Eva Longoria Selects Worcester Artist’s Photo for Canon’s Project Imaginat10n

Self Portrait of Henry Jekyll“Self Portrait of Henry Jekyll” by Michael Bilotta

Last week, Worcester resident and self-proclaimed “Bostonian at heart” Michael Bilotta had his user-submitted photo hand-picked by Eva Longoria, who will go on to use it in Canon’s Project Imaginat10n. The film festival in progress involves several celebrities, supervised by Ron Howard, who will learn to direct short films with 10 photographs each as inspiration. These photographs, representing 10 pillars in storytelling and selected from 91 total winning works, were separated by theme. Bilotta’s photo, “Self Portrait of Henry Jekyll,” was in the relationship theme.

“The theme of the shoot was one about duality, or dual personality, and sort of the monster of it,” says Bilotta, who studied songwriting at Berklee College of Music and spent most of his “20-something” years after college living in Boston. “One of my big inspirations is Renee Magritte, a surrealist painter.”

Bilotta, who dreamed of becoming a graphic designer and filmmaker as a child, was hit by the “music bug” that lasted him throughout college. When he got his first digital camera in early 2000, however, he started “falling in love with the visual arts” all over again. For now, he says, music is on hold as he channels his creativity to a different medium. While by day he works at TripAdvisor (which, he admits, represents his own sort of “dual personality”), his true passion lies in and resonates from his artwork.

“What I do is hard to describe; it’s mixed media, sort of, only because I try to turn my photos into paintings,” he says. “I try to come up with a concept for each shoot. I definitely don’t like the modern era—I try and go for timelessness. Anything that’s late 20th century or current day is out.”

Bilotta makes the process appear easy, as he admits that the “Self Portrait of Henry Jekyll” took him only about three hours, and involved a model, an empty picture frame, and some graphic designing. Of course, we must by default add the gift of pure talent and the artist’s eye to the recipe.

As far as the contest goes, Bilotta entered after hearing about last year’s competition, and knew of Brooke Shaden, who was one of the selected winners. Though their styles are different, Bilotta says, they are “kind of in the same stratosphere of photography.” He decided to try his luck this time around, and though he says he is happy to have been chosen as a winner and to see Eva Longoria’s film premiere at the Canon Project Imaginat10n Film Festival next year, Bilotta is even more enthralled with what comes along with the prize: the opportunity to get his name out.

“This first year of doing nothing but conceptual photography is all in preparation for getting the nerve up to start submitting to galleries, and doing this kind of work is the only avenue open to me,” says Bilotta. “Making a bit of splash, even locally just to galleries, so I am not just a no-name that’s come out of the woodwork is what I was hoping for.”

Regarding the title and topic of their celebrity’s short film, Bilotta says he and the other winners do not know much. They have not yet started production, and how these inspirations will get turned into a script and what the films will look like is still a mystery to most, he says. Among the other nine winning photographers was Tom Stirling of Salem, whose photo “Stairwell Entity” was chosen by Twitter cofounder Biz Stone.

In the meantime, as film production ensues in the next few months, Bilotta hopes this win will lead to bigger things in his career.

“It’s a win and it’s fantastic,” he admits, “But the results from the press and the people are more satisfying in the long run.”

Michael Bilotta’s photography can be viewed on his personal website and on his Facebook page.