Behind the Lens: Capturing fear culture within the media

Michael Amato shows off the drafts of his work for the BFA show and talks about the theme of his work fear culture.  (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Michael Amato shows off the drafts of his work for the BFA show and talks about the theme of his work fear culture.  (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

This is the second installment of five features to spotlight UConn School of Fine Arts’ students participating in the 2017 BFA Art Show.

In a time of alternative facts and fake news, senior Bachelor of Fine Arts student at the University of Connecticut, Michael Amato has a lot of worries when it comes to broadcast media.

Amato, who is concentrating in photography, based his project for the BFA show around the concept of fear culture as portrayed in the media.

Titled “Fear Culture, USA” Amato uses a series of photographs depicting “fear culture” juxtaposed to news in both private and public settings.

With his work, Amato wants to convey how the media’s fear tactics “permeate into everyday life.”

“[My idea was] formulated through watching the news, specifically during the Ebola crisis,” Amato, who was scared of the virus coming into the United States, said.

“The media addresses all crisis’ the same, [to] be afraid,” Amato said.

Once Amato noticed this being a reoccurring topic in the news, whether it was done subtly or “in your face,” it began to bother him, and he knew he wanted to express it through art and make people aware, especially within his age group, that it was happening.

Much of his work revolves around the idea of paranoia. The other half of his work is what he referred to as fascination.

Through a grant from UConn, Amato was able to spend the summer of 2016 with a group of Hawaiian fire artists.

He documented their lives and performances in Northern California and throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

He became aware of the group through his brother who is a founding member. It is known as Flowhana–flow referring to their dance style and ohana being the Hawaiian word for family.

Art [is something I] think about a lot, it’s what keeps me up at night.
— Michael Amato

“I thought it was really really cool, and I realized not a lot of documentation of the group exists,” Amato said. “I wanted to document it and show people it exists.”

Last November, Amato had his first solo show in the gallery at the Jorgensen of the Performing arts where he was able to display his work on this subculture of people. He will also showing the same work in June (date to be announced) at Mac650 Gallery in Middletown, Connecticut.

Amato first became interested in photography after taking a digital media class in high school. Originally he didn’t take the class very seriously, but over time he started to appreciate it more.

“It got me outside with nature, I used to be very introverted,” Amato said. Over time he stumbled more into the craft.

He started college, at Eastern Connecticut University studying English, but soon realized that wasn’t the path for him. He later transferred to UConn, and chose to study his passion in photography.

Amato said his “a-ha” moment came after watching the documentary “Chasing Ice.” The scientist the film focuses on, James Balong, happens to also be a photographer. In it he talks about the struggle of communicating science data to the public on the severity of climate change, realizing that photos told a better story than words.

Amato said he hopes to do the same with his work. He said he is highly influenced by documentary style, but would not necessarily refer to himself as a one because lots of editing goes into his pieces.

When it comes to the BFA show, Amato said many of the students treat it as the “end all be all” of their artistic careers at UConn, but he doesn’t want to address it that way, rather to use it as “just another step.”

“It’s not the final version of it, but just the beginning,” Amato said.

To view more of Amato’s work and learn about his upcoming gallery shows, visit michaelamatophoto.com.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Show will be held on Thursday, April 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the ArtSpace Gallery located on 480 Main Street in Willimantic, Connecticut. Admission is free.


Angie DeRosa is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at angelina.derosa@uconn.edu.  She tweets @theangiederosa.