John DeFazio

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John DeFazio
Born (1975-02-09) February 9, 1975 (age 42)
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation mixed-media artist, cinematographer
Years active 1994–present

John Paul DeFazio (born 1975) is a Los Angeles-based, award-winning[1] director of photography in the film and television industry,[2] who is also known as a mixed-media and glitch artist, furniture creator and experimental film and music video director. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University with a MFA from University of Southern California,[3] he is a member of Film Independent, the Music Video Production Association, the International Cinematographers Guild Local 600, and Local 80. DeFazio is also a member of Amnesty International.

DeFazio has served as the director of photography on numerous music videos, 35 mm and high-definition movies, some of which have been screened at notable film festivals, including Sundance Film Festival (Crossing, Roam) and the Cannes International Film Festival (9:30). He has shot movies for Hollywood directors and producers Joe Dante (director of Gremlins), Paul Schrader (director of American Gigolo and screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull), and Roger Corman (producer of Death Race, The Little Shop of Horrors) among others. His second feature, Undoing was singled out by the Los Angeles Film Festival for its "striking imagery," and Tobe Roberts from Cinema Without Borders called his work "stylistically shot and emotionally charged."[4][5] While DeFazio's diverse background in the visual arts offers him a unique perspective and approach to cinematography, his work has been criticized for its overuse of color-drenching, over-exposure, and under-exposure.[6]

DeFazio film credits include Director of Photography on the film, The Canyons, released in 2013 and directed by Paul Schrader;[7][8] Director of Photography on Undoing, a 2006 neo-noir drama film directed by Chris Chan Lee[9][10] and Joe Dante's 2009 horror webisode series,Splatter, for Netflix.[11][12] He directed music videos for rapper J-Flexx[13] (former Death Row Records producer), Evan Elton and producer DJ Lethal[14] (La Coka Nostra, Limp Bizkit), pop vocalist Rae Ray, and crunkcore rapper J Bigga.[15]

Early life and education[edit]

John DeFazio was born and raised in Pittsburgh where he also received a Fine Arts and Design degree from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a minor in psychology. While at Carnegie Mellon he focused in typography, interaction design, black and white photography, classical and machinic sculpture, and electronic media. Upon graduation from Carnegie Mellon, he traveled to Los Angeles and attended the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts where he received a Master's of Fine Arts in Film Production with an emphasis in cinematography.[16] At USC, DeFazio received several cinematography scholarships and industry recognition including Kodak's Achievement in Cinematography.[17] He currently resides in Korea Town, a neighborhood south of Hollywood, California.


John DeFazio is best known for his work as a cinematographer. In July 2012, DeFazio commenced production on the erotic, neo-noir feature thriller The Canyons (film), written by Bret Easton Ellis (author of American Psycho and Less Than Zero), directed by Paul Schrader, and starring Lindsay Lohan, Gus Van Sant, and James Deen. The film received media coverage for the innovative way in which it was financed and produced, utilizing new media techniques including crowdfunding,[18] online casting[19] and social media sites including Twitter and Facebook.[20] The film also received extensive attention for the casting of lead actress Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen.[21]

In Joshua Ruebl's September 2013 review he wrote, "The cinematography in this film has an icy beauty, stripping away all artifice. We can see it in the blues, the decayed cinemas, and the Southern California sun that bleaches everything to the bone. We can see the cold dead quality of the cinematography as it reveals the imperfections of the body. We can see the reality of bruises on Lindsay Lohan’s naked body...the marks and wounds on a body damaged by Hollywood. The gorgeous cinematography adequately assists the concept of the film -- that we are seeing a coroner’s report for the state of Hollywood. "[22]

Kent Jones, director of programming of the New York Film Festival, described The Canyons as "a visually and tonally precise, acid-etched horror story..."[23]

Scott Foundas of Variety wrote in his July 2013 review, "Gratuitous lighting effects aside, the guerrilla shoot seems to have reinvigorated Schrader, and the result is his most stylish picture in years, probably since Auto Focus." Shot in sleek widescreen HD by John DeFazio."[24]

Film writer and blogger Alex Withrow wrote in his review, "Cinematographer John DeFazio does digital wonders with his Arri Alexa Pro camera, making The Canyons look like it’s far more than a quarter million dollar picture."[25]

In Andrew O'Hehir's August 2013 review for Salon (website), he wrote, "Schrader and cinematographer John DeFazio, shooting with Video On Demand release on the small screen in mind, notice character quirks and capture the ambience of iconic L.A. locations in ways other filmmakers might miss. As a visual symphony, The Canyons is often masterful, and while it may be pornographic in places, it’s never campy. At the center of its cold, beautiful and half-dead world is the almost incandescent Lindsay Lohan, burning like a flawed diamond."[26]

Mixed-media art[edit]

DeFazio's mixed-media work combines more traditional materials such as photographs, paraffin wax, plaster, glass, copper, steel and found metal objects with non-traditional materials such as medical imagery (magnetic resonance imaging, X-rays, computed axial tomography), grunge remnants (organically grown rust, hair, dust) and decayed organic substances. His own personal MRI and CT-scans are used in his pieces What's Inside My Head (2012) and Where is the Love (2013).[27]

DeFazio's earliest work, between 1990 and 1998, consisted primarily of traditional black and white photography and sporadic experimentation with mixed-media and machinic sculpture. It was not until his move to Los Angeles, and into the early 2000s, that he began mixing these two mediums into cohesive, symbiotic wholes. His first notable mixed-media piece, VIVISection I (2000), consisted of a series of drastically deteriorated 3"×3" squares haphazardly cut from Penthouse Forum literature which were then further butchered and layered upon each other, giving rise to newly formed text/image relationships through the juxtaposition of revealed slices of image and text within and throughout their layers. These squares were further layered with aged tape and glue, then mounted onto 5"×5" sheets of shower curtain material and compressed between glass plates.

DeFazio's later work shifted towards large photographic enlargements layered with various materials such as oil-soaked tissue, water-based paint, and fiberglass resin. Kiss in a Red Storm 1-5, consisted of a series of identical photographic prints of a man in mid-kiss with a woman. These prints are layered between deteriorated pieces of yellow, liquid absorbing paper (with poor mechanical strength characteristics) that had been soaked in oil and haphazardly littered with red paint in nondescript chaotic patterns. The translucence of the oil-soaked paper and paint layered over the photographs adds an additional layer of texture and transformation.

A technique commonly used in his photographic work is degrading the initial image with various methods such as moisture contamination, scrapes, aging, and dyeing before enlarging to its final form. Mother of God and Torso I demonstrate this technique. Both pieces originated from decayed and degraded images which were then enlarged and further layered in paint and fiberglass resin.

Glitch Art[edit]

A majority of DeFazio's photography work exploits the aesthetics of datamoshing by making artistic use of the inherent artifacts, such as ringing and staircasing, that arise from JPEG compression and downsampling and upsampling and can be categorized as glitch art. His 2009 piece "Constellation" consists of a series of three 60"×84" digital prints of a woman's face. Each image was scanned at high resolution from its original source (super 8 mm film) and was then digitally degraded by repeatedly downsampling and upsampling in resolution before being heavily JPEG compressed at maximum compression. The resulting images were then enlarged further to their 60"×84" final size. The "Time Baby", "Through Loss", and "Compression" series utilize similar methods.[28]

Experimental short films[edit]

DeFazio's directorial work uniformly relies on spoken-word as the predominant driving force of the narrative, particularly in the form of abstract and poetic inner-monologue and stream of consciousness (narrative mode) rather than traditional expository voice-over.[29] This is very evident in Stream, Arc To Vega, and Samsara. His short films adhere to fluid, yet definitive structures propelled by loose image/sound relationships and abstractions.[30]

DeFazio's directorial work consistently examines the nature of the existence of the sole being (Gravity, 2012) and the importance of the individual consciousness in relation to the encapsulating macrocosm.[31] This is most apparent in his 2007 experimental film Arc To Vega. Arc To Vega is a short experimental docu-drama propelled forward through a fast-paced, first-person narrative voice-over. The film chronicles the day in the life of one man during a drug and alcohol-infused quest to search for something without knowing exactly what it is and to ultimately understand his place in the chaotic, nonsensical world in which he lives.[32] By the film's conclusion, he finally comes to terms with the overwhelming trivial nature of his life and all life.

DeFazio's films explore the weakness of the human condition and the cycle of decay and rebirth of consciousness. Both Stream, and Samsara in particular, examine the mind of a woman during moments of emotional collapse. They attempt to explore how this breakdown of the psyche affects cognition and the nature in which it manifests in behavior. These films differ in that Stream is the precursor of Samsara. Stream focuses heavily on the moment of collapse and the stream of consciousness that results while Samsara deconstructs the aftermath—struggling to come to terms. DeFazio's common motif of rebirth of consciousness is especially evident in these two films.[33][34]

Screen shot from Samsara
Screen shot from Arc to Vega

Furniture designs[edit]

DeFazio's furniture has been featured by LA ART 213 where his style was described as an embodiment of "cyber-punk and post-industrial dystopian aesthetics while adhering to principles of the post-modern furniture movement" and "cyber-punk in their materials and construction." DeFazio exhibits themes of distress, decay, disintegration, and collapse through the use of junkyard objects, utilitarian materials such as chemically-aged copper, brass and steel, and rudimentary, makeshift construction methods.[35]

Notable films, cinematographer[edit]

The Canyons - Venice Film Festival 2012 - Rome[36]

Splatter - TV / webisode series U.S., U.K. 2009, 2010[37]

Red Mesa - Best Short Film at the 2009 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival; Best Short Film finalist at the 2009 Santa Fe Film Festival; 2009 New York Latino International Film Festival; 2010 San Diego Latino Film Festival[38][39]

Who Loves the Sun - WorldFest Houston 2007 - Bronze Award, Best Film; Mississauga Independent Film Festival 2007 - Best Feature Film; Newport Beach International Film Festival 2007 - Nomination; Beverly Hills Film Festival 2007 - Best Female Performance; 2007 Genie Awards - Best Actress, Molly Parker; AFI Fest 2006 - Grand Jury Prize Nomination; London Film Festival 2006 - Nomination[40]

Over the Line - Academy Award Nominee 2006, Beverly Hills Film Festival 2006 - Best Director, Best Actor[41]

Undoing - Los Angeles Film Festival 2006; San Diego Asian Film Festival 2007; DC APA Film Festival - Washington, D.C. 2007; NY Asian American International Film Festival 2007; Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival - Pittsburgh 2007; Chicago Asian American Showcase 2007; San Francisco International Asian-American Film festival 2005; Hawaii International Film Festival 2006[42]

9:30 - Cannes International Film Festival 2005[43]

Roam - Sundance Film Festival 2002; DGA's Best Latino Short Film[44]

Crossing - Sundance Film Festival 2002; DGA Award[45]

Directorial filmography[edit]

TRIP (In development)

CE7 (In development)

Drain (In development)

Judgements of Sentience (2013)

One Flesh (2010)

Samsara (2010)

Arc to Vega (2008)

Stream (2008)

Trash Cocking (1998)


  1. ^ page 20. Retrieved 2/20/2014
  2. ^
  3. ^ Retrieved 2/20/2014.
  4. ^ Film “Undoing”- the Asian film noir of Korean-American Director Chris Chan Lee
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-10-17. Retrieved 2006-12-14. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Retrieved 2/20/2014.
  8. ^ Retrieved 2/21/2014
  9. ^ 2/20/2014
  10. ^ Retrieved 2/21/2014
  11. ^ Retrieved 2/21/2014
  12. ^ Retrieved 2/21/2014.
  13. ^ Retrieved 2/21/2014.
  14. ^ HOLLYWOOD - EVAN ELTON (Official Music Video) Retrieved 2/21/2014.
  15. ^ "Murder Scene". IMVDb. Retrieved 2014-02-21. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Filmmakers Bios
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-08. Retrieved 2012-09-14. 
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-03-08. Retrieved 2012-08-12. 
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
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  26. ^
  27. ^ "he uses non-traditional materials such as grunge remnants (dirt, hair, dust, organically grown rust), grease, oils, fabric dyes, fiberglass resin, medical imagery and decayed organic substances combined with more common materials"
  28. ^
  29. ^ "spoken-word as the predominant driving force ... inner-monologue and stream of consciousness rather than traditional expository voice-over"
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^ His video work explore[s] the weakness of the human condition and the cycle of decay and rebirth of consciousness.
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  38. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-14. Retrieved 2012-05-29. 
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