Christopher Capozziello

Photo by Christopher CapozzielloSee Christopher Capozziello’s film, art, and lectures in February

By Holly Rushakoff

It starts with a question—why do some suffer and others do not? When Christopher Capozziello is curious about people, he wants to understand where they’re coming from. And he’s often drawn to the fringe.

As a photojournalist, he has formed relationships with a woman who had breast cancer, a group of friends with drug addiction, and a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

“The profession of journalism, or any form of storytelling, comes from being interested in people and curious about what life is like outside of my own experience,” he said.

His work has been featured in publications including the New York Times, Time magazine, and Newsweek, as well as in national and international art exhibits. He has received awards from World Press Photo, Communication Arts, and others.

The Department of Journalism invited Capozziello to teach an eight-week class this spring as a George A. Miller visiting artist. “Photojournalism and Society” looks at the state of journalism through the lens of inclusion and representation.

Charles “Stretch” Ledford, associate professor of journalism, had purchased Capozziello’s book, The Distance Between Us, in a Kickstarter fundraiser in 2013, and formed a friendship with him after that. The book portrays Capozziello’s relationship with his twin brother, Nick, who was born with cerebral palsy.

Christopher Capozziello's brother“When I stand next to Nick, I am an example of what Nick’s life could’ve been. I am the healthy brother, the healthy twin. I have choices he doesn’t have,” Capozziello said. “I was angry. I had shame.”

Since he was a kid, he wondered how that was fair.

“Photographs unintentionally helped me to deal with those things…. In asking all these questions, I saw there’s more to it, and it’s for Nick and I to figure out together. I’m not asking ‘why’ anymore.”

Ledford was aware of Capozziello’s work before the book was published. “It blew me away,” Ledford said. “The intimacy of it. The artistry and aesthetic. I enjoy it a lot,” Ledford said. “I like why it works—the rough edge to it and the immersive nature of it.”

Christopher Capozziello bookSelected photos from his book will be featured in an exhibit at the University Y Murphy Gallery in Champaign, with a lecture by Capozziello on opening night, Thursday, Feb. 21, at 5 p.m. A film adaptation of his book, The Distance Between Us, will be screened at the Art Theater in Champaign on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. The film was produced by MediaStorm, a New York City-based film production and interactive design studio. 

Capozziello developed his love of photojournalism in college, where he found a mentor, Loret Gnivecki Steinberg, whom he credits for encouraging him to tell his own story.

“Like art, like food, you develop a taste and a liking for things, and [in college] I started to find the work that really resonated with me, and got the blood faster in my heart—social documentary storytelling,” he recalled. “That work really resonated with me in terms of the ability to cut beneath the surface and give us more depth and understanding of people.

“One of my favorite things to do in life is to be around people who aren’t like me,” he said. “Maybe I don’t agree, but their experiences are so different from mine; I find it fascinating and it really charges me.”

Capozziello is currently working on his second book of photography.

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While Capozziello is on campus, he will be participating in the following events. All are open to the public.

  • February 6: a panel discussion on “Family Affair: Disability as a Shared Experience”
  • February 19: a documentary film screening of The Distance Between Us
  • February 20: CAS/MillerComm lecture on “The Foreign and the Familiar: Photojournalism as Visual Ethnography”
  • February 21-March 30: an exhibition and lecture at the University Y Murphy Gallery

For more event details, see www.media.illinois.edu/chrisc.

Photos by Christopher Capozziello.