Well-known photographer, Norwich native named Native Son recipient

Bill Diodato Photographer and Norwich native Bill Diodato and actress Jane Seymour.

Norwich - Renowned photographer and Norwich native Bill Diodato was named today as Native Son Award winner for 2012 by Norwich Rotary and the Norwich Women's Club.

Diodato, a 1985 graduate of Norwich Regional Technical High School, now is a world famous New York City photographer, most recently known for his photo book, "Ward 81" which remembers long-forgotten women who occupied The Oregon State Mental Asylum's Ward 81.

The asylum — which was the location for the movie "One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest" — at the end of the 19th century treated women with psychiatric needs and provided them with isolation — in Ward 81. Diodato was given access to the infamous Ward 81 before the site was redeveloped in 2005.

Diodato's fashion photographs have been featured in "Self," "Glamour" and "Interview" magazines, and he has photographed such celebrities as Jane Seymour, James Spader and Andy Roddick. He also appeared in an episode of the Bravo TV show "Make me a Supermodel," photographing models as they submerged themselves in a tank of frigid water with a live snake.

"I was truly humbled by this honor and feel fortunate to have so many people in my life who care deeply for me and my work," Diodato said Wednesday of the Norwich award. "I was flattered to be nominated by someone who feels this way about me."

Diodato was nominated by high school friend, now Kelly Middle School teacher Tom St. George. In September, Diodato donated photographs to the Norwich Education Foundation for an art auction that raised $2,000 for Norwich public schools. The foundation saved some of the photographs for future auctions to help make it an annual event, St. George said.

Diodato called the connection "a wonderful karmic thing" to be given the Native Son Award after he just helped raise money for the school system where he grew up.

"My father told me that if you do great things for people, it will always fill you with positive energy," he said. "He was right."

Diodato's father, William D. Diodato I, died in January 2011 and is buried in Norwich. His mother, Mary Ellen Diodato lives in Norwich. His sister, Rose Diodato, lives in Lake George N.Y. Diodato has "two amazing children," William, 13, and Adrianna, 12.

Diodato said he returns to the area frequently to visit family and friends and has a house in Groton Long Point.

"I love the beauty of the shoreline, so I return to photograph it often," he said.

He is currently working on his second book, he said, and shoots monthly for "Shape" magazine and has many commercial assignments.

Diodato will be honored at the Native Son luncheon Nov. 14 at noon at the Holiday Inn in Norwich. Tickets are $15 and are available online at www.norwichrotary.org.

c.bessette@theday.com

If you go

What: Norwich Rotary and Women's Club Native Son Award banquet honoring photographer Bill Diodato
When: Noon, Wednesday, Nov. 14
Where: Holiday Inn, Norwich
Tickets: $15, online at www.norwichrotary.org

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