About Medium Format Film Portraits
In 2018 I acquired–for incredibly cheap prices–a used medium format system of very much the sort I would have gone for had digital not promptly and mercilessly killed film right as I was graduating school and finally working a job that could afford me a camera. It was a working machine, a Bronica ETRSi retired from local yearbook photo company. As a student I had shot 35mm film, but it wasn’t until later as an adult in digital that I really came to understand photography. And here was this dinosaur, a giant clunky modular beast that shot 645, the most economical medium format size but fully medium format nonetheless. I had to know– with everything I’d learned since I was a student, could I do the work I do now with the limitations that camera would have imposed on me?
Could I take good photos on film?
And if I could… what would they be of? I knew I wanted to do portraits, but what type of portraits would suit the now-archaic use of film, and such a slower and more formal way of working? A challenge like this needed a worthy subject, and after some pondering I found one:
I would shoot portraits of the various artists, actors, and performers that made up the corner of the midwest I called home. There’s a long history of artists photographing their friends and contemporaries. And if part of my artistic expression as a photographer is simply what I chose to make images of, then I could choose to elevate no better people than the others I have met and worked with in my own time as an artist. To give them due recognition.
In the age of social media and Instagram fame works differently, and a global platform makes it so much easier for all artists to share themselves with the world. But that also makes it vanishingly unlikely any of us will ever ‘make it big’ in the way of the legends that came before us. But that doesn’t mean that only the handful that go viral, that catch their 15 minutes of the world’s attention, are worth taking note of. All around the world are thousands–millions– of artists, many of them great in their own ways, toiling away doing their art every day. Whether the fame comes or not. They all deserve a chance to feel like legends. To be treated like they already are legends. I can’t do that for all of them. But I’m doing my best for the ones I can. Everyone in this series is someone I admire, respect, and believe is worth taking note of. These are the legends in my life. Immortalized in film.
I can take good images on film, it turns out. I just needed the right motivation. And in these people, I have found it.
Reifying something–whatever that means