Eric Butterman | January 21, 2017
Imagine your day as an assistant director of the Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York City, where your focus is on photography. It could involve anything from working with Annie Leibovitz to Elliott Erwitt. You practically feel like you can step into the photos.
One day, Erik Rocca ’06 did just that.
“A photographer suggested I contact this agency because they thought I could get work as a model,” he says. “I thought, ‘why not?’”
That thought has led him to the runways of Milan and Paris — with a little help from a fellow Domer.
Rocca had been immersed in photography from a young age. “My mom collects photographs, so I grew up with her influence,” he says. “I love honesty in photos, capturing a glimpse of something that’s natural and maybe even giving us an insight into life. I even wrote a paper on Sally Mann, which won an award at Notre Dame. My mother had some of her photos . . . and they were like mysteries to try and figure out.”
It was that college paper that partly set him on his way. “It was an independent study, and it was essentially framing and analyzing Sally Mann’s Immediate Family work,” he says. “I was interviewing with the Edwynn Houk Gallery, and when I mentioned the paper, the director said they would love to see it and thought Edwynn would love to see it. . . . It definitely was a positive towards getting the job.”
And a major positive during his time at the gallery, which began in 2006, were the talents he had the opportunity to work with.
How do you describe rubbing elbows with Leibovitz, one of the most celebrated U.S. photographers of the last 50 years? “She’s just amazing, to see the prints, to think about the span of her career. We had a whole selection of works of hers, doing a lot of American music-oriented work. My favorite we had may have been a portrait of Willie Nelson, again that idea of honesty and simplicity. That particular photograph is a close-up of his beard, and you get a feeling of his age and wisdom — and it’s iconic, but it’s not trying to be.”