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Rising Stars: Meet Dominic Iacopino

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dominic Iacopino.

Hi Dominic, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
“My mother was a mermaid, and my father was King Neptune! I was born on the crest of a wave and rocked in the cradle of the deep…” At least that was part of a biography I had inherited and learned to recite verbatim during my indoctrination summer at the U.S. Naval Academy when asked, “How long have you been in the Navy?”

I had arrived at this decade+ commitment to military service coming from a quaint upbringing in the small city of Concord, NH. Those adolescent years were filled with good grades that came relatively easily, social groups which left little time for any memorable boredom, and the story of a grassroots soccer team winning their high school’s first state title after playing together since the earliest years of travel club athletics. I had developed a scientific and mathematical way of viewing the world and was raised to hold integrity, morality, and dedication among the highest virtues — becoming a doctor or lawyer always felt like a real possibility.

Instead, after graduating in 2010 with a chemistry degree, I was selected for an aviation pipeline which would result in me flying attack helicopters in the Marine Corps. This first chapter of adult life provided me the opportunity to live in numerous places across the country, partake in unique world-class training experiences, and travel to Europe and eastern Asia on deployments. When I arrived at a career crossroads, I had to decide whether the next chapter of my life would include another decade of service, or if I would explore young adult civilian life.

I was honorably discharged at the rank of Captain in 2019, and with an eye to adventure, set off on a six months thru-hike the Appalachian Trail to digest my life experience and begin to imagine a new future. Pursuing an MBA was a common and lucrative route for many junior military officers in my position and seemed like my next logical plan. So, when I began my walk northbound, from Georgia to Maine, I had applications to business schools completed and ready for submission.

Those applications never got submitted. By the time the due dates rolled around, I had learned enough about myself to know that a corporate grind was not my passion. I did, however, finally get my overdue introduction to art via a little mirrorless camera I documented my hike with. This seed of creativity has blossomed to where I am today; weeks away from receiving a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in Photography from Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. My hiking (and now life!) partner and I are returning to New England this summer and I will be beginning a Master of Fine Art program at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA this fall.

The future I have in mind is anchored around joining the ranks of academia while exhibiting and publishing my photography in parallel. I believe my perspective rooted in discipline, scientific theory, adventure, and curiosity will be beneficial to a career in higher art education.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As with the rest of the world, the pandemic rattled my day-to-day life. I am very fortunate to curse COVID only as an inconvenience and have not had to experience the death of close friends or family. Bluntly, I recognize this obstacle has been larger for others. However, it has affected me most dramatically by moving much of my schooling to an online modality just weeks into my program. I feel that my best display of perseverance was the creation of a darkroom in my backyard shed, (https://www.rmcad.edu/lakewood-art-student-transforms-shed-into-photography-darkroom) which allowed me to explore various analog photography processes and I also invested in studio equipment allowing me to convert my garage into a photo studio. Years from now, I believe that we will all realize this pandemic has taught us more about ourselves than we can process right now.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I consider myself a ‘lens-based poet,’ a term between ‘photographer’ and ‘artist’ that I’ve crafted to describe my creative practice. I continue my process beyond the making of images and heavily consider their materiality, uniqueness, and re-presentation. I envision my work in a digital, photo book, and gallery exhibition settings. My current work is figurative, self-expressionist and focused on storytelling while often revisiting themes of nostalgia, morality, and the search for a universal human experience. Through the study of photographic canon and imagined conversations with artists of the past and present, I reflect on my own thoughts of the world and means of communicating them. I am currently working on a project inspired by the Surrealists of the mid-20th century where I imagine their response to how digitally connected our lives have become.

Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
I have been thoroughly impressed with my academic community at RMCAD for persevering and making the most of the pandemic hardship. Due to the student and faculty adaptability, we learned to create, critique, socialize and develop our practices remotely. I would argue the RMCAD team pioneered a way to effectively transition to distance education and re-envisioned the meaning of work-from-home. Check out #rmcadphotographers on Instagram to see some of their amazing work!

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