512 Fashion: Focusing the Lens on Gregg Cestaro

By Bri Thomas Born in Queens and raised in the Philippines before living in Belize, Gregg Cestaro got to Texas as fast as he could to pursue his photography career.

How did you get your start?

I was always an artist, but I went to school for archaeology, which I still work in. Midway through getting my master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Oklahoma, a mentor of mine said it was best to have a sideline gig, too; he owned a contract archaeology firm AND a guitar store, and both did really, really well. So, I took his advice and decided, as an artist, to pursue a true passion of mine, fashion photography. I bought a used PENTAX and hit the ground running and became director of photography for a local magazine in Norman, Okla., and then a stringer for the local newspaper just right before moving to Austin for a post-grad research gig. Once here, I pursued as many photo venues as possible, which is another story in itself.

How are you still involved in archaeology?

I currently work off and on for an Austin firm, Hicks and Company (since about 2000). We do an initial archaeological survey and excavations for big public works projects throughout Texas, whereby we assess and protect archaeological resources before construction begins. We recently did Bastrop State Park's fire abatement redesign and I am also currently illustrating amazing 17th-century artifacts from the French explorer La Salle's lost ship, The Belle, for the Texas Historical Commission. I am also a City of Cedar Park City Commissioner for historic preservation and would like to get back into Mayan archaeology again as a researcher and even an illustrator or video documentarian.

We heard about you through our Fashionably Austin article. What work do you do for/with its founder, Cheryl Bemis?

I help Cheryl cover important fashion-related events around town with mostly still photography but also help her with video work on occasion. I think it's a fun op, and it is really nice to meet and help promote everybody involved in Austin's ever-growing fashion industry.

What has been the highlight of your career?

There have been several important milestones in my archaeology/photography career but by far, the best ever for me has been our team, Step Gold, winning two Golden Boots during this year’s Austin Fashion Week: the 2012 Timothy White Award for Best Mash-up Team Fashion Photo and the 2012 People’s Choice for Best Mash-up Team Fashion Photo. It kind of topped last year’s 2011 award for Industry's Choice Best Product Photographer, which is cool, too. There is so much creative talent in this town that to win both photo categories was a truly humbling experience.

Who makes up Step Gold, and what kind of team are you guys exactly?

Austin Fashion Week is a great week-long fashion industry event created by Matt Swinney of Rare magazine-fame, and one of the things they do is a best fashion photo contest called the Mash-up Teams. Someone local from fashion design, modeling, hair, make-up, jewelry design and photography form a team and try to create their best image, competing against, like, 30 other teams. It is voted on by the public online and guest uber-photographer Timothy White also judges. We named our team Step Gold (http://fashionweekaustin.com/mash-up/step-gold/), and it consisted of: Photography: Gregg Cestaro; Hair: Joseph Theis; Makeup: Mandy Hernandez; Clothing: 81 Poppies; Jewelry: BonBon by Micah Yancey; Stylist: Sandra Antoun; and Model: Britany Walker.

What other work do you do in Austin besides with Cheryl, and how much of your time does it take?

My photography business takes a lot of my time, but it’s pretty flexible — flexible enough to take time to do long surveys on occasion if I want. Besides the local fashion scene, I also photograph food, architecture, products and personality, usually for magazines, advertisements or business websites. I also do graphic design, illustration and, more recently, video. My wife Monica Carrell, an excellent realism painter, does pet portraits to round out our little art group.