizzo (a woman with a limitation I’ve never come close to experiencing) creating awesome work, I rightly feel ashamed of the excuses I make. She’s an inspiration to us all and is real-world evidence that despite the struggles you’re faced with, you can still achieve great things. I checked in with Del Pizzo to learn more about her time in the wonderful world of photography.
Phoblographer: Tell us how you got into photography. What inspired you to pick up a camera?
Jaime Del Pizzo: Well, before I got into photography, I picked up a tape recorder. My father was always filming or taking pictures of family events and sports so I had that influence at a very young age. I was gifted my own tape recorder for Christmas one year when I was about 12-13 years old. That started my journey in visual creation. I was initially so inspired by snowboarding and skating films. Later on, I had the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand for six months. Before I left, I asked my father if I could borrow his DSLR for the trip. He gave me a book on photography basics and his Canon 60D, and that is when I dove into photography. Thus, I would say traveling is what inspired me to first pick up a camera.
Phoblographer: After falling in love and learning the craft, what was the moment you thought, “I could start doing this for a living?”
Jaime Del Pizzo: Throughout my teens, I loved creating videos and realized it could be something to do as a living. Since I was born with a hearing loss, I found solace knowing video required the use of one of my stronger senses. In high school, I took a video class that I really enjoyed so I pursued a major in Film Production throughout college. After college, I moved to Wyoming for a summer to work on a guest ranch. I was able to save up money to buy my first Canon 6D DSLR. After that summer, I moved to Summit County, Colorado, to snowboard. It was there that I got my first job opportunity as a photographer for a rafting company. Since then, I’ve been following that path and have gained experience in different forms of photography.
Phoblographer: Would you be open to discuss your hearing impairment? How does that impact your day-to-day life?
Jaime Del Pizzo: I’m an open book and would love to talk about my hearing loss. I was born with a bilateral severe-profound hearing loss. I wear hearing aids in both ears, and that is essentially how I am able to live my life.
It’s hard to articulate how it impacts my daily life because it is engrained in everything and has very deep impacts that perhaps aren’t talked about enough. It mostly affects the way I communicate with other humans and how I form connections. I rely on lip-reading which comes with a lot of its own challenges and struggles. Even more so now with the pandemic requiring people to wear masks the majority of the time.
I would say it heavily impacts my daily life and for the most part, I’ve been able to adapt, evolve and deal with these challenges to live a very full life of experience. However, there is a lot going on behind closed doors that people often don’t know, understand or see.
Phoblographer: How does it impact your work in photography?
Jaime Del Pizzo: It impacts things quite a bit. The biggest impact is how I am able to communicate with people, whether it is before shooting, during shooting, after etc. I can’t physically make phone calls so I’m not able to connect with people via that communication method. I feel that at times, people/clients may be hesitant to work with someone who has a hearing loss, whether it’s discrimination, due to safety reasons, or being unsure on how to communicate with me.
It impacts my work while shooting because there can be a lot of misheard or miscommunication while shooting. Sometimes that can make people feel uncomfortable so there is a lot for me to navigate in these situations.
Aside from this, having a hearing loss impacts my photography in making it what it is. Due to a lack of hearing, my eyesight is heightened without the distraction of noise. With that, I think I see the world differently from most people, so I think that translates over to the art I create.
Phoblographer: Have you ever felt like a hearing impairment has limited you as a photographer? For example, have people discriminated against you, or is there a genre you feel you can’t do?
Jaime Del Pizzo: Yes, I think it has limited me. It’s hard to say exactly if I have been discriminated against but I am positive I have been. I have not been able to do certain photography jobs to their fullest extent because of my hearing loss.
For example, I worked as a photography tour guide in Juneau for a summer. We were required to get our CDLs, teach photography and guide guests on hikes as well as whale watching tours. I had already gone through the process to get my CDL for a previous job which came with its own challenges. In that case, my hearing very finely teetered the line of being capable and not capable.
“It impacts things quite a bit. The biggest impact is how I am able to communicate with people, whether it is before shooting, during shooting, after etc. I can’t physically make phone calls so I’m not able to connect with people via that communication method. I feel that at times, people/clients may be hesitant to work with someone who has a hearing loss, whether it’s discrimination, due to safety reasons, or being unsure on how to communicate with me.”
Anyways, with that tour guide job, I had to go through another process in deciding my capability of being able to navigate the boat in the case of an emergency. I was taken out on a boat with the coast guard, where we ran through some emergency situations, and they tested me. Unfortunately, despite being able to complete those situations, they didn’t pass me. While I understand their reasoning, it was also very painful for me to be limited in what I was allowed to do. From then on, I had to have another guide assist me with my whale tours which was hard to accept at times.
This is one example. I’m sure clients have skipped over my name because they see I have hearing loss. As far as genres I cannot do, I don’t think there are any I fully cannot do at all.
Phoblographer: You clearly have a sense of adventure. Where does that come from?
Jaime Del Pizzo: That’s a good question. My parents are adventurous as we usually took a vacation once or twice a year, so I was really fortunate in having that. I was always a tomboy growing up. I wanted to play sports and run free. Looking back, I realize now that I preferred that over social situations because I felt that I could connect with people better through sports or adventuring. Running, skating, biking with my friends made me feel most free and more connected to them than talking.
I imagine this is why I’m drawn to adventure because the adventure itself speaks louder than words. As for solo adventures, it’s another outlet for my social anxiety and a way for me to connect with nature.
Phoblographer: Some people (mainly parents) may want you to do something a little less daring than adventure photography. What helps you keep safe when on location?
Jaime Del Pizzo: Haha, so true. I think I’ve stressed out my mom a lot with some of my adventures and extreme sports. I’m actually pretty cautious when I’m doing more daring adventures. I am hyper-aware with my eyesight, take the necessary precautions of letting people know where I’m going, what I’m doing etc. I also have a dog that accompanies most of these adventures and she acts as my ears. She helps me stay safe or at least feel safer! Other than that, I just try to be smart, but I also try not to let fear keep me from doing things I want to do.
Phoblographer: What’s been your single more rewarding moment in your photography journey thus far?
Jaime Del Pizzo: Ooooh, that is a tough one. Honestly, I would say the most rewarding moment thus far has been entering the NFT space. Never have I ever thought I would be able to work towards making a living through the purest form of creating art for myself. There is nothing more rewarding than other people, often other talented artists, seeing your art at the same value as you do and wanting to own a piece of that journey. My NFT journey has kind of shaken my world up and made me reevaluate my career, reassess what is possible, and made me dream even bigger.
“I think I’ve stressed out my mom a lot with some of my adventures and extreme sports. I’m actually pretty cautious when I’m doing more daring adventures. I am hyper-aware with my eyesight, take the necessary precautions of letting people know where I’m going, what I’m doing etc. I also have a dog that accompanies most of these adventures and she acts as my ears. She helps me stay safe or at least feel safer!”
Phoblographer: Please tell us more about your experience in the NFT space.
Jaime Del Pizzo: It has been absolutely amazing. I am learning something new every day. The NFT/photography community has been one factor that stands out from other social media platforms or any photography community experience really. It is all about people supporting people, which is huge. It is also a really progressive space in which people are trying to break down old systemic values like bringing more inclusion and more equality which I think is very powerful.
Additionally, the NFT space is creating this new era where photographers are no longer being taken advantage of, no longer being devalued and used.
Aside from that, my personal experience has been very challenging as, despite what people believe, it requires a lot of time and effort to get your art seen and collected. It can also be challenging when the self-doubt of being an artist creeps in. Regardless, it has been so rewarding in meeting new people and artists from all around the world, hearing people’s stories, and being able to create art for the pure love of creating.
Phoblographer: You are an FPV pilot. What is that exactly, and what do you like about it?
Jaime Del Pizzo: FPV drones are custom-built drones in which the pilot has a controller, goggles, and a drone. The goggles are connected to a camera on the drone that shows the pilot what the drone is seeing, hence ‘first-person view.’ It is a different experience as you’re able to be the drone. These drones fly faster, are more agile, and have less restrictions than self-flying drones.
I love the feeling it gives me, which is one that makes me feel like I am flying. I get to see the world from an entirely new and immersive perspective. Flying over mountain peaks then diving down them, flying through gaps and around people as they do active things is something else. There are a lot of challenges that come with FPV in itself and also with my hearing loss, but it has been very rewarding seeing my progression and having these new experiences. I am excited to see where I go with it and to continue growing my flight skills.
Phoblographer: What are your photography goals in the future?
Jaime Del Pizzo: I actually kind of thought long and hard about this recently. To be frank, I have been all over the place with my photography which aligns with my personality of wanting to try, see and do everything. I recently kind of hit a wall with having to reevaluate where I want to go exactly with my photography.
I would say my primary goal is to never stop creating from my heart. Being in the NFT space has made this goal seem less and less out of reach. I want to continue down this path and ideally make this something that will allow me to sustain my eclectic lifestyle of adventure, travel, and connection. Along with NFTs, I want to continue working with brands where the feeling of being valued is mutual.
Phoblographer: In closing, in your words, what makes a compelling photograph?
Jaime Del Pizzo: I think what makes a compelling photograph is what that image makes you feel. Whether it is landscape, sports, portraiture, fine art; I am always most intrigued by the images that create some kind of emotion in me. Along with that, the artist story is the second layer to the art. After all, that photograph wouldn’t be what it is without the human creating it.
All images by Jaime Del Pizzo. Used with permission.