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Steve Azzara The G.O.A.T. Of Photography

247 Ink Magazine and Azzara Magazine

By CadmaPublished 2 years ago 12 min read
2
Photo copyright and credited to Steve Azzara

It was December 11th, 2021 when I learned his birthday was June 25th, 1951. As I stood at the door of the funeral home looking hesitant upon entering, I immediately thought of the countless moments asking “When is your birthday?” and your response would follow “I’m not telling you because I know you’ll buy me something!” I chuckle now at the banter but it was true; I wanted to buy you stuff. I like to buy my friends things. I like to make people feel good or happy. Since you wouldn’t allow birthday gifts or Christmas gifts; I resorted to foods even though I always guessed wrong. You’d tell me “When you’re rich and famous then I’ll let you do whatever you want”; I don’t think I have ever wished so hard that I was until now.

Steve Azzara a man of many talents, a George Carlin sense of humor, the curiosity of a child that he never lost; and boldness sat on his outer edges like a font.

I saw a photo shoot of a fighter and her fighting wraps and I fell in love with the idea. I train in fighting and I also enjoy modeling and acting; I was sold on the idea. I wanted to redo it but I was limited on who I could work with. I ended up shooting with an ex-boyfriend who didn’t really understand the concept; but this is also the same person who didn’t understand me. I submitted the photos to different magazines trying to get attention for the photos.

September 6th, 2017 upon chance I stumbled across their magazine “247 Ink” and I submitted, within the hour I had received an email because Bobby from his company told him about my submission. I ended up on a phone call to speak with Steve Azzara. I called my best friend filled to the brim with excitement and nervous jitters; I called Steve back and tried to sound calm.

“Hello this is Chantal Aytes aka Cadma.”

He chuckles “I’m Steve Azzara of 247 Ink Magazine. I saw your photos…what were you going for?”

I paused knowing that question means “I see you’re trying to say something, but your words aren’t lucid”; for an artist that can be worrisome. I cleared my throat and made the best decision I ever could; I told him about the photo shoot I saw and wanted to do my version of it.

He cautiously listened and then asked “Who shot the photos?” I said hesitating “My ex-boyfriend.” Without sounding arrogant, he simply stated “He shoots like shit, do you want to reshoot it with me?” The silence between us was filled with him wondering if I was offended and me surprised at his blunt honesty. I immediately agreed but asked if I could bring my assistant and best friend; and without hesitating he said sure. We set a date and that became a classic friendship I did not anticipate.

My best friend and assistant Rafael Tavares (known for his show “The Written Writ” on YouTube channel The Bitten Apple) headed up to The Bronx. Although I can handle myself, I love having Ralph with me in case I miss anything. Upon opening the door I saw Steve and he was not what I expected. There was no expectations for me to drop my clothes, no sneaking photos without consent. It was Steve.

His apartment was covered from ceiling to floor photos of his work from Jennifer Lopez, Cindy Crawford, Donald Trump, Jennifer Aniston, work from Helmut that he loved. Above his computer was a photo he appreciated of another photographer of a woman eating noodles; I do not know the name of the photographer or model but I guarantee you if I see it again I will know the photo. It was a profound photo that was inspiring. He had mountains of convention badges hanging from a room divider and 247 Ink Merchandise. He talked about his photos as an experience opposed to trying to convince me he is safe. He didn’t rush the conversation. He didn’t cross any boundaries. He left me alone. He left Ralph alone. He wanted to get to know me. He wanted to get to know Ralph. I got to see the artist in who he was. He was the most translucent of intentions male photographer I had ever met; and still is.

We began to shoot and I went from getting to know him, to being able to “feel out” his intentions and to how safe he was. I told Ralph he could leave me alone in the room and Ralph sat in his office reading and setting up outfits; because I was about to bare myself to the camera. I have done it before but this time I felt safe doing it; opposed to feeling strange about it or uncomfortable. You see, in previous shoots the idea involving artistic nudes or partial nudity comes up and quite frankly I think nude photography is fascinating; so the ideas would come up and some how during the shoot the energy in the room would always change. Steve’s energy never did. He was exactly who he showed he was and said he was; and there is a deep rarity in this world.

Photo copyright and credited to Steve Azzara

By the end of the shoot, I was completely happy with my choice. November 2017 issue he place me in their fall issue for 247 Ink magazine, which surprised me; because I have been too broke to get all the tattoos I want. He placed me into his magazine anyway…

When I was leaving his home he immediately asked “when are we shooting again?”. I was honored and we should shoot many times after that but our friendship developed into late night chats because he‘d correct you if you woke up before his breakfast time; which was after 12 p.m. He liked you if he spoke to you earlier. Generally he was asleep during the hours others were just waking up.

Photo copyright and credited to Steve Azzara

He would always have the most incredible stories like with Cindy Crawford and he was baited into a silly question and he complimented another model; she spent the night teasing him saying “He doesn’t get me”. His stories of working with Kate Moss. His stories of shooting Donald Trump and seeing a side of him years before his popularity. Stories of before Gettysburg bought out another company. Tattoos conventions. Nameless People with hardened stories; just so I felt less alone. Stories about his brother. A family member named Ricky, whom he said I would get along with and that I kinda reminded him of her; but we never met not until the funeral that is. He would talk about work. He would talk about how he perceived people. His parents. How his father surprised him when he didn’t judge a gay man that was in his house; he said it molded a lot because he didn’t know how his father would react. Elvis Presley. Being a young photographer. Doing paparazzi work.

I shared with him my life. My childhood. My dark tribulations. I was bare with him beyond the photo shoots we did. I was myself. I made my jokes and he made his. We discussed ideas. We discussed concepts. We discussed dreams. He would always talk to me like he’s known me for the last 5o years of his life when I was only 32 years old when I met him. We talked about misogyny. He never understood why there were males who wanted to take advantage of women or try to trick them into bed. He was like the Gladiolus flower, a flower associated with strength of character, remembrance, faithfulness, and moral integrity; like the sweet warrior he was. I would go over the frustrations I had with my job I was at during that time and he would give advice to try. He became a father figure in my life. He knew more about me than both of my parents do still till this day. I was not the only person who became this comfortable with him. He was someone that you knew you could trust. He was like a male Hecate that had travelled the underworld without fear but rather with guidance. I could text him random weird things I saw in the street and he was a big fan of my channel Bitten Apple TV; whice surprised me. I never think anyone watches it and make my material for my personal happiness.

Steve would always bring up my episodes. Send me castings if he saw that I qualified for them. He would bring up Ralph’s episodes. He believed in me. He said he liked my hosting style and pushed me to do an interview for him with an Ink Master Contestant Christian Masot and I did; this is the original video for 40 minutes.

there’s a condensed version of 26 minutes here:

He was impressed and gave me an idea of what he was looking for. He geninuely enjoyed my youtube channel and was extremely supportive. He knew my whole team even though all of them did not know him. He could quote the shows to me like nothing. I would share him my frustrations of modeling of being told about how I look or the excessive judgments on it; and he would always be surprised but he knew underneath it all I didn’t quite fit into the “model”. He knew I was meant to be a brand of myself and he appreciated that.

Steve had an air of acceptance around him. I never knew if it was a secret depression he didn’t want to focus on or if he was secretly a million years old holding all of life’s secrets. He never did leave his home much and always did his photoshoots at home. He would leave for the tattoo conventions but over time it became more and more rare; he didn’t always move the best so I chalked it up more to age and injury. I worried about him often at times. Sometimes I would order food to his house. If I was visiting I would bring food and leave it there for him. He touched the lives of many. He’s a gem that the world can not comprehend that they lost.

Photo copyright and credited to Steve Azzara

Within the last year someone from Turkey hacked into his Instagram account and to steal his account they deleted all of his pictures. He was really depressed about it and although I visited him immediately when he talked to me about it; I went there to fix his accounts and start up a new account. He never did really post to his account like he used to. I sat at to the side at his memorial service with anger. The ones left behind can never go back and remember our friend on his account. Sure, we have our photos specifically on our phones but it’s not the same. If the person who deleted his account is reading this; thanks a lot asshole you picked on an 70 year old man who had his own tribulations who was loved by many and you took away something we would need a few months later.

I was walking around and spotted a pigeon that looked tough to me. I sent him a picture of it with a few jokes since he had birds. He didn’t text me back. Not like him. The next day I texted again. No answer. I become swamped with work but again I had no heard from him. I had the worst feeling in the pit of my stomach from the first no response; and each day became agonizing. Where was my friend? I was ready to battle everyone and everything in The Bronx and burn it all down to find my friend.

Photo copyright and credited to Steve Azzara

Weeks are beginning to pass by and I start talking to Ralph. I start calling the police department to do a wellness check but no one got back to me. I became frustrated because I wasn’t called back. I knew his birds couldn’t survive longer than 24 hours without being fed. The last thing I knew of him was a surgery he needed and he had just returned. I call for another wellness check repeatedly and I couldn’t tell if I wasn’t being taken seriously or if they didn’t care. I finally get a day off to get to The Bronx. I go to the same precinct that would cover his block and the officer was rude; when I tried to smile with worry in my face that I needed help. He was angry I was even standing there and did not help; it angered me deep in my bones because I used to work a police precinct and he made them look bad. I had to call from outside the precinct to get a response. I was told to go to his house so they could do a wellness check with me there. I go to his house and then as I am heading to his house I began to call every hospital in his area. I got lucky.

A woman confirmed he was in their ICU. My heart sunk. Ralph knew I was worried and let me run ahead of him to see where Steve was. I was so angry at myself for not knowing. I arrived at the Hospital and entered his room. I was covered in PPE gear doubled up as I entered his room alone. His hands were swollen badly and wrapped up. His eyes were swollen shut. A respirator in his throat. My heart stopped. I tried to hold his hand and rubbed his arm so he knew he wasn’t alone. I tried talking to him but honestly over the sound of the respirator I do not think he heard me. That’s why he never texted me. I immediately realized as close as we became over the years, I never met his family; I only heard of them. I had no contact with anyone he knew. I knew it at that moment he was not going to make it although I wished and prayed as hard as I could to see him pull through. I knew the staff couldn’t provide any other information due to HIPPA. As I left The Bronx, I began to sift through everything he had ever done online; I was texting his phone hoping anyone he knew might have his phone. I started creating mathematical frequency charts of how many times he replied to them and how many times they responded to his posts, analyze the choice of words, and reactions to judge who would probably have a better idea of how to contact his family.

I finally was in contact with Ricky which lead me to the funeral I wanted to pretend wasn’t happening. I have become so used to talking to Steve every other night. I was working more towards helping him with his magazine like he wanted. He wanted me to do more interviews but post them into the magazine. He came up with a few ideas that he needed and honestly I felt like I failed him. I knew he was having certain struggles but I needed to make some adjustments before I could do it; he knew that. At his funeral I felt like “Gee stupid, you took too long.” I wanted to pay homage and I didn’t know how to do so. I wanted to chat more with Ricky because the longer I was around her I realized why he said we would get along. His service was sweet, mellow and filled heartbroken friends. We all went out to eat and say cheers to Steve Azzara.

247 Ink Magazine

Steve who set the standards. Who genuinely believed in others; even when they did not believe in themselves. Who held respect for others. If you were disrespectful he’d say, “sometimes you have to humble a muthafucker”. Built with honesty. Built with love. Built with a talent no one holds as a photographer capable of genuinely capturing people for who they truly are; he really did capture your soul and it always looked beautiful.

You are and forever will be severly missed. You are what legends are made of. Thank you for everything. I hope to see you on the other side with a camera. In the Inter room, I will do what I can to keep your legacy alive; you’re an incredible friend and you’ll always be appreciated for that.

Thank you

Sincerely,

Cadma

Cadma’s cell phone

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About the Creator

Cadma

A sweetie pie with fire in her eyes

Instagram @CurlyCadma

TikTok @Cadmania

Www.YouTube.com/bittenappletv

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