Tell us how your journey with photography began
I have been interested in photography for as long as I can remember. Growing up my dad had a Canon AE-1. I would read his photography books and try to understand how the camera worked. At the time I just shot photos of my family and friends and never took it too seriously. When I left for college I took the AE-1 with me. As my friends started shooting with digital cameras I slowly stopped shooting all together. Years later Instagram rekindled my love of photography. It never occurred to me that I could still use my old Canon. Instead I got a DSLR but something was missing. I did not love it like I should and I was never excited to shoot with it. Three years ago I found an Yashica Mat LM in a thrift store. I did not know if the camera worked but I loved it from the first click of the shutter. This is when my real journey into photography began.
Tell us about your photography now
Cycling used to be my main focus. I love the sport and spectacle. A bike race (usually) has action, interesting characters, landscapes, and cityscapes. When my interest in photography was rekindled I naturally gravitated towards cycling but it was always a digital and professional pursuit for me. It was hard for me to stay passionate about something I was also trying to profit from. When I moved to Oregon in October 2015 I decided not to continue to pursue cycling photography professionally. I will photograph bike races occasionally but it will be on film and simply because it is something I enjoy doing. I'd love to go to Europe and shoot the spring classics someday. The race on the top of my list is Paris-Roubaix.
This past year I felt like I was in a state of photographic limbo. Before the move I knew who I was as a photographer. I had a direction and a focus with cycling. Now I'm trying to find my way all over again. Last spring I enrolled in the photography class at a community college to get myself out of my rut. I got to borrow a 4x5 Crown Graphic and fell in love as soon as I made my first print. I have ordered the new Intrepid Camera and will be experimenting with large format in 2017. I don't know where large format will take me but I'm happy to have a focus again.
You mentioned Before the move I knew who I was as a photographer. I had a direction and a focus with cycling. Could you expand on that a little?
I had always thought of myself as a cycling photographer first, even when 90% of what I was shooting was not cycling related. All the goals I had were centered around cycling. I had ideas of where I wanted to be with my business in three years, five years. I love documentary photography and will photograph anything I find interesting but every shot I took I saw as helping me towards my goals. When I decided not to continue I felt like I needed to redefine myself as a photographer. Before, everything had been about improving my cycling photography and expanding my business. Maybe it's my competitive nature, but it feels strange not to be working towards anything in particular.
You mentioned it feels strange not working towards anything in particular. Can you talk a little about what you're working towards now?
Lately I have been trying new films and cameras and looking for a subject I can turn into a project along the way. I spent the summer shooting color film which was a change for me. I am really excited to move into large format and shoot with the Intrepid's pinhole lens. I'm also starting to focus more on printing. Because it was Instagram that got me back into photography, the end result of a photograph for me used to be a scan of a negative shared on social media. As I've been spending more time in the darkroom my perspective has changed. I want my photos to be physical things. I want them to live on paper and be seen on paper. Eventually I'll have to try to put an exhibition together for that to happen. For now I just want to enjoy shooting my cameras and making my prints.
There are so many reasons I shoot film. I love the variety of formats, cameras, and films. I enjoy every choice involved…which camera to use, which film, how to rate the film, how to process it, etc. I feel like there is always something new to learn. I like using the same cameras and techniques that were being used 50 and even 100 years ago. I love that I still get nervous as I pour out my fixer, worried that I may have made some mistake which has ruined my film. I even love the sinking feeling I get when I take a print out into the light and realize I want to print it with a different filter and will need to start all over again. The challenges keep it exciting. The best part of shooting with film is holding a finished print in my hand that I shot, developed, and printed. It is addicting. There is a phrase I see often on photo comments that says “nice capture”. To me, this highlights the difference between digital and film photography. Shooting digital is to capture an image; shooting film is to create one.
Could you expand on some of the mistakes you've made and how you've learned from them?
I have probably made all the basic mistakes that come along with shooting film. I've made exposure and metering mistakes, forgot what ISO film was in the camera, accidentally opened the door before the film was rewound, etc. Ideally, I would only make each mistake once and be more careful the next time but that has not always been the case. I got into stand developing after making an exposure mistake. I had read that you could shoot at different ISOs on one roll and still have them all come out with stand development. After accidentally shooting 5-6 frames about 4 stops overexposed I decided to try it. Those frames would be difficult to print but they were able to be scanned. Only twice have I lost entire rolls of film. The first roll of film I ever sent out for developing got lost in the mail. I didn't pay extra for priority shipping (tracking) or for online posting of the scans. Now I process all my own film so it is not a problem but I never sent anything first class again. I once poured in fixer instead of developer because their containers are the same. I am still incredibly paranoid about making this mistake again. I triple check them every time and try not to be in a hurry or distracted.
You can connect with Gabi Roozee on her website, https://www.gabiroozee.com/