I had a big editorial photography project in my studio last week. I knew I wanted to do a little practice on the day prior to make sure I had the lighting just right. And, I wanted to do what I wanted. I seek opportunities to photograph beyond the “shot list” that I collaborate with companies to create. For most of my career, photographers with some longevity have told me, “You’ve got to do personal projects,” and for many years, I wondered how. How could I afford to do that when I was just hustling to try to earn a living? And, about ten years in, I get it. How can I afford not to create personal work? This session is a deposit into my creative bank account. It’s sure to sustain me in ways that money can’t. And, every time I create something I love, the people who love my creative vision find me. For a few years, I only posted film images on my social media, and still, it’s the majority of what you’ll see on my site. Sometimes people know film; other times, people say, “I’m not exactly sure what it is, but your work is different and I love it.”
I met Johnica a little over a year ago when I photographed her mother’s funeral. It was the beginning of the pandemic. It’s the only funeral I’ve ever photographed. I can’t really remember how I came to be there at a Facebook friend’s funeral. We’d never met. I follow my intuition. I’m not the most talented photographer or the most technical. I certainly don’t have the best gear or the biggest studio. But, I have a strong intuition. And creating (i.e., the flow state) only makes it stronger.
Anyway, when she arrived at my studio to help me with this project last week, she started asking me about where to process film, specifically Ilford HP5. Um, in nearly four decades on this Earth, I can only recall one other person who’s asked me about where to process Ilford film. I mean, you who’s reading this…have you heard of Ilford film? Maybe. Maybe not. So, I told her a few places where I like to have film processed. Up until that point, I’d been high key light testing for my editorial shoot on my workhorse digital camera that I had tethered to the computer.
I set my Sony down, and said, “Hang on, I’ve got a roll of Ilford HP5 in the fridge.” Ilford HP5 is not my favorite black and white film (Ilford Super XP2 which is actually processed like color film is), but I knew when she mentioned it, that lone roll in the fridge was meant for her. I shot 16 frames in a matter of minutes. The process was fun and frivolous, and as is the case with film, when Richard Photo Lab delivered the scans to my inbox tonight, I felt all the feels all over again. Prior to receiving the film, I was fairly happy with that digital work. Lots of photographers try to make digital photography look like film. But, there’s something to be said for just using the correct tool for the job. Film isn’t for everything, but wow, I wish it were. Look how beautiful these are in their simplicity. I was also finishing a roll of Portra 800 35 mm that I shoot just for fun around town, so there are a few color double exposures on that film stock. With all of these, I used a couple of Profoto lights. If you know photography, you know that by the catch lights in her eyes.
In this world where our work can demand much from us, I think we all must have some activity that reconnects us to our sense of Self…or intuition or the Divine. Whatever you want to call it. Creating art does that for me. My paid work is better when I make time for personal projects that thrill me. I try to schedule at least a few hours a week for what I call “Spontaneous Boredom.” Sometimes I paint water colors, or chop vegetables, or play in my studio or thumb through a magazine. It seems indulgent, but I’m a better photographer for it.
If you’re into black and white photography and would like to do a studio session (like this but different), send me an email via the contact form. I’d love to create something with you.