Stargaze ft. Award Winning Chicago Photographer Gail Mancuso

My focus with photography is more artistic expression than narrative. My images are meant to reflect the world as I perceive it, rather than making intentional metaphorical representations. While I recognize the complexities in the environments I photograph, I allow my creative energy to direct my eye, resulting in the purity of a moment captured – Gail Mancuso

When and how did you get your first break as a photographer?

My first break came when I attended a gallery opening for a photographer I used to work with when I modeled. I met the owner, and we decided to get together for lunch. Knowing I was a photographer, she casually asked to see some of my work, liked it, and said she thought it might be a good fit in her gallery. I was delighted, as this was a total surprise to me. She introduced me to the art world, and things unfolded from there.

Tell us about your multi-award winning ‘Synchronicity’ series and its unique representation of ‘Mankind’?

Through my new gallery, I received a commission to create a large, 26 by 7 foot, photographic piece about Chicago for a new upscale restaurant across from the Art Institute in Chicago. I was given total creative license, and seven months later, it was installed. Chicago Synchronicity was very well received, and at the gallery we immediately began to offer smaller limited-editions, which lead to its success. Accordingly, collectors from other large cities requested that I create similar works for them. The Synchronicity series grew from there.

Each Synchronicity is a metaphor for the diversity, energy and unity of mankind. It’s a reminder that no matter where we are, we’re all living life together, under one open sky, and when we look up, we all have the same view of the world.

At street level, the perspective changes. Though we may not all share the same views, we do share the same emotions, fears, hopes and dreams that uniquely make us human. This common thread binds us and equates every life to the next. I find it exhilarating to shoot a big city, surrounded by strangers and giant skyscrapers, and also a bit humbling.

How do you describe the ‘Art of Observation’? Has it intensified over the years?

I used to walk around with a sort of tunnel vision, lost in my own thoughts, sometimes even passing a friend on the street without realizing it. Through my photography, my observation skills have been refined. Now, as I venture out, I’m more aware of my surroundings and find I’m often framing the world in my mind’s eye. It’s a subliminal response. I am awakened to the possibilities of a potential shot, regardless of whether I have my camera with me or not.

Photography is different from other art forms in that timing is critical. What is seen in a given moment, often disappears in the next. There’s an interplay of creative thought, technique and timing that is unique to the craft. If one is off, a great photograph is missed, and the opportunity dissipates in a flash. Photography provides a sort of instant gratification. Even if a shot is lost, the excitement and anticipation of what’s coming next has me always looking for more.

Your ‘La Femme’ series represents the universal visual power of the female aesthetic. Would you like to share more about it?

My La Femme series represents not only the inherent beauty in the female form, but the struggles women face to overcome adversity and bias and to have their voices heard. Women’s issues are complex, as exemplified in my obscured layered abstracts. I developed an appreciation for beauty, fashion and artistic expression in my modeling years that continues to influence my creative direction as well.

Though artistic representations of the female form have evolved over the years, redefining the attributes and ideals of feminine physical beauty, the one constant is the universally captivating aesthetic of the female form. It remains the fundamental inspiration for a preponderance of art.

Powerful and influential women have had a profound influence on me, many times dramatically changing the direction of my life. I have a deep respect for all women, and I hold women’s issues of freedom and equality close to my heart. We need to be positive in our support to encourage and empower each other in the fight for global change.

LA Femme__Series.jpg


In your ‘Torn’ series, what motivates you to draw vibrance out of torn and crumpled?

Quite honestly, I often don’t know the reason why I have a strong desire to go down a certain creative path. I may find the answer months or even years later, after some introspection. I believe there is a liberating element in all creative expression. For me, the more compulsive the need to create, the greater the release and reward. Humanity is chock full of creativity. One of the greatest gifts is to discover our individual path, to free up that creative flow and let it breathe.

I have a strong desire to take things apart and put them back together in a new way. I like to reconfigure things, to give things new purpose. The materials that I work with in this series are beautiful in their own right – a beautiful photograph or colorful abstract design on paper, for example. I disassemble to recreate and reformulate. Perhaps this reinvention is cathartic and a metaphor for the transformation I see in my life. My art is rarely literal and distinct. I am more comfortable with obscurity and the mystery of illusion, to conceal, to keep from revealing all.

Physics dictates that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but can change form. By combining selected pieces of similar but different design, shapes and colors, a new image, a new energy form is represented. This process is infinite, as each new image can once again find new life.


Torn Series.jpg


As a fine art photographer, do you believe that imagination encircles the world?

We all think in pictures. Using the eyes of our hearts through our imagination, we visualize and create our possibilities. God, being the Creator of the universe, visualized the world before he spoke it into existence. I believe we are asked to do the same in our world, as we are created in his likeness.

Norman Vincent Peale wrote, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” I have this on my wall. Our thoughts lead and direct our imagination. Hopeful thinking is powerful. What we believe to be true about ourselves and the world, will have a direct effect on what we think about, the words we speak, and what we conceive and nurture in our imagination. The imagery we choose to entertain gives direction to our life.

Imagination is the ultimate form of creativity. Through our mental pictures, we have the privilege to see what is physically unseeable, and in the process, release our faith and beliefs in a way that contributes to its manifestation.

Your ‘Semblance’ series looks like a complex amalgamation. What are you trying to show in this?

Living in an urban environment informs the eye like no other. The scale and complexity of architectural shapes illuminates the senses and the resulting mashup of imagery lends a different perspective to the familiar. Semblance is a view into that process. It draws on the visual cues that our mind readily recognizes, while inviting the viewer to delve deeper into the tension and beauty of interconnected objects.

I enjoy the practice of layering several photographs together and finding a way to make it visually appealing. I explore the process of mixing colors and connecting geometric lines and shapes. Artistically, it’s very satisfying to make them work together. I challenge my eye all the time. With photography, edits can be made immediately, which makes it an excellent tool to develop and learn creatively, almost a stream of consciousness process.



A word that describes you best…

In this season of my life, I would describe myself as motivated.


(Exclusive for Real Life Heroes – By Manvi)


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