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Celebrating the art, process, and gear of the film photography community!

08 Dec '17

In The Frame: Brooke Comegys

Posted by Mike Padua in In The Frame, Interviews

Brooke Comegys

Brooke Comegys: Instagram

I’m a 25 year old idiot who’s been living in Brooklyn on and off since 2012. I went to school for screenwriting but always found myself hanging with the photo kids and even somehow coercing the college to let me use their darkroom facilities and the Senior center to scan (I pissed a few people off with that...oh well.) I originally started taking photos in high school when I had a Photo 101. My dad had his old Canon AE-1 laying around so I decided to shoot with that. It definitely interested me, but I didn’t start carrying a camera around till freshman year of college. I started hanging out with my friend Woody freshman year who didn’t shut up about his Grandpa’s Nikon and was always shooting. We’d hang out in his dorm and he’d spew all this stuff about F-stops and ISO and grain and I would just sit on his bed with a 40 of Old English and somewhat pay attention. Woody lived in the same dorm as this boy who I couldn’t breathe around I liked him so much. (Now you get why I was always in Woody’s dorm?) He happened to be an amazing photographer and I wanted to impress him, so I started shooting more. Well, the crush ended but my love for analog never did. I always tell people how some people have gardening to unwind, or the gym, or crocheting or whatever weird hobby people have to chill out. Mine has been shooting and developing my own stuff.

There’s something about older cameras and their lenses and the viewfinder that just makes things look a little better than real life. It’s that feeling when you let a kid look through it and the first thing they say 9 Times out of ten is “woah.” That’s how I feel every time.

I’ve been shooting with a Yashicamat 124-G for about two years now. I’ve always gravitated towards Black and White film just cause I think my brain thinks better that way. I think I can see the way light is hitting a person or an object and know how it’ll look in B & W. Also, I just love 120 film. I like that I can shoot from the hip easily with my Yashica and know where the square image is going to look best. I recently tried to go back to shooting 35mm on the street and I felt like I was learning to ride a bike again. I couldn’t get the mechanics down. In the future I’d like to eventually get a Mamiya 7 or even the RZ67. I feel like such a nerd writing all this. Whatever.

I really just get in these shooting moods where I bring the camera with me everywhere and I just shoot. I shoot my friends, I shoot interesting people I see on the street. I just really like composition. I try and compose a shot even when I’m sneakily trying to shoot someone I don’t want to know I’m shooting them. It’s the challenge of getting the perfect image with the littlest touch ups when scanning and editing. The images I’m attaching are those that I’m the most proud of cause I got the image I saw in my head in one snap. Are they the best photos? Absolutely not. But they gave me that tiny rush that keeps me shooting when I saw them come out the first time. And that’s what I hope to continue to do for a long time

See more of Brooke's work on her Instagram feed.
02 Dec '17

In The Frame: Daniel Rodriguez

Posted by Mike Padua in In The Frame, Interviews

Today we are featuring Daniel Rodriguez, San Diego Photographer.

Follow Daniel's work: Website / Twitter / Instagram 1 / Instagram 2

My name is Daniel Rodriguez and I'm from North San Diego County, California. I first got in to photography when I was in high school after seeing Glen E. Friedman's work of legendary hardcore bands such as Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Bad Brains. Pretty soon after that I started shooting local hardcore/punk rock shows with disposable cameras. I really wanted to take a photo class but my high school didn't offer one, so I did the next best thing and joined the yearbook staff. I had access to film SLRs and a limitless supply of Kodak Gold 200 that I would take to shows every now and then. I shot film on and off after high school but I started taking it more seriously in 2007. All I really knew about the world of photography was what my yearbook instructor had told me, "Get candid shots/natural shots of people hanging out. Try not to get posed or stiff looking photos of people". I just shot whatever was going on around me at the time: parties, punk shows, people skateboarding, or my friends hanging out at the local taco shop late at night after a show. I took some photo classes at my local community college and realized that the style of shooting I was used to was really similar to street photography. I don't necessarily consider myself a street photographer, but that's probably the best way to describe my style of shooting.

Its kinda tough to explain why I shoot with film. Die hard digital shooters argue that film can be too complicated and that there's a large chance that you can screw up your negatives but I disagree. Sure, developing and scanning takes some time but it just seems easier and it makes more sense to me. If you give me a set of constraints and tell me "do what you can with these tools and their limitations", I'm going to learn the tools inside and out and how to work with their limitations. I guess I've gotten used to doing "more with less". I know that I will get the look I want if I push my film X amount of stops and my editing process is much easier. Fix my contrast, take out the dust spots, crop and I'm done. I don't knock digital, but I feel like its easy to get lost in all the sliders and adjustment bars with raw/digital editing

What I shoot with is dictated by what I'm going to be shooting. If the venue I'm shooting has a "no professional cameras" photo policy then I'll sneak in with my Fuji Klasse S loaded with Tri-X (usually pushed to 1600 or 3200) and a Fuji GA Strobe just in case I need more light. If I'm shooting a DIY punk show or a show at a venue that doesn't mind SLRs, I'll bring my Nikon N80 with Tri-X, my 18-35mm lens, and a couple of speed lights, triggers and gorilla pods to mount on the walls/speakers. For my personal stuff I've been using either my Konica Big Mini HG with Ektar if I'm just hangin' around with friends or my Fuji GW690ii with Fuji Pro 400H for more serious stuff.

The concert photos are all shot using the same technique: Tri X Pushed to 1600 or 3200 with extra lighting provided by speed lights. I use this technique because punk shows don't always have the best lighting and sometimes they're in random places with only a single light bulb to light the "stage". These types of places/lighting conditions might make other photographers cringe but I really enjoy the challenge. As much as I love flash photography for the gigs I shoot, I tend not to use flash for my personal stuff. My first Nikon N80 had a broken flash bulb and I used it for years before I got in to using speed lights and that really helped me "look for light". By the time I got a fully functional N80 I had already developed a habit of ignoring my flash/speed lights with color film.

 

03 May '16

In the Frame: Royce Stevenson

Today, I'm glad to feature film photographer and radio DJ Royce Stevenson. He has a passion for taking 35mm film photos around Kansas and the midwest. Let's talk to Royce to see he's all about.
Image by Royce Stevenson
Your work could be easily characterized as "street photography" but there's also a lot of attention to shadows, structures, architecture, and reflections, too. How would you characterize what you do?
Royce: At first I characterized my photos as street photography, but anymore I try to just take cool photos.  Landscapes, street photography, portraits…  I love them all!  Anymore I try to capture more of a feeling.  Plus I am always trying to capture different moments and events, so as I grow as a photographer I think I focus less of the style of photography that I do, and more on taking good photos.
Image by Royce Stevenson
You have a real commitment to capturing the time you're in and the world around you. The work has a feel of being in the middle of something great and vibrant, like a "right place/right time" vibe. Is this on purpose? How do you choose what you shoot and why is it important to you?
Royce: Wow that means a lot to me that you say that.  My mother was very much into photography.  Growing up she always had her Canon AE-1 program and was taking pictures with it.  My most prized possessions are all of her photo albums.  They mean so much to me because it captures not only my life but everything that was going on at that time.  She passed away 5 years ago and I started getting out and taking pictures with her Canon 50d.  In high school and college I took dark room classes and I wanted to get back into film photography.  One thing I noticed was around my city there were not that many people capturing what was going on.  I live in Wichita, Kansas and I see lots of building photos and landscapes, but I really wanted to capture the people, places and times and of city before they are gone.
Image by Royce Stevenson
You seem to be unafraid to get close and shoot people pretty intimately. Have you always done this? Does it intimidate you to shoot so close to people?
Royce: Shooting people up close terrified me at first and quite frankly still does every now and then.  One thing that helps is I try to go to events that have people I know there.  I have been taking pictures long enough that they are used to seeing me with a camera now so they let their guard down.  I also have a bit of an advantage because I work in radio and people are more apt to let you take a picture of them.  Something I always work on and am getting better at is not holding the camera up all the time like I am trying to get a photograph of a person.  I might catch them not paying attention or in a zone.  Most of the time, the person doesn’t even realize I took a picture of them. But yes I still get nervous and anxious when shooting people.
Image by Royce Stevenson
Your work also has a real sense and reverence for history, specifically the "Kansas Travels" series. What attracts you to those types of places and scenes?
Royce: I love traveling!  One thing that I don’t think most people in Kansas realize is how many awesome places there are to see in Kansas!  I was also a history major in college so when I drive around and see these small Kansas towns I think to myself, who used to live here and why?  The smaller the town the better!  Plus Kansas has quite a few ghost towns so there is always something cool to see.  A great example of this is my ongoing Kansas Carnival project.  Many of the county fairs and small festivals with carnivals are the biggest event for some of the small Kansas towns and counties every year.  They wait for them to come every summer and it is an event they save up for!  If you ever want to see want the soul and heart of Kansas is about, go to one of these county fairs.  Also being born and raised in Kansas, it is who I am and I am so proud that I can represent the state by showing it off in photos.
And finally: You're a Radio DJ! How does this influence your photography?
Royce: Yes.  Many times I am able to get access to places and talk to people that normally I would never be able too.  Also working in radio, you have to be able to feel comfortable talking to strangers and dealing with people.  Having people skills is such a part of it for me.
Make sure to check out Royce's work and connect with him on social media:
Snapchat: royceontheradio
12 Oct '15

In The Frame: Photographer Dave Hill on His Book "Barstow" and Shooting Film on Commercial Jobs

From Dave Hill's book,

For many photographers with commercial aspirations, one of the names that will invariably come up as a source of inspiration is Dave Hill.

Earlier on in his career, he was known for creating complex, high-concept composite images with digital photography and Photoshop, with which he became synonymous.

His personal work harkens back to something much simpler--most of the personal images he shares on his site and social channels seem to be shot with his Leica M6.

More recently, we have gone behind the scenes with Dave on big commercial jobs he shot on film, such as for Honda and Jeep (watch those Behind the scenes videos--seriously, we'll wait), and quiet lifestyle images using only natural light.

He's obviously been very busy shooting commercial jobs--and that he has been able to convince art buyers at such high levels to approve campaigns to be shot with film is nothing short of amazing today.

But late last year, he quietly launched a book of his personal medium format film work chronicling his travels through the city of Barstow, CA. It is a quiet book full of revealing images and moments of peoples' lives in a small town. Dave took a few minutes to tell us about the book.

Tell us about yourself and your commercial work

My name’s Dave Hill. I’m from Carlsbad, CA and now live in Los Angeles with my wife and 15month old daughter.  I got my start in photography in high school in the 90’s, shooting my friends skating and snowboarding.  I went to UCLA for History and they had an amazing daily newspaper.  I joined freshman year as an intern.  We had to roll, process, and scan all of our own film, mostly TRI-X 400.  The UCLA newspaper is were I really learned how to approach people without fear.  It was a wild time. I became the Photo Editor my senior year in 2000.  I got to spend our entire photo equipment budget that year on the new Nikon D1, so I had a very early start in digital.

That led me to spend the next 4 years after college really getting into Photoshop and compositing and creating worlds.  I was also in a punk band at the time and started shooting a ton of music groups.  No one was really compositing in the music scene yet, so I started to get meetings and attention from bigger artists and labels.  From there, it led to a bunch of rappers and lots of CD packages, and then eventually, into the advertising world.

The entire time, though, I was regretting my obsession with Photoshop and really yearning to get back out and just shoot film with natural light.  My longest break in shooting film was from 2003-2005.  After those couple years of gaining weight and living in Photoshop, I bought my first Leica M6 and 35mm f2 lens on Craigslist.  That was my first film cam purchase since my Nikon N70 is 1998!

So it’s taken me about 10 years from when I got that Leica, to now being finally hired for some natural light commercial jobs.  It was really, REALLY tough to break out of the compositing world.  At some point, I just had to accept loosing the bigger budgets and retouching fees and just go for it.  The past few years I’ve really been trying to push film and at least non-composite lifestyle images to all my clients.  It’s been a tough trying to impress anyone these days.

The bonus from my lack of Photoshop time has been more exploration back into street photography. I used to love shooting street and journalism stuff in college and the past 1-2 years, I’ve been taking random weekends off, documenting areas that fascinate me.

From Dave Hill's book,


Your book "Barstow" is quite a departure from you commercial work. What is the motivation for it?

I love the desert.  I always have.  My dad used to take us camping to Anza-Borrego in East San Diego camping.  We’d go dirt biking, shoot guns, bond with my brothers.  It was awesome.  We’d pass lots of random towns, including Barstow, from time to time.  

As an adult, I’ve passed through Barstow on the way to Vegas like everyone else, but always had a fascination with it.  My wife is awesome and a few times, we were bored in LA and decided to drive to Barstow, watch a movie at the little ghetto theater in town, and stay at the Ramada. It’s an experience.  After doing that a couple times, I really wanted to explore the down more.

My wife had a baby shower weekend and I knew that was my chance.  I packed up my iPhone and just my Mamiya 7 and 80mm lens and headed to Barstow.  I spent the next two days walking around the city, getting yelled at and getting called a pervert.  I found Barstow to be a really rough town.  People didn’t respond well to me walking through their neighborhoods.  I’m still fascinated why people would live in a desert town like Barstow.

Shed some light on the creation of the book

My edit was really focused on people.  Sure, there were some cool/depressing old buildings out there, but I wanted to include as much of the people as possible.  It was hard to toss out some of the landscapes, but I felt like my strength was how I approached the people.

I had it printed at A&I here in North Hollywood.  I did a test of the bigger on-demand printers and A&I’s paper really kicked everyone else’s butt.  They are a little pricey, but I felt it was worth it. I only did an initial run of 50 copies and still have a few left for sale.  I feel like I’d have to sell 200-500 copies to actually make any money.  With a run of 50, I actually lost money when selling the book for $30, but I did it more for art’s sake, and really wanted people to have the book in their hands, whatever it took.  In the future, it might be nice to go big, print more, and make a profit!

Why did you choose to shoot this project using film?

Film was a no-brainer for me. Film looks better than digital, hands-down.  The colors are unbeatable, no matter your Photoshop skill level.  I shoot all my street and personal stuff on film.  With projects like this Barstow book, I shoot so slow anyway, it’s not like I’m blowing through a ton of rolls. Call me silly, but I feel like when I shoot a photo on a negative, I’ve really created something. With digital, it feels like a robot just collecting data.

From Dave Hill's book,

Do you plan to use film for any commercial work in the future, if you haven't already done so? (Editor's Note: I asked this question before his amazing Honda and Jeep behind-the-scenes videos came out!)

Yes!  I’ve been spending extra money to have a camera-man come along on recent commercial car jobs, capturing the experience of shooting film.  These videos have been getting a little attention in the photo world online, but my primary goal was to be able to show art buyers, who are always a little skeptical, that film on a commercial job isn’t stressful, but can be just a simple part of the workflow. Film doesn’t need to mean HOLGA/blurry/artsy/grainy/window-light nudes. Film can mean commercial shots in high-res,  with beautiful colors and skin tones.

A huge thanks to Dave Hill for talking to us and helping to keep film alive and a viable option in the commercial world! Please check out Dave's website and Social profiles below, and make sure to pick up a copy of "Barstow" while you still can.

www.davehillphoto.com
instagram.com/davehillphoto
davehillphoto.tumblr.com

Link to Barstow Book - now only $15! :-)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0990786706

07 Jun '15

In The Frame: Laidric Stevenson

Posted by Mike Padua in Books, Film, In The Frame, Interviews, Photography

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.

Photo © Laidric Stevenson. All Rights Reserved. Photo © Laidric Stevenson. All Rights Reserved.

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

Photo © Laidric Stevenson. All Rights Reserved. Photo © Laidric Stevenson. All Rights Reserved.

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:

Website: http://laidricstevenson.format.com

Buy the books: http://www.magcloud.com/user/stevensow

Instagram: https://instagram.com/18percentphotographer/

Tumblr (shared project): http://meetingnewpeoplezine.tumblr.com/