An Interview with Peter Braccio
Peter Braccio shares some of his thoughts on art, technology and what the Guerilla Studio is all about.
7:45 AM Sunday July 31st, the first day of SIGGRAPH 2005 and I am looking for
Peter Braccio, Chair of the Guerilla Studio. Peter began his career in the Navy
and obtained a Masters of Science in Physics in the process. He then worked at the Naval Postgraduate School doing ocean modeling. It was here that he discovered he
had a knack for creating images and movies. Currently, Peter is working at the
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
As I enter the room where the Guerilla Studio resides, I see a group of people in jean vests (Guerilla Studio volunteers) setting up all kinds of equipment and training a group of people wearing red vests (Student Volunteers). I spot someone who seems to be in charge and ask him if he is Peter. He says no, but seems flattered. He directs me to a closed off section of the room and tells me to look for “the big bearded man”. I enter and start speaking with the man (with a hefty black beard) inside.
Peter seems to be looking deep into the computer, as if past the screen itself. Obviously he is very busy, especially considering that the venue will open in just under 5 hours. I quickly introduce myself and ask him when I may be able to steal a quick moment of his time for an interview. I must admit, I was slightly taken aback at how, under so much pressure, this man pulled himself away from his work and took a moment to inquire about me, and what I do. After I explained that I was a Student Reporter, he very politely asked me to return later in the afternoon, when he expected to have the studio up and running.
1:30 PM, and this time when I enter room 403 it’s brimming with people. Those red vested and jean vested people are swamped with conference attendees asking a multitude of questions. The room is abuzz with curiosity, creativity and awe. I look around a bit, but no Peter in sight. I ask some of the Guerilla Studio volunteers if they have seen Peter, and they tell me “He was just here, but had to go over there.” I go where directed and ask the same question there, only to get the response “You just missed him, he had to go to the other side of the studio.” At this point, I certainly started to wonder how a man, who uses a cane while walking, manages to get around so quickly. Just as I decide that it might be best to come back later, I see Peter walking out the door. “Now is not a good time,” he says to me, “network problems, and I’m going to take a quick break.” I say that’s fine, it’s no problem, and mention that I’ll return later.
4:15 PM, third time is the charm, they say. Lo and behold, it really is. As I walk in, I see Peter standing, looking out over a slightly quieter Guerilla Studio. “Are all the network problems fixed” I ask. “Yes,” he replies with a big smile, “and it all seems to be up an running well now.” I tell him that if things are still busy, perhaps the following day will be better. “Oh things are very quiet. We should do the interview now and I can even give you a bit of a tour.” To this, of course, I respond “yes,” with a big smile of my own.
Peter points me to the print station area and tell me that is where Guerilla Studios first began. Back in 1993 “there was only one printer, and it was called the Guerilla Gallery.” I listen as he tells me that since then things have truly improved, both in terms of the print quality as well as with partnerships with corporations, like Epson. Peter refers to the large format print area as the “genesis of Guerilla Studio,” where this venue really began.
Above the print area are projections showing examples of the many flavors of artwork printed at the Studio. “What kind of artwork do you like to create?” I ask him. He points to one of the large format printers, and said with a bit of surprise, “that one being printed is actually one of mine.” One of the operators at the print area overhears us and pipes in “I didn’t even know it was yours Peter, I just thought it was worthy of being printed.” As I take a closer look at the print, Peter tells me about how he likes to take images of nature (some he photographs himself, some he takes from stock images) and layer them in different ways using Photoshop. “Do you consider yourself an artist?” I ask. “Oh no! I hardly spend enough time to really say that. But I do enjoy doing it.”
My next question (would you consider the Guerilla Studios a demonstration of technology or something else?) garners a slightly more involved response: “I think the Guerilla Studios does many things. First it gets people to interact with tools that most people don’t have access to. Second, it gets the artists and creators of these tools into contact with people who would like to use them. Here, that kind of a connection can be made.”
I asked Peter how he initially got involved with the Guerilla Studio. “It was at my first SIGGRAPH conference. I came to check out some of the papers, but ended up just loving the Guerilla Gallery (as it was called then). They had a few computers set up and showed me how to use Photoshop; I was loving it. I spent the rest of the conference there.”
“Do you find yourself spending a lot of your time organizing the Guerilla Studio?” I ask, as we continue the tour. “Not until February, when things really start to ramp up.” “How do you feel things have turned out so far this year?” “Things are good now. There were some problems, but there are always problems, every year. There has never been a year with no issues to worry about. We always get through it through in the end.”
Peter then introduced me to the audio section of the studio. The guy playing electric guitar into the computer was really good, and both Peter and I were very much enjoying this musical interlude. “Do you play any instruments?” I ask. “I play a little guitar, but I really enjoy playing the mandolin. I believe we have one back there somewhere.” “So have you played anything yet?”, I ask. Before Peter has a chance to respond, one of the musicians enthusiastically adds: “Yeah you should play with us!” Peter promises to play with them later at some point.
I thank Peter for all his time and the fantastic tour around the Studio. He introduced me to so many passionate and interesting people who volunteer their time there. Each person I met seemed to truly enjoy both what they were doing, and being able to contribute to the Guerilla Studio as a whole. And Peter Braccio seemed to connect to each person on a personal as well as a professional level.
The projects in the Guerilla Studios are truly amazing, but even more amazing is that all this technology is brought together in one place and made so readily accessible to us.