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The Driven Podcast | 005 - Tony Di Zinno

The Driven Podcast | 005 - Tony Di Zinno

November 10, 2022

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From extreme mountaineering to Hollywood to the race track, Tony Di Zinno is one of the world’s most adventurous, diverse, and passionate photographers.

He’s also a respected professor at the prestigious Art Center of Design where he’s also an alum.

While he’s shot for —Nike, Adidas, The North Face, Rolling Stone, National Geographic and several world changing non-profit organizations— he’s an amazingly well grounded and humble ‘sage’ who finds the true human connection in his subjects while educating and inspiring people of all walks of life.

 

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RICK:
Today we are talking with Tony Di Zinno the amazing globetrotting photographer. Professor.

Welcome, Tony. How are you doing?

TONY:
I'm alive and kicking. Thanks for having me.

RICK:
Right on. You know, what's cool is I mean, we've reconnected or I'd say connected, whatever you want to say lately. And I feel like we you know, we've we were very simpatico because we're almost like brothers from another mother. We've been floating in and out of our each other's spaces for two, three decades now not to show our ages. We've shaken hands or stumbled across each other, quite literally muddy. And maybe that was it. We're all you know, in different states of mind and being out in the jungles and around the world. Officially, let's, let's say we just met for the first time.


It's awesome to actually get down, sit down and talk to you about, you know, all the stuff that we have, you know, maybe even done together.

So tell us I mean, you have shot for a variety of folks, you know, from Nike on down. What's your background? what's your what's your story?

 

TONY:
The snapshot is as a kid who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, both my folks are from the east and west side. And they're the sons and daughters of immigrants

And, you know, Pops was from the east side mom from the west side and mom being Irish and dad being an immigrant so we, you know, we share the same kind of mix it in so many immigrants do and in terms of people like Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro and that kind of stuff. So we're in good company. You know, so, growing up in that space. You know, I gotta say that my folks had a huge influence on me in terms of what I wouldn't become someday, because they both had passions that were sort of wearing on their sleeves.

My mom being a cinephile.

RICK:
And your dad was a historian and is that that's pretty cool. Was it? Was it like a hobby or was he a professor too, or what?

TONY:
I think he would have been if he had changed his career. He ended up being a surgeon. So he ended up as a an MD, but he had another minor in history and his his specialty was World War Two in the fascist era. And so the library, the library that I grew up in was a combination of war photography and history. And of course, Hollywood in the golden era and silver screen. And sometimes those things strangely overlap, but it certainly visually, I was sort of initiated by some of the greatest photographers from Hollywood if you want to talk photo history like Clarence Paul, and George lunch, and then, you know, my first, the first year I knew photography was the great Robert Kaplan, who co founded magazine. Oh, yeah. Great. All right. So these things were playing on me from the earliest age. In fact, in all, disclosure in full transparency, I'll confess, I'll be the first person to tell you that I'm a post literate kid, which is that because of this sort of intense love affair with not just movies, but magazines, and those magazines, like the pictorials in life, or even better, NatGeo, those things were my, you know, ongoing continuing education as a kid and, and it wasn't until I was in college, really, that I got around to reading the series classics and this kind of stuff. So yeah, that's, that's a snapshot of my childhood is I had a dad who thought he was like, kind of Humphrey Bogart, my mom, we thought.

And I'm the progeny that right.

RICK:
All right, no, that's great. So I mean, storytelling, and that's what you do, you know, obviously, through photography, and you know, people shoot, obviously, a lot of people shoot video or you help people do projects these days. So yes, you've got to know the story to be able to even shoot a photo, you know, like, what are you telling people in there?


TONY:
Yeah, storytelling, runs in my family is probably one of the secrets to you know, if you stop and think long enough, why, why you do what you do.

Back in the analog day, you know, my dad had picked up a camera from his time in Vietnam, where he was a Navy surgeon, and having to be a Nikon F. I don't know if you've ever held a Nikon F in your hands, but you can pound hammers and nails with IT system, running it's heavy duty, and the 105 lens is legendary. And he would shoot Kodachrome. And the payoff for that was that we would sit in the dark at home with the slideshows on Vodafone. And so we had sort of this cinematic experience of our own family, growing up, ourselves in imagery. And so it's really intimate thing that I think is missing.

From the digital experience, where you have that kind of immersive, collective family thing. And so that, you know, is kind of once that once you you sort of sink your teeth into that it's almost addictive, because it's very powerful. You know, yeah, see yourself in pictures. And to have that nostalgia driven by sort of these historic landmarks in your life. So yeah, I don't think there was a choice. And it was, it was predetermined in some ways.

RICK:
Yeah. No, I fought it for a long time, like the analog to digital because you're like, Ah, you can not you can lose stuff. But yeah, it's it's, you know, it's better. And obviously, there's pluses and minuses, the pluses, you get to literally look at what you have, you know, immediately and say, did I get the shot or not? Do I need to take it again. I mean, obviously, there's lots of moments that you do, which are instantaneous, and never gonna happen again. But you know, you get the idea. Like, you're shooting cars on a track and you think you got something in you. Okay, you can at least do that, rather than running down to the photo mat, like we used to, you know, dropping it off.

I mean, just just the awesome surprise of when you came the next day or two days later and picked it up. Yeah, I still thought it was like magic to it's like dropping stuff off at the magic box. You know, it's like, how do they do that? I mean, you know, you know, you know, you inherently know, but you're like they really do all this work in this little tiny hut where they can't even turn around. Like, because they send it out. But you know, you get the idea. If anybody still I think a lot, you know, some folks out there remember driving down to the photo mat with that roll going I hope the party stuff was you know, the birthday party was in focus.

TONY:
It’s so important. You mentioned that because it's like, you know, we tend to shoot what we love, you know, it's like you have twins, right? And yeah, you send a great shot of the twins, pumpkin patch. And then that's, that's really where it's at, if you're actually holding on to an image of your beloved. I mean, we that's the heart of photography is as spirit of it. And so the question really is, if I already shared with you, for example, in the photojournalism class, I teach now at Mount St. Mary's University. I've only got 12 weeks to initiate these guys. Now. They're coming from Grad film and documentary and some of our writers is working on social justice. So they're all passionate, but if they've never actually dedicated themselves to photography or working with cameras, man, I've got to actually give them something that they can go away from after a semester and build on it.

So I’ve thought long and hard about it. And one of the best things I could do for them is is, in my experience co teaching with a lot of different people of a variety, one of whom is Sarah Terry who's a member emeritus of seven photo. And she's brave, and she's fierce and everything. But in working with her, I remember she said, Look, you got to say one, what are you looking at?

Are you passionate about it? Are you curious or interested in to? Where are you standing in relationship to this subject? Do you have permission and access and cooperation? Three, when do you shoot? Yeah, and for you experience, anything doesn't operate on you, if you have a feeling you come away with and doesn't show is a communicate without you being there to explain it. And I gotta tell you that something I've tried to instill in my young Jedis is that they take away from the class that they can apply that to sort of a criteria of excellent decision making, you know, when they're approaching their own subjects. And hopefully, those subjects are our passion driven.

I mean, this whole podcast, this is kind of an honor to be asked, because you're collecting, I mean, you're reading. And I really admire that and you Rick because that's an ongoing seeking of wisdom and knowledge. Right. And to me, that's really an admirable thing, that you're exemplifying that looking to what things other people know, that you don't and seeing how you can share that. I think this is great.

RICK:
Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I appreciate that. Thank you very much. We try here, we try to impart some knowledge, you know, get folks, you know, motivated and inspired, of course, and and, yeah, just, you know, as I say, it's called the driven podcast, trying to get people driven to, you know, yeah, just pursue, you know, pursue their goals, their dreams, their visions, even if it's, you know, the smallest thing just, you know, changing their little routine as it were. That's all. It's all good. So speaking of that, and shoot racing now, but you know, when you're growing up, what did you tell the tell folks, what you what you dreamed about?

TONY:
You know, I tried to put together 20 years or more of my career for a lecture and I went back to the earliest, earliest photos, I'd actually put them in the camera. And you might remember the brownie, which I took a 120 roll, it was a waste binder with one little tiny prism, and it's a box this big, super, super cool. And the first frames out of the first roll of that camera I shot, was it my brother, my kid, brother, and he's got a leather football helmet on. And he's holding the football and I'm like, that's the same shot I did of Deion Sanders for Nike, like, Wow, so many years, and then still thing of like, out of reflex. And, you know, it's kind of like, can you draw a line in terms of the trajectory of sort of the dreams of a kid. And the intention of those, those sorts of dreams. And one of the things that's in there is this little Polaroid, of two racecars I got on Christmas, and that was probably nine or 10 years old. And, and that's, there's something to be saved for that because these are kind of like, seeds that you plant in the imagination and.

And to the extent that a kid has power to fulfill those things, despite all the obstacles is really quite something. So, you know, if I started dreaming about being a racecar driver, it's because I had, you know, this collision of crossroads where my uncle did my first Grand Prix when I was 12. Okay, and never before seen race, had no idea was getting into, it happened to be the Halcyon golden year of 1976, where hunters and Lauder was on. And that's great. Ron Howard made his film on for rush. So if you have ever seen that film, to be a kid in the, in the heart of that, and one of the most epic, legendary years of the sport. Yeah, it was something that changed the course of my life, honestly, because it became, how close can I get to that? That thing? All right. So much magic.

RICK:
That's awesome. And it's obviously yeah, driven, driven you to, you know, the upper echelons and the literally the pits. I mean, you get to you get to hang out at some of the coolest biggest races around, which is awesome. We'll get there. But I think first of all, you know, despite dreams, you know, that we may have and all kinds of stuff. I mean, I know that my first you know, 800 million photos were, you know, as they say, crap, you know, and whatnot. So, you know, when when did you actually you know, say, Okay, I'm gonna, you know, like, try this out or dedicate myself to this crap. Okay, imagine this, you know, Life magazine had a Olympic preview issue, and back in the day and can figure out my vintage. I'm the same age as Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves. So that tells you that it's probably

Having said that, there was the Olympic preview issue and I opened it up now I was eight years old. And reasonable recall that is that there were images of Mark Spitz in the Schwinn Hall in Munich, and they were friendly and impossibly beautiful and in fact is at

Eight. Now it's not that I was terribly precocious, but I recognize this photographer is doing something radical. I mean, it goes above and beyond the average generic content provided with something whose signature that at 8 am like Who's this guy, his name was co rent Mr. Co Rentmeester Dutchman who ended up shooting the very first pictures of Jordan, by the way for Nike. And, and he's he's an icon, but eight years old before I had access to the internet, obviously, I'm like, Who is this guy? What is he doing? Is there a path that I can anyway? And sure enough, the bio I found on an eight, right? So I was driven to find out what's he doing? And it turns out he different from other photographers in that he went to this school called the Art Center College of Design. Now, that must have made an impression on me at eight because I ended up going there. And it's just one of those things where, you know, the timing of it. You know, I read at the same time that his daughter, Amy, who went on to become a Aimee Rentmeester became quite a fashion photographer. But the fact that it was sort of following that example of what was it that was recognizable? Yeah, a significant of his signature that had some artful artists hand in the process, right? I'm so I have a debt of gratitude to Co Rentmeester precisely because of that impact those images had on me, and I would give him credit for that, because it definitely drove me towards that path of the art school, The Art Cente. And that's where I ended up teaching for 10 years.

RICK:
You were precocious in this regard. Like you knew what you wanted to do. And you were pursuing it at that time. But was it you know, like, in high school or something? Or was it actually when you got to that school when you were like, okay, yeah, this is this? Is it? You know, I'm going for this? And did you have a plan? B? Did you have any plan B, sir, you know, you're gonna be a surgeon like your dad?

TONY:
No, no, no, Plan B man, it was it was all or none in that respect, and then total commitment. And, but the true story of the risk of being self deprecating is that, you know, I had, as the first son of a first son of a first son, as three generations of expectations, I was was likely supposed to follow my dad's footsteps and become a professional and so on. And even if I had the aptitude and the potential to do that, I resisted. And so, you know, my, the extent of my rebellion was to basically quit school, if you can imagine I was three years into an undergrad degree for psychology, and I just couldn't see myself doing that and the pull of Photography definitely weighed on me. And so my, my, my big rebellion was to say, I can't do it, there's no way and so I dropped out of San Diego State University, okay. And this same uncle took me to my first Grand Prix says, Hey, man, if you ever heard of the Art Center, and and that may have called back original connection, and since that my favorite Uncle Tom was, you know, an ad agency exec, you had peers and colleagues who are from the school and introduced me, and it just kind of connected the dots in a way I hadn't before. And so when I went in, when I went in for an interview, you know, you show your portfolio and the whole day. And I had, I didn't have the grades for it, man, because I dropped out. And so imagine the chair of the Photo Department says to me, so if I call your father, what's it going to tell me? Are you going to commit? And literally my whole future rested on that? Cause it Oh, yeah, call them and so he could share called my dad on the phone as I sat there. And my dad said, Yeah, I gave him a chance. Andso it happened. And I got in, and thank goodness, it was the right place for me.

If you've never seen Whiplash, then you should, yeah, last hour, Prodigy young drummer, and where they're dealing in performing arts, we were definitely in the same culture. But in visual arts, so the critique can be kind of intimidating when you have one. I mean, we're the old fellas there were more than a generation ahead of us. And, and as such, we're pretty intimidating.

And, and that was something that if you've seen that film, you know how intense it is. And you wonder about, is this going to be such a strict or driven each year? And is this abuse if you're that difficult, or that stringent? And so as a teacher, myself, of course, we try and take the best of those lessons in terms of exacting, honest and deliberate and so there's a very high standard that was involved in that respect. And so the teachers who were my teachers, when I began as a young instructor, they were still there, man. I was the new kid. Wow. Stepping into that and, and so again, it kind of raises your game to you know, you speak about mentors. I always found that something I thought

About before we came on, so I really wanted to mention to you the sort of the challenge I give my young students is that it's their job, their mission to continue to find the best teachers they can find anywhere else.

RICK:
So you made it through thanks your dad. That's awesome. And so I'm sure everybody wants to know, what was your, what was your first gig? What was your first big paying gig?

 

TONY:
Okay, the first it wasn't big, it was small, but it went to a gig. And this is the moral of the story. The first call I got from Nike was thanks to a fellow artist or designer or a graphic designer, and Joe parsley, whom I worked with in school, and he was from Portland. So he's a homeslice. And he totally dedicated all time there to go after the dream job. So we work together. And sure enough, out of all the people they interviewed in their their talent search, they picked up Joe as a young designer straight out of school. So Joe was trying to pull me in. And the first call I get from Joe is not a Nike poster or print campaign. He's like, Man, I'm doing this thing with Bo Jackson. And they have a cereal box for Cheerios. He's on and like, really? So my first shot was a cereal box. I hadn't search every sport in LA because they didn't provide me any cereal box. I had to find one that wasn't damaged from you know.

Okay, yeah. So the treasure hunt to find the one green box.

Just a point, of fact is that one of the most difficult initiations for any photographer at Art Center is a back shot is a product shot. And of course, the instructors are hardcore, and it's impossible. And they make you redo it seven times over if you don't get it exactly right. And here I am, as a sports adventure person going there's no way in the world common shooting is there, you're locked up first followed

by so of course, I took it to heart. That was karma that was okay. Now do it as best you can. I do have the supreme cereal box shot because that in turn allowed my designer who was advocating to say, Look, you kill them the cereal box shot, let's do something else. So in fact, the big call was that I was working, I remember exactly what I was doing, was working for Rolling Stone as an assistant, and they were doing a book of comedy. And so we had a gig at this Disneyland Hotel with Spinal Tap.

And so I went down that evening with the photographer Bonnie Schiffman. And I got the call while we were going down, and there was no way to get equipment, they didn't have 24 hour rental houses. Yeah. And we said, turn to Bonnie's, you know, we're going down there and she's like, What do you want to do what you want to do? What do I want to do? I'd say if I'd shoot them, like, destroying their hotel room, that would be the shot and take my snappy camera and, and just having just tear the place apart.

And we're going to do and it was that moment, I realized, Okay, I'm done assisting if I'm thinking of the shot and doing the shot, that is my shot, except that I'm getting credit. And sure enough that happened to coincide the planets align. And I get the call to go shoot Bo Jackson tonight...

But I had no gear. I had thank goodness, the gratitude and the relationship with Bonnie. And I said, Could I borrow the gear just straight out and she lent me the gear overnight, I show up at call time. And that was the big break. Bo Jackson, Jackson commercial. And that was my first shoot for Nike. And it just everything flowed from there. And that's, that's something I always try to remind myself is that I might be a beginner. That's not necessarily disqualifying. I can always come at it with the same passion and enthusiasm. And even if I'm on a steep learning curve, that's been true of every sport that I've been initiated in, whether it be World Cup soccer, you know, Formula One, it's like you definitely start as an outsider and work your way in.

RICK:
I think another cool thing is super cool. It's just this whole Formula One, you know, world in arena. I mean, obviously, it's huge globally, probably more so elsewhere than in the US. I would almost hazard a bet. What has been your experience there? How do you How was your first shoot there?

TONY:
Well, I think it's a it's a legacy, right? My grandfather was the first racing fan in our family and Grandpa Dizinno, you know, made the trip to Indianapolis to see the 500 after Mario Andretti won. So, you know, Mario's not only legend, but the fact that you know, he was an Italian American, like our family, and that's, that's the family side that I grew up with. So I identified that way that he went and that that kind of had an impression on me because he would show the eight millimeter home movies and this kind of stuff.

So it was there in the background the whole time. And I'm, I'm the kind of guy that just knew I wanted to be as close as I could to it. And the question was, well, how close can I get? And so I have a little bit of a confession to make, not that I'm advocating this is a great approach for anybody. But I wanted I had such a burning desire. And I think that's about drive, you know, to speak to the spirit of this podcast that I thought, well, I'm nobody at this point, I don't have a body of work to evidence, my talent. I'm not a working professional, I'm talking about being 17-18 years old or something like that. And I just thought I still have to try somehow. So at Long Beach Grand Prix for the, you know, Formula One race, they had security at the gate entrances for the pits and this kind of thing, where they would put up the examples of the credentials you needed in order to get in and being, you know, sort of a new event at the time, they didn't have it buttoned down perfectly. So if you waited long enough, at the end of the day, they go home, and I swiped one of the credentials. And now I couldn't use it because they had voided it. But I what I did is I hand stencil every part of the graphic design of that entire ticket, and then reverse that to print it offset, and then hand stencil that to make a positive print and created my own credential forge my own credentials to get in there for the first time.

I think the statute of limitations is passed on that. So the thing is, to the first image I ever had published, was from sitting in the stands at the Canadian Grand Prix. And this is in Montreal, and, and the shot, if you're in the right place, it turns one, two, you have this onslaught of all 24 cars bearing down on the first turn. And that particular track is famous for a lot of collisions and fights in the first corner. And, and I was just in the exactly the right place.

And I submitted that shot to the gold standard of the publishing for the sport and an annual called Auto Course. And so is the year end yearbook of the best writers and best photographers now had never been published anywhere, and was still in school, in an art center. But I got a package delivered to me around Christmas time, I didn't know what it was, I opened the box. And there's my double page spreads the centerfold of this, this annual, when it was the first time we talked about big breaks, that was the first time I thought I can do this. I'm side by side with the people. I'm looking at who, you know, my role models, my heroes in terms of the photography involved

Yeah, so that was the year of Senna and Prost. So if you have brown presents, who are on your podcast, you'll know that that was another legendary era that I was privileged to be. And I sort of think that is born at the right time, you know, just just to be a kid at that time, and then come up at this time with Cena, who was you know, an absolute hero, and probably the greatest of all time in this sport.

RICK:
And now you've got, you know, full access to all kinds of stuff, which is, which is totally cool. So do you have do you have a favorite race? I mean, there's so many cool ones out there. But I don't know if you have any, any favorites or a couple of them probably.

 

TONY:
Well, the ultimate experience in front of the one is to go to Monaco. Yeah, and it's the opposite extreme from Indianapolis. For example, if the US Indy cars look the same, they're open cockpit and so forth. And they couldn't be more different. Because, you know, for example, the idea of route 66 was sort of the basis of the Americans, a spirit of wide open, full throttle, you know, for hundreds of miles. Now, you go to the opposite extreme in Europe, and you're talking quite tight and twisty and for example, the track in Monaco has 14 turns with hairpins. 56 gear changes, per lap that you might not change the gears at all, once you're up to speed in India, and you just turn the wheel right.

Quarter inch to the left, so radically different ideas for the same sport. sort of embody the American idea for Indy cars and Monaco being you know, the Grand Prix, which is of course, the sole World Championship for makes and drivers and when you stand for the first time, anywhere on the track at Monaco, you realize how impossibly small the track is.

So if you've been to Indy like our friend Marshall has, you'll see cars approaching 230 miles an hour, but the scale of the place is so big that you could land 28 Without exaggeration, 28 major league baseball stadiums on the infield and still have room. So it's massive. So the scale isn't as high as the speeds are, is not it's not the thing, it's when you're close in the proximity of being too close really, you know, it's kind of intimidating and, and very sensual. And that when the first car rips past you the horsepower is delivered through the ground, up through your feet into your sternum pounds on your chest. And then of course, the sound, the smell. It's intoxicating. And it's the kind of narcotic that I've lived on for a very long time. So if you're going to do one race and say What's this all about?

RICK:
Yeah, I've been I've literally been to one or two, you know, formula with American style where it's just ripping around the track. And yeah, you're, you're up there. I'm like, sticking cotton in my ears as loud even like, way up at the top. But it's like, yeah, it's great to be right there music. These these drivers, I mean, you've gotten to know a bunch of them. And you've been in there. And I think you've probably driven when yourself, I mean, talk about these guys is just top athletes, you have to like beat so on top of your mental game as well as your physical.

TONY:
Yeah. When when you're as close to the sport as I am, which is that, that I've spent a great deal of my life, you know, not only loving it, but being close to it. And which means that suffering when you know, things go wrong, and you lose somebody before their time.

You've touched on something that is actually sort of the bittersweet truth about it, which is that when I was probably 14-15, you know, my one of my first heroes was Canadian Gilles Villeneuve, and, you know, I got into the pits and make pictures of him. But I was always so awestruck by zeal, that he was the number one Ferrari driver, right. So he was already my, my hero for a number of reasons, but I never had the nerve to introduce myself. And as sometimes it happens, you know, we lost Gilles. And he was killed on that qualifying crash. And it just, it bummed me out so bad, Rick, I was in depression for about a year and I was like, 14-15 years old, like, this isn't gonna do a How have I lost my love of the sport? Do I ever want to go to a Belfry again,

and, and it took me a year to figure out that the thing that I regretted the most, which is I never even said hello to him, because I, I put them up on such a pedestal. And the only reason I recovered out of that was that I made a sacred promise to never let that happen to me again. And that's kind of the driving force. Right? I didn't give up on the sport.

You know, Hemingway was playing in my mind because he wrote about four, two sports, you know, this one where he says, the four true sports are auto racing, bullfighting boxing, and mountain climbing, because the rest are merely games.

Yeah, right. Right. Because these are the maximum consequences if you were still around today, Hemmingway, would probably include big wave surfing. But, you know, the thing is

time, he was talking about the thing that we acknowledged that this is maximum consequence maximum commitment. And so I came back to my love of the sport for the right reason, which is the people in it. And, and even when we lose people, it's like Hemingway said about bullfighters. You know, my common sense told me that I shouldn't get involved. I shouldn't be attached. I shouldn't love this bullfighter. And of course, as usual, I didn't listen to my common sense at all. And so there's a big love of the people involved.

 

 

And, you know, when we're talking about the rivalries, I mean, there's something about a friend of mine, so you know, racing is really just soap opera for men. Right?

And, you know, surprising there's going to be three, three Grand Prix in the US in Miami. Yeah. And back and Austin. Yeah, that's hilarious. Okay, most properties they've ever had in the States, because largely, of the Netflix series Drive to Survive, which has, for the last three years, build people in on exactly these things that people not, you know, the machines are magical, their engineering marvels and their sculpture to look at. But it's the human factor that's always drawn me. We're talking about some of the mindset, right, what separates the men from the boys and what makes the greatest difference between the good and the great drivers. And, you know, for example, there was a recent poll of current drivers when Schumacher was still running, and they asked, you know, who's the greatest of all time, and even Schumacher, to a man said Senna was the number one because he was a transcendent figure. And, and when you look at that, you say, Well, what was so special about somebody like Ayrton Senna from Brazil is a three time world champion. He doesn't have the numbers of Schumacher, he doesn't have as many wins as Lewis Hamilton. But there was something about the man's intensity that was was zen like,

Yeah, and so there's an attraction to you know, I'll give it to you this way. Rick, you know, someone once said that we're either molded by our admirations or our hostilities. So there's something in sport, which includes albinism and adventure, that when you're drawn towards a certain character, you know, and pick your favorite. You know, if you're, if you're an alpinist, you can't talk about it without talking about Messner. If you're a racing fan, you've got to talk about Senna. But to each zone, you could say, well, I prefer Schumacher and then that tells me something about your sensibilities because Schumacher represents a whole different ideal.

So that’s To me, the real wonderful thing that's is universal, and you could be talking World Cup and FIFA and pick your favorite players, it's the same thing. We're looking for reflections of our own values. And even in the case of deciding on our admirations as an influence, those things that we are modeling,

 

RICK:
Your reverence obviously comes through and I know you're big guy that talks about, you know, about gratitude. And it obviously just talked about mortality and things like that. So, I mean, I think this this drives, you know, what you do, I mean, you're, you're a seeker and a learner, just constant learner. So I know that's just like such a huge ball of wax, but it's something we all deal with, of course, you know, all the time, not only our mortality, which is, you know, can be, you know, handcuffing, if not, you know, anxiety riddling? You got to deal with that in your work too. And on some of your adventures, so, you know, what are some of your, you know, tips or tricks with just, you know, dealing with with that aspect of, of life, and just your job, too.

TONY:
If we really want to set ourselves on the right path, it's a matter of considering for a moment how we want to be remembered.

And a lot of people are so busy on the track to success that, that that's a secondary or even an afterthought. My point is, that is actually, you know, more important to start with that. One of the exercises I offer my startled students is that have you written your obituary? and they go, Oh, she's talking about I'm 20, something I said, No, I want you to take a moment. Take a moment. It's theoretical, because I wish all of you long life. But you know, it's something I can't offer these young guys that idea unless I've done it myself, otherwise, I'm a hypocrite to ask them to do something I won't. So I say, look, here's something that's really powerful. If you consider for a moment, you know,ow you want to be remembered, you start to build, for example, everybody's familiar with Maslow's hierarchy, right? It's like, okay, at the bottom, we know, for necessity of life, we have food, clothing, shelter. And often people who are more productive leave off this love and affection because they tie it to sex. And they're, they don't want include that but food, clothing, shelter and affection, you show me even a an animal that doesn't have love and affection, it turns out differently. And everybody might remember at the top of the same pyramid is self realization. Or as the Buddhist referred to it as nirvana. It's like there's this thing that happens is illumination, right? But everybody forgets within the middle layers of that same pyramid, which is, of course, respect, meaningful work.

That's the, you know, the esteem of your colleagues, right? This is, this is something you cannot attain this sort of enlightenment, or fulfillment, or Nirvana, without working through that. So part of deciding or having the intention of how you want to be remembered includes that essential step. So these are things that I practice, and that I would share freely with anybody who's roiling into not just hacking their way through life, but actually tuning their way, in a way that is both compassionate and driven, I think is the right way to put it.

RICK:
As the saying goes, you know, you gotta, you gotta really gotta practice all these things, you know, practice gratitude, you know, practice, intention, practice. Yeah. You know,

 

TONY:
I have one suggestion for people who haven't developed gratitude very well. Okay. Yeah, you know, the funny thing is that, when you practice something, it can become more and more mindful, right. And, and so recently, I was in a test and experiment that was a four week bio tuning experiment, and one of the progressions was being a little bit cold, a little bit hungry, and a little bit out of breath. And the out of breath thing was on the hour, every hour, from nine to five, you would actually have an alarm set so that you remember to hold your breath. Now it's, you know, this is in the middle of your day, no matter what you're doing. So, you know, if I'm driving my car through traffic, and somebody was to look at me, and I'd be like, hold my breath. Just in that exercise, just in that exercise. I was so grateful to be able to breathe again. After you make a sincere effort, like how long can I hold the can I work up to a minute or more. And even though that that was progressive, I was very grateful to return to breathe and freely without the, you know, the challenge.

So I noticed that is like, there's like an entry level. If somebody's really unfamiliar with the territory. Yes, starting with something as basic. I'm grateful for being able to draw my next breath. That's a really good start.

RICK:
You go way out there sometimes too. And that's, again, kind of touches upon how we ultimately know each other from our adventure and adventure racing days and you shoot a lot of super extreme stuff, not the racing cars going by your tuner miles and hours and extreme.

But, you know, again, I know that I've gained such an amazing insight into not only our own internal powers, let's say and abilities like what we're capable of mentally, that probably all wrapped into what you do you know, so if you want to talk about, you know, just going out on some of your really extreme jobs, you know, like a mountaineering expedition which you've been on? Yeah, what how do you deal with that kind of stuff?

 

TONY:
Well, it's true, I find it comforting that we're birds of a feather, right, and that our paths had been overlapping for years. And here we are, you know, gonna get to work together this month. I find that comforting and that, you know, if we're doing what we're supposed to be like, What is my purpose? Right? If I'm sort of living up to my potential if I if I have any god given gifts? Am I responsible to them? Yeah. And I find that the more that I am mindful and and taking that responsibility, the more that I ended up in good company, I'm in company with you and people like Marshall, who has been a guest on your podcast. And, and certainly in the matter of adventure, it's kind of like, well, yeah, martial art work. Let me say it out loud. He's the endurance King, the man, if you haven't seen that podcast, go check it out.

So what's the entry point? Right, it's at one point, I was coming up in San Diego. And, and as you know, Encinitas is probably one of the triathlete capitals of the world. And, and it probably shares with Boulder, you know, the same population migrates between the two. So being in sports, and in around this community, and these athletes, they ended up, you know, going to Ironman Hawaii, and my girlfriend was in the World Championships there. And remember, one of my one of my favorite teachers said, you know, you think Ironman is hard, you should see this thing called the Raid Gauloises, which, of course, is the Queen Mother of all adventure races. Yeah. So it's just being in the path. And then things that are already coming at you. The question is whether or not you, you sort of open that door when, when opportunity knocks, and you and I both had been practicing that, I hear the knock, I'm opening the door, I have no idea what's on the other side, and plunging and we take that step. So that's how I entered into the world of the raid and eco challenge early on, was that it was just a natural progression of like, Iron Man not being the ultimate 10 people in that space testing themselves. You know, I mean, beyond the double and triple Iron Man's, which, of course, is the maybe the more linear thing to do. But with more imagination with somebody like Gérard Fusil, who was the original French journalist who conceived of this idea in a mentoring standard from the Kiwis in New Zealand who are doing southern diverse. So yeah, that became another another form of my home away from home in terms of people like you and Marshall work and others, Mark Macy and, and this company of this gypsies with wanderlust, who were adventure, you know, fun hogs of him.

And that's, that's something where, you know, is it's just understanding that it's fulfillment of those desires. Does that make sense?

RICK:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, yeah, for sure. I mean, and again, that's what I, you know, my goal, I hope with this podcast is to show people and, and have them just say, Yeah, you know, I can just take the next step, you know, let alone like, really pursue my goals. I mean, I get it, we all need to work it, you know, what we do, I'm happy and thrilled to have folks like you who do some incredible things.

TONY:
And again, it's motivating, of course, and inspiring. And again, that's all that I can hope to do is to help people like just feel and feed on themselves and what their own passions and desires are. Yeah, yeah. Well, I wanted to mention that sometimes people get stuck, and I don't know. Yeah, and maybe you've heard it, especially young people who have all the potential in the world. And that's why, you know, I have learned to kind of decode that on occasion, where, if it's refuge, where people return to constantly, I mean, there is a sincere, I don't know, but it should be followed with, but I want to look into that I'm going to dig deeper, I'm going to find out that it's constantly returning to the I don't know, I don't know, there's to me, it indicates a kind of a code for, I think I might have an idea, but I'm not free to say it or I'm not confident enough to say so is the case, you know, if we're trying to liberate people, because it's been done for us before.

I mean, the reason I teach is that I'm indebted to my greatest teachers. And when I stand up in front of a new class of people I've never met before I try and start with that. Name, your favorite teacher, how many people here can raise their hand and say, the head of best teacher in almost every hand goes up? I have had people not raise their hand. I'm like, Man, you got to get around more.

Yeah. But it's when you start listing all the qualities of generosity of spirit and, and eventually when somebody says encouragement, man, I love to play with words. And and you said, How many words do you see inside encouragement and they started looking it's like, I see courage I see and like look closer, rage. What else? Cor cor like Corazon in Spanish reporting in Italian or core in French, the rage in the heart. So there's something really fierce about the gift the great teacher gives you in terms of inspiration. It's like, Man, I have to do this. It's not it's not really that gentle. And it doesn't matter if you're introverted or extroverted if you've got a rage in your heart, man.

That's a driving force. And so, you know, it's, it's a matter of, like, even the greatest, you know, explorer in the Geographic Society history.

So Richard Burton, was looking for the source of the Nile. And this is a guy who survived a native attack with a spear penetrated his palate and split it symmetrically. His jaw open like this in the pictures of him, as an old man still show that those vertical scars of the spear going through, someone asked me Richard Burton, he said to Richard, right, why do you do what you do? How do you? How do you explain yourself? You notice the guy who translated the Kama Sutra, who, who, who broke the neck of 120 languages? I mean, this is an incredible adventure, and what a life? And his answer was so simple, we just devil drives, meaning it was something that was so powerful and compulsive that it was it was bigger than him.

So I mean, I can point all the way back to characters like that and say, you know, what, what drives? And do I? Do I have the heart brave enough to live up to that ambition? That's, that's really the question.

RICK:
Yeah, no, that's amazing. Yeah, thank you for that. That's great. You're super passionate, of course, about these, you know, these awesome things. But um, is there a particular passion project you have going on? Or I mean, you have a lot of stuff that are ongoing, let's say, so let's just, I would love to hear a little bit more about your passion.

 

TONY:
It's, it's kind of strike the middle path, right? Because if we're pulled certain way, by reputation for commercial work, you know, what's, what's the personal, you know, hat?

Daniel Day Lewis once said that when he received some award, and Heath Ledger just passed away, and I just have to accept this award on the behalf of Heath Ledger, because watching him work, renews me.

And I always remember that that was a brilliant way to to give gratitude and be, you know, grateful. But but that's the key to any of our lives. If we're busy producing, and we're great at it, we might have mastered that routine to be on a treadmill on the treadmill is on high, and then it's tilting higher, and you're running on vertical. Okay, well, at what point do you recover? And by what point do you renew yourself? And so to me, all the passion projects, I've stepped away from racing to do almost something completely the opposite, which is, I'm in biodiversity and endangered species and in the natural world with animals that I, you know, I can't help but fall in love with and people would say, Well, how do you reconcile that? How can you be in both worlds? And I'm, like, well, I am in both camps. And I have passions that include these things without prejudice. And so yeah, I think that's sort of the key is developing that to a point where it's attracting people, because they have recognized that this is what you're doing. So there's a more attraction involved in self promotion. And you can see, maybe even in your own career, where commercial work tends to be tilted towards promotion.

 

And for me, I am just really satisfied when the attractions there based on the previous work, so that includes self assignments, if I want to go shoot cheetahs in Africa, and I can't get NatGeo to get me to do it, well, maybe I just need to go and do a discovery trip and see what I come back with. And if that's the case, then turn that out to the world reflect my take on it. And then the people who relate to you are probably most likely the people who share the sensibilities, the ethics, and, and maybe even the aesthetics so that we're building our own community through the right way, which is the attraction, the closer we get to you know, being immersed. You know, if you're so close to something that there's little or no separation, you have an affinity for the subject. And that's, that's the ideal. And then, in the case of cheetahs in South Africa, we were we were working with Dr. Laurie Marker at the Cheetah Conservation Fund CCF and they're remarkably you know, doing just brilliant work. So I'd be happy to plug them anytime that we can Yeah, no, that's awesome.

RICK:
You know, your process. I mean, when you're you work with so many like set top amazing folks around the world and various sports, do you have a specific way that you engage them to try to be yourself or, you know, like, how is it to literally engage these folks you have could just help folks, you know, understand, like, some ways to know how to deal with people that we might want to, you know, put ourselves in front of, let's say, or you know, how to even ask for a raise because we're all, you know, get that get that sort of feeling around our bosses sometimes.

 

TONY:
Yeah, that's a really great question, Rick, I think the best way to answer that is that if I'm stepping into a new situation, whether it's directing or whether it's being a stranger in a strange land, you know, I like to invoke the spirit of, of someone like Maya Angelou, who said famously, that, when she's called to speak, or go to the podium or direct, he, she takes a moment to herself and ask all the people, whoever kind to her, living or dead, to come, come, now I need you, I need you. I need your strength. And that invocation of you know, not only her elders, but that the kindness is really empowering. And, and it removes that kind of stage fright for me, in any situation, no matter how big, no matter how large the job, or the size of the crew, or how famous the person is. And it helps of course, that I had some history and working in Hollywood where I got to meet a lot of a list celebrities, and you know, my favorite, you know, actors and these kinds of things, because then you start to see the humaneness in them.

And I'll tell you a secret about the biggest of the big stars is that if you're an A list celebrity, you really are hungry, and almost desperate for somebody just to be straight with you straight across and not be awestruck, and, and the lower you go BCD celebrities, the more self important they become.

And the more vicious their sort of support staff in terms of publicists and those kinds of animals. But you've, you've already got, you know, your finger on it, your intuition is really sharp. Because if if, for example, I enter a room where I might be excited or nervous to meet somebody I really admire.

I always say, well is my motive good, I check my motive. I'm prepared. I'm professional, I've earned this position. I didn't win it in the lottery. I'm supposed to be here. And I sort of call myself and I invoke that memory of my Angelou as inspiration. And I just show up and then no matter if that person is a prima donna, or a terrible diva, it doesn't reflect to me, I'm there for the right reason. And when you move, I was at my friend NatGeo photographer Rob Clark, whom I came up with said just move with love. Which is so succinct.

Even before you said anything to somebody, if they see you across the room, I might be holding the camera in my hand on set someone backlot in Hollywood, or I might not. But if I'm moving with love to do no harm, think about that. Those are two powerful shorts, think senses, move with love, do no harm, then it's a lot like, for lack of a better expression, working with traumatized horses, which my wife and I do every week, and it's a matter of, I've learned more about my human relationships through traumatized horses. Because they're asking those same questions. Are you going to do me harm? And even if you're the subject of a photograph, there's some question about, are you gonna make me look bad? Yeah. So in that respect, if you can extrapolate from that, you know, this, this sort of peaceful, neutral, loving, it's,

I'll give you one example. The compliment that's come back from people in different places and times. It's almost the same as that, you know, that shot we did? And like, yeah, because if you're working well, you're going to return to some of the same people over the course of years, because there's good relationship. And I'm like, Yeah, what about that shot? And they're like, well, it's not my favorite, but my mother loves it. And I thought I heard this from so many people that I thought, is it something I'm doing? What am I doing? Am I I'm mothering these people I'm loving. I'm seeing them the way their mother sees them,

RICK:
capturing the essence that's been to me that says you've captured their essence, because who knows better your essence than your mom? Right?

 

TONY:
“Yeah, I'll take that compliment every day, because it's quite a high one, I think. And, and it doesn't go to their vanity maybe as much because their vanity might be more vaulted. And that's fine. You know, we can, it's like Diane Arbus said about portraits. The great thing about portraits is that, for example, if you're shooting me, Rick, I might have an idea of my good side or whatever, my ideal self. And you might even look at me and say, Well, I know I want to do this with Tony, but the camera is the best instrument invented to step into the gap in between and if you're both working well, then you can both be surprised by the new thing that you find. So I like to invoke Arbus in that spirit, but hopefully that's not too far off topic.

RICK:
Yeah, no, no, not at all. I mean, that's great. I mean, she's one of the you know, legends as well if anybody needs to know. I mean, she was an amazing, you know, sort of social commentary Docu style photographer. Yeah, I mean, legendary, for sure. Yeah. Perfectly on topic, I would say. Yeah, so I'm sure folks will know some of these names and not But I mean, we've certainly covered a lot from you know mountaintops to Monaco

which is awesome. And thank you for all your insight and your passion and your gratitude and makes me want to be, you know a more conscious person I know that you know, again, we all work on every day the kids, you know, got the young kids, I'm sure a lot of folks out there, do they drive a little crazy become unconscious? Let's call it that.

But yeah, but no, thank you. And this is awesome.

TONY:
I just have a postscript, okay, which you can keep in or out as you'd like. But it's a matter of a challenge, you know, for people who are driven on your podcast, and I found one of the most powerful exercises that we can do that is extremely personal, is a top 10 list and intense an arbitrary number, and other people will call it a bucket list. But I found it really relates to that emerging of, of what might be your internalized passion, and externalizing it by citing for example, who the 10 people in the world that you're fascinated with interested in want to meet. And it's not about people who've left the planet already, it's really people who are actually still here, that you're connected to that who's working with you. And it could be anybody from athletes, to actors to you know, writers, it just your list. And above and beyond that, not only those people, but the places you need to go is there any place in the world that you can name fires your imagination, you may not even know why. But if you can list, you know, in 10 is just a number. I know some people list two or three things. And that's remarkable. And other people who has 20 or 30 things. And that's also interesting. But 10 is just a number to get you rolling, right. And so not only that, but the things you need to do before you shuffle off this mortal coil. So there's three lists right there.

The people that you're interested in the places you must go and the things you must do. And if you're doing this in a really deliberate, serious way, you will find people places and things that you must emerge in your mindfulness, your consciousness, and that becomes something of an intention and a desire. So I found that that's much more useful and even powerful, rather than just keeping it inside and on unspoken unmanifested is and then if you do these things in a sincere way. And you know, it's like Hemingway wrote when people asked, What's your process, Maestro? How do you do what you do? I mean, and he took a long pregnant pause, and he said, famously, I just wait for one true thing. And that's what I would suggest and submit anybody doing this exercise to sit and wait and see what bubbles up. And if it's in you, give it a chance to come and then I can ready these kinds of things. Doesn't matter how you get out. But handwriting seems to be a powerful kind of thing. And then if it works, well, you'll see that you've got people places and things you must do, and they might even overlap. And if they do, you can share that this with discreetly with those who love and support you and actually recognize this ambition is a good one. Don't share this indiscriminately with people or naysayers. There's enough of that around. But that would be like my two bits is to be brave. Sit quietly, and see what comes up and then get those things out of your head and heart and through your hand and place where you can look at it.

 

RICK:
Awesome. Awesome. I love it. head, heart camera, those three things we need.

Well, again, Tony, thanks so much. It's been awesome.

Thrilled. I'm thrilled to go through all this kind of stuff. Sure. We could talk for a couple more hours on all this stuff. Unfortunately, well, maybe we're having maybe we'll have to do part two out on the road as we just talked about out on route 66.

We'll come back and visit

but thank you beautiful gratitude to you for all of this and yeah, I'm sure folks will we'll certainly get a lot out of this one and we'll see you down the road literally.

Right on All right. Thanks for all you do.

 

 




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