Since his move to California, Adam Santelli has been working as a director of photography in the commercials.  In keeping with a long-time interest in music Adam also has shot a multitude of music videos for artists including Marylin Manson, Perfect Circle, Snoop, Ludacris,  Seether, Yellow Card, and a host of others.  His prolific work in the music video and commercial worlds has brought him numerous award nominations including those for the Emmy awards, New York Festival, MTV and MVPA Awards.

Adam’s photography contrasts his sharp, clean craftsmanship and technique with the unique grace found in disorder.  Viewers are initially drawn in by the delicacy of the images, but are quickly transported to the artists final intent  - lost, spiraling out of control and the tranquility that comes with the acceptance of your fate.


LACMA'S Photographic Arts Council - Stephen Cohen Gallery 
August 11 - September 1, 2012
Photo from American Strip Club Series / 

September 4 - September 29, 2012
Photo from Cannonball Series /

Bologna Italy 
Frank Pictures Gallery
Photos From Cannonball Series

Issue 52
March 2012

Issue 80
Febuary 2011

Collective Motion

The Collective Motion series is an ongoing experiment to break down the traditional formula of photographing the human form.  It grew out of a series I did called “Cannonball”.  It was a simple idea: take a human body and hurl it into a semifluid mass. The goal was to strip away the traditional tools of both the photographer and the subject.  As we moved away from the standard capture speed of traditional photography, the results become apparent.   What starts as a mess of out of control body parts and rippling skin ends in a peaceful beauty as the subject comes to grips with the forces of nature.  

This phenomenon is called collective motion and it is one one the more dramatic demonstrations of coordinated behavior. Though in most cases collective motion happens with living organisms, when I captured the images at a fraction of a second I start to see the subjects body, the air it drags into the water, and the mass of the water take on the properties of collective behavior. Creating a cohesive image, melding texture and shape into images with a graceful minimalism.

I have experimented with a multitude of techniques from jumping in to the water with the subject to sitting on the bottom as an observer. I’ve put the camera in zip lock bags and in state of the art water housings. I have shot stills and hi-speed video.  The results are always the same: an elegant polyphony (harmony) between man and nature.

American Strip Club. 

Growing up in a scrubbed-clean, brand-spanking-new, suburb of central Ohio, I was fascinated by anyplace worn and torn. As a kid, I loved trips to Lazarus, the big department store downtown; we had to drive through the inner-city neighborhoods of Columbus to get to there. In the backseat of the station wagon, my nose would be pressed to the glass, captivated by the beautiful, colorful “mess” left from human activity. The population in downtown Columbus wasn’t exactly booming; it was kind of a ghost town. But I was a child of the suburbs, only vaguely aware of other cultures, and right there, only miles from my home, was evidence of another world. The richness of cultural diversity was everywhere. Hand-painted signs in a storefront window, gang graffiti on a wall, a dumpster full of restaurant garbage, shoes on a telephone wire: clues to who occupied those spaces. This stirred my imagination. My suburb had no such mess. In fact, if people were not out and about, you would not believe anyone actually lived there.

When I started this project, I had been directing and shooting commercials and music videos for a few years. I live in Los Angeles but much of my commercial work takes me back to the Midwest. Often times, on the way to a location or on the drive from an airport, we would pass through an urban neighborhood. These areas were economically depressed, neglected and run down; hardly a soul left, the streets eerily quiet. Can the last one to leave town, please turn out the lights? But not all was bleak. Consistently, there would be a strip club: seedy but colorful, rich in texture, beautiful even. It stirred my imagination. Again, I felt the buildings themselves were giving me information, revealing things about a world I wanted to explore.

I knew I wanted to photograph these places where people work in a very intimate way. And I wanted to do it without ever showing the people themselves. Expose people without photographing people. I wanted buildings, signs, rooms and furniture to tell their story. Who is working in these places? Who is going for a lap dance? How intimately can you know them without seeing them?

I am not the first photographer to challenge the viewer’s interest in this way and I won’t be the last. But I choose to entice you with a glimpse into the drama of a place without its inhabitants. I respectfully believe in the power of photographic composition to suggest a story – both the one I want to tell you and the one you will decide on for yourself. It is an art-imagination game that bonds the photographer to the viewer and both to the subject. We ask each other what the intention is, what we are meant to think and feel by the information revealed; what is being shown verses what is being hidden. I have my agenda; my eyewitness account is strategically edited to deliver what I found most interesting. But perhaps the viewer will know my subject more intimately coming to it without agenda. I believe a photograph tells its story best through the eyes of the viewer.

I used a medium format 645 Mamiya, Kodak film and printed with an Epson high-resolution printer.