Why large format?Two words: Ben Horne. Or perhaps “self-hatred” would be more apt. My journey into film began in 2017 (around the same time as when I dedicated myself to black and white) with a Pentax Spotmatic from my grandfather. From there I quickly progressed to a Mamiya C220 (which I wish I had kept) to a Bronica, to a Pentax 67 (again, I should have kept it) before deciding to punish myself with large format. It was largely to get away from the computer screen that I had gone to film; and large format helped with that, at least to a degree. How? Each time I head out into the woods, I am typically only carrying with me three film holders, with each holding two sheets of film. This means I am only able to make six photographs during that outing. For those who photograph digitally, such a small number may not even cover the first hour of their hike. But by limiting myself to so few photographs, I am forced to think deeper about the compositions, about the scene in general, and about what that photograph means to me – if anything at all. Yes, there are still many times whereas I find myself photographing far too much, as I often did when using a digital kit. But most of the time, I am rarely even bringing out the camera at all, preferring to soak in the beauty around me via my senses, rather than some man-made mechanism. It is because of making so few photographs anymore that I am no longer bound by the computer screen. I am able to hop onto the computer, edit the scans of whatever photographs were made recently (which never takes me very long), and post them to my site, without having the hassle of determining which photographs out of the hundreds are best. In a way, my workflow has been quite drastically simplified. (Though I will say, I have found myself becoming ever-slower with updating my website with new work. I just cannot stand being on the computer more than I must be; technology is a bane, despite my generation as a whole seeming to think otherwise.)
We had a discussion about wanting to learn. What is your approach in this respect with photography? Is it technique, learning about yourself more by being creative, or both or anything else?I am, perhaps, an autodidact at heart. My love for learning has only increased since graduating high school. It is the philosophical and psychological which interest me most, along with their intersecting with creativity. Most fluently, the finding of meaning has been top-of-mind. This learning comes from a tri-fold: personal experience, reading, and creative pursuits.
I love to write about my work in the field and other peoples stories. What is it about photography and writing that inspires you? Nature inspires my photography; my desire to learn inspires my writing. It’s really as simple as that. My family owns property in Northern Pennsylvania, USA, and I have been vacationing there since I was born. Every family trip was spent there – save for the rare beach visit, a time to Disney, a long weekend to Salem, Massachusetts, and a week out to the western states. I grew up in those wooded trails, learning to fish and hunt at the same time I learned to read and multiply. So I suppose my love for nature grew as I did. Yet it wasn’t until a venture into a local park one January day in 2021 that this love became realized. As I walked around, I found myself focusing upon my existence within the natural landscape – not the photographic compositions around me, if any at all were to be found. I credit this trip as the catalyst for my current behavior and treatment of my artistic pursuit. And as I began to prioritize my being in nature – rather than my doing – this translated fluidly into the writing I was doing. The importance of being autodidactic began to coalesce in much greater manners within my mind. There is so much information to be had within the world that, even if one were to read a new book every day, it would take multiple lifetimes to absorb it all. Because of this, my journey toward learning more about the meaning behind art and life – if such a thing even exists – was begun, both through my life experiences as well as reading and creative pursuits.
We discussed mental health today. Has photography helped with managing mental health, and do you think like me it would be good to use photography to discuss this issue more?Every chance I get, I speak on mental health. As someone who “suffers” from depression and anxiety on a daily basis, it is important for me to not only spread awareness but also to actively learn what I can about it, whenever I can. While I initially picked up the camera with hopes of self-expression and bringing light to my darkness, I would be remiss if I did not say the art has only helped. There have been many times where the individual aspects have done more harm than good to my mental wellbeing. The business side of things – the greedy, money-loving side – has always been the worst culprit. A great example of this (though “great” is perhaps too positive a word), would be the art/craft shows I had taken part in, in the summer of 2019. At the time, I was under the influence of one specific photographer, who was encouraging individuals to sell their works at exuberant prices to high end individuals, primarily marketing through art shows. Unfortunately, this is not the way the art market typically works – but I was none-the-wiser. At the time, I purchased a 40×50″ facemount acrylic print, along with two facemount acrylics at 20×40″, a few 32×40″ paper prints, and a number of 11×14″ prints – all to show throughout the fifteen or so shows that summer. While I wish to say things had gone my way, my money was recuperated, and new patrons were met – this was not at all the case. Instead, I learned a valuable lesson about going into things too strongly, without first acknowledging possible failure points. Though some money was made via awards at certain shows, it was not at all even close enough to cover the costs accrued. It should go without saying that my mental health suffered immensely because of this. Regardless, as I describe below, I found Guy Tal’s work shortly thereafter, and since then I have been working hard at creating art which is meaningful to myself, rather than focusing much of any effort upon the business side. This alone has helped me immensely, though there are of course daily struggles by which one must overcome.
We both enjoy Guy Tal’s work, how has his work influenced your thoughts?I came across the work of Guy Tal at what could have been considered the perfect time. It was December of 2019 and I was working in the parts department of a car dealership – my job of choice while I was pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree. As mentioned, that summer was when I had tried – and “failed” – to sell prints at art shows throughout Pennsylvania. Because of this not working as I had hoped, my mental health was tanking, and my photography was as well. When I decided to pick up Guy’s More Than A Rock, it quickly altered my outlook both on life and on creativity. As I prefaced when speaking upon my interest in being in nature, the philosophical and psychological aspects of life became more intriguing to me. Yet there was still a sort of fear embedded within myself that, as a visual artist, I was not able to so easily speak on these topics. How could I possibly integrate them into what I already knew and loved so well? After a few email exchanges with Guy, my thoughts changed. There are so many intimate crossroads one may pass while venturing along the artistic route. Although many may choose to pursue their craft with business in-mind, there are plenty out there who think more intimately and thereby wish to divulge themselves within the why behind creativity, rather than the how. Because of this, there is plenty to write about when it comes to art and its intersecting ideals with psychology and philosophy. For me, this has meant doubling down on the idea of finding some sort of meaning behind art and life – which has become the primary topic of my writings ever since.
What gave you the idea for the podcast with Ben Horne Creative Banter? Ben and I had both been thinking about creating a podcast, albeit separately, for a few years, prior to the creation of Creative Banter. It really wasn’t anything serious – shown so clearly by it never having happened. But the general idea was there. So when I was tasked with creating something novel for a college course on multi-modality – and was already working with Ben for a separate course assignment – the stars simply seemed to align. We decided it best to do two pilot episodes for the course, before deciding whether to do it “for real” with consistency and commitment. I cannot say that this idea is wholly original, however. The entire project is deeply influenced by Jeffery Saddoris’ podcast with Sean Tucker, titled Deep Natter. In a way, there are many similarities between my podcast and his, though I would at least like to pretend there is enough diversification between what Ben and I bring to the table, versus what Jeffery and Sean do. As a whole, Ben and I agreed that we do not want to become yet another landscape photography interview show. There are already so many wonderful examples out there (my personal favorite is F-Stop Collaborate & Listen with Matt Payne) – the last thing the world needs is yet another. Instead, we figured it would be better, and perhaps more interesting – to have weekly discussions regarding various aspects of creativity and the outdoors. In essence, the podcast is just two individuals speaking with each other about their lives. At the same time, there is more to it than that.
As we discussed the word banta was created by the cockneys. Do you think yourself and Ben will be bringing a little more light hearted banter to the podcast? We both agreed photographers, myself included, need to be a little more light hearted. What do you think we need to do to achieve this?We certainly may try! One idea we are working toward is having other individuals on for when Ben or I are away on camping trips. Nothing consistent, but it should help lighten things up, or at least bring on new insights, for sure.
And finally Acadia. What is it about the area that you love so much?I am unsure how to answer this, as I have only been to Acadia once before. What I can say is this: my interest in Acadia has only grown since my initial trip in May of 2021. It is a wild area filled with photographic opportunity unhad anywhere else, even despite its four million yearly visitors. My goal in life is to live simply, venturing deep into the wilderness and learning all I can both from and about it, disappearing from society for prolonged periods of time. Until I am able to make that dream a reality, visiting places such as Acadia gets me close.
Days Long Gone
Fog is not something which is often encountered during my hikes in Pennsylvania. Yet when it does occur, it brings with it great fervor. In this particular case, I was hiking along one of my favorite areas on a nice January morning. Despite being winter, the weather was unusually warm, leading my girlfriend and I to strip our sweatshirts and wish for shorts, rather than jeans, rather quickly. Likely due to this warmth, a thin layer of fog rolled through the area. When I came to this old chimney from a time long forgotten, the pieces came together quite nicely, leading to the resulting composition.
Looking at my portfolio, you will most certainly notice a lack of photographs made in winter, or at least ones which show it quite obviously. Though it is primarily due to the lack of solid snowfall had in Pennsylvania, as well as my car not being the best in wintry conditions, my lack of motivation hits hardest during the winter months as well. So when the stars align and I find myself wandering the woods during or after a snowfall, I try my hardest to come away with a unique composition. This piece, in particular, was one of the final frames exposed during the hike that cold day.
In truth, this piece took quite a lot of post-processing to turn it into what you see now. Though the composition and exposure were both rather spot-on, there was a great amount of debris surrounding the primary subject. Before I had even exposed the photograph, I knew I wanted it to be quite a clean background: a pristine, white surface for this beautiful piece of nature to sit upon. After about an hour of carefully cloning out the excess debris, I was happy with where it stood. And then I felt the need to rescan the film for higher resolution, resulting in my having to do it all again. But, I believe it was worth it in the end.
Only two months after having begun my journey with large format film photography, I was already beginning to achieve photographic results which I enjoyed, which I found to be worthy of being in my portfolio. It was in August of 2019 that I created the composition known as Forbidden, while standing on the porch of Nort’s Resort with my Intrepid 4×5 mk IV. The morning was calm and a thin mist had rolled in from the lake, the weather warm yet not terribly humid. During the previous night, a tree had fallen into the water, though if there were a sound to be made, it did not disturb my slumber. If memory serves me, this was the third composition made that morning: the first two resulted in the photographs The Dock and Fallen, respectively. Regardless, I remember having climbed up the steps to the porch and was at first apprehensive of the scene unfolding in front of me. In hindsight, I am forever grateful my heart was listened to, as a year or so later, when contemplating a new “version” of the piece, one of the primary trees in the foreground was cut down due to my grandfather’s unsupported fear of it crashing into the house.