In The Frame: Laidric Stevenson
Print your pictures. That's the thing that is missing in a lot of photographer's workflows: the final print. In an analog process like film photography, a finished print is the thing that can keep the "tangibility" of shooting with film a tangible, living thing.
Especially important is collecting your work in cohesive volumes and collections, such as books. Today, we're talking to another film shooter who has created two books, with more on the way. Volume 1 is a book with images created across the country using only a Holga, and I Spent a Sunday in Miami was a project born out of spontaneity where the photographer hopped on a plane to Miami specifically to create the book, using medium format film. Let's get to talking to Laidric:
1) Tell us a bit about yourself, and what type of subjects you typically like to shoot the most. Hello, I'm Laidric Stevenson, residing in the city of Dallas, located in the Great State of Texas! Not a native however, just got down here as quickly as I could! I'm what happened to that high school newspaper / yearbook photogeek that you would see at basketball and football games, roaming the halls with a camera, or flashing you in the face during prom... I guess you can say that my formal training was photojournalism? Although, I never worked for a daily paper or weekly magazine, I still approach subjects with that sort of mindset. Get the wide establishing shot, then move in to the details to tell the story. I don't know if there's a subject that I like to shoot the most, my photos are my reactions to situations and objects that I come across in the wild. I will say that I am drawn alot to text and image, especially when the meaning can change when you take it out of the context of being an advertisment, or whatever the original intent was.
2) You have two books that are in print: Tell us about what inspired you to take those particular series of photos and put them in printed volumes. Volume 1 is a collection of images from my America Untitled series, which grew originally out of having to use a Holga camera for an assignment in my Intermediate Photo class back in 2005. I was a rigid purist up to that point, black and white film only, manual focus, manual exposure, etc. Using this camera that had gave me little to no control, that allowed me to shoot in a free-flowing stream of consciousness, and gave these dreamy, hazy, and techincally poor images, was a rebirth for me photographically. I started shooting any and everything I came across. As I started going through the negatives, certain themes kept reappearing; class & income inequality, patriotism, religion. After I had to leave school that year due to other obligations, I set everything aside for a few years. After my wife and I purchased our first home in 2011, I started shooting again, as well as travelling for the first time to photograph; New Orleans, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Antonio. I picked areas / cities at random, there really wasn't any rhyme or reason to it. I knew that the photos would eventualy end up in a book format, because I felt that the overall statement that I was making came from the images playing off of each other. The book is called Vol 1, because the intent was to release the series in a serial format, every couple of years make a book, and get it out into the world. I Spent a Sunday in Miami was actually the first book that I made, and I made it because I was inspired by all of the small photobooks / zines that I had been buying off of other photographers. I would just see someone's book on Instagram, or come across someone's tumblr and I would just buy it. After a while, I thought "I should be doing one of these", but I didn't know what to do one on. While on Facebook one night, I came across something about Urban Beach Weekend on South Beach (I think from a friend of a friend liking something and it showing up on my news feed), and I instantly thought, "I'm going to Miami for that". I jumped on a plane, and spent the Sunday before Memorial Day walking up and down Collins St and Ocean St on South Beach. I shot 6 rolls of 6x7 image on 220 film, which is 120 photographs, then I came home scanned and edited, put the book together and sent it to a few friends.
3) It seems that you seem quite comfortable with interacting people and taking photos of them quite closely. How do you interact with these people? I wouldn't say that I'm comfortable interacting with people, I'm actually a shy person by nature (as alot of photographers are), I'm also a bit introverted and I tend to disappear into crowds of people, which makes for some good street shootin' (no g, it sounds dirtier that way...). I don't consider myself to be a street photographer by any definition, but I think that I do have those traits that allow me to blend into the environment. I think it also helps when you photograph in places where people are naturally comfortable and unaware in their surroundings. For example, in Miami, there were so many people with video cameras (trying to videotape the girls in bikinis) and photographers (searching for "models"), that people weren't apprehensive, like "What's that guy doing with that camera, what are you taking pictures for?!" The only opposition was the photo in the book with the woman that has a snake draped on her shoulders, and there's another woman with her hand up in a "No Pictures" gesture towards me. She actually said 'no pictures', but I had already made the shot, so what are you going to do? That was actually one of my favorite photos from that trip, and I actually walked past them at first! I don't generally interact with people when I'm out shooting, unless they are the ones initiating the interaction, these are generally the "What are you taking pictures for?" people. Which I get, to a point. The public at large generally views the usage of photography as a tool of record; recording some event like a graduation or wedding or a concert. Even as photography is viewed these days as a major tool of communication, it's mostly "We were here, look at this". It's just replacing or accompanying words / text that would normally be used, a visual shorthand as I've heard it referred to. And it's difficult for them to understand why someone would making photographs that aren't going to be used in that fashion, or maybe they think that there's some more ominous intentions at work. Which of course with the way that photos are taken and spread these days (like in internet memes), or how corporations will take and use images without permission without a second thought, I get that as well. After we get past the "What are you taking pictures for?", if we do get past that that is, as some people are just opposed to cameras and photography in public. I've been meaning to start carrying around some materials, not for marketing purposes, just a 'this is me, who I am, what I do'. I've been looking at a couple of print on demand companies that offer small (3.5 x 2.5) inch books, something to fit in a coat or pants pocket. A conversation difuser / starter so to say.
4) What inspired you to use film for these projects? I only have one digital camera currently, a Fuji Xpro-1, and I mostly use that for family snapshots and such, when I'm out to do what I consider my serious work, I'm always grabbing a film camera. I just have so many more options with my film cameras, do I want the grainess and portability of 35mm, or do I want the resolution and tonal richness of medium format? Or do I want the holga? And when I get my hands on a 4x5, that will give me another option. I think personally for me, that's what keeps me using film, that choice in tools, choosing a different tool, changes my approach and mindset on making the work. That and the whole process of film photography, editing raw files in Lightroom, I can't stand that for more than 15-20 seconds, it just bores me to no end...but I can sit there and spot a film scan for minutes on end. I just seem to have more patience with film.
5) What kind of cameras/film did you use for these projects? The Volume 1 book was a combination of Tri-X / HP5 (which ever one I found cheaper or more available) with various Holga cameras. I Spent a Sunday in Miami is Fuji 160s and Portra 400 with a Mamiya 7 + 80mm
6) What are you working on next? What new projects can we expect from you? Right now, I'm juggling being a new father (with a soon to be 6 month old) with a bunch of scattershot ideas. I've actually changed to carrying all small compact 35mm cameras, Olympus XA, Stylus Epic, Nikon Lite Touch, etc and that is strongly influencing my current approach to making new work. One of my biggest photographic influences / favorite photographers is Lee Friedlander, and I've found myself making images inspired by his America by Car series, it's only a few months old at this point, and I'm not sure where I'm going to go with it at this point, but I've gotten to a stage in my photography where if I have an idea and I feel strongly enough to work on it, I want it to naturally run it's course to where I can feel like "Okay, that's done" I started a series about Miami that's on hold. Not just Miami, Florida, there are 11 states that have a city named Miami (maybe not pronounced the same, but spelled the same); Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia. I want to do a compare / contrast of the differences (and similarities) of these places with the same name but spread out throughout the country. Due to the amount of travel that something of this scope pertains, it will take me some time before I feel I have enough work to show. I keep coming back to America as a theme and subject, so I have another series called GBA or God Bless America (that's a working title), this project I feel is an extension of America Untitled, but taking me down what I feel is a different pathway. Then of course, I just have random images that don't really fit any particular project or theme, I just see something, and I shoot it. And of course, more books on the horizon!
Please make sure to check out more of Laidric's work, and buy his books at the links below:
Buy the books: http://www.magcloud.com/user/stevensow
Tumblr (shared project): http://meetingnewpeoplezine.tumblr.com/