Tell us a bit about yourself, Bobby. How and when did you get started in film photography?
Well, to start I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. At the age of 20 I applied at the Center for the Media Arts for Photography School. It was at the time 4500 dollars which was not cheap at the time. They turned my loan aside from 1500 for a Pell grant stating my father made too much money.
I had pretty much forgotten about photography until many years later when I had gone to Florida and needed to use a camera on my job to take pictures of utility markings -or lack there of- before we excavated. I was installing underground fiber optics and camera systems on the main highways as well as building traffic light systems and amber alert systems. I started taking photos of other things with the camera, a 7.1 megapixel Kodak point and shoot and soon remembered that I had actually wanted to be a photographer when I was younger. In 2008 I found myself back in North Carolina and bought my first "real" camera, a Canon Rebel and a couple lens and soon a 40D. I was searching around online for photography info and found some stuff about film. It struck an interest and soon got my first film camera, a Chinon DSL and 3 lens from Goodwill for 17 bucks. I bought another Chinon soon after, a more advanced CG-5.
I discovered I like them more than my digitals. Some time later I found the FSC, apparently still in its infancy, and Cameron approved my membership. So in the whole scheme of things, although I had an interest as a young man, I am a late bloomer in the photography world. I haven't used my digitals for anything much since joining the FSC. I just turned 55 in January and they tell me I can retire in 5 years unless I hit the lottery first and plan on spending as much of my time then on my photography. I have built my own 8x10 and 8x10 pinhole cameras and have over 30 others from a Holga to my Bronnies and B&J 4x5.
What motivates you to shoot?
This is not an easy question to answer really. At the end of the day, I would say it's seeing my finished work and knowing that I did it myself. It's what makes ME happy, what relaxes me, regardless of whether or not anyone likes it or even gets to see it . Certainly using film, for me, is far more gratifying not only in the end result but from the moment I load film into a camera. I can remember just about every shot I have taken and having that scene for perpetuity is something. Some may say it's being able to have others see their work. And that is true, there is a very satisfying feeling when someone compliments your work. Having said that, I have not had any work displayed other than in the FSC book and in the St. Louis show. Most people I know don't have much interest in the art of photography or the results from it. And on FB sites, usually there are so many people in a group that it's hard to get noticed.
That's as a good a motivator as any in my book! Is there any particular subject or theme that you like shooting the most?
My main interest is nature/landscape photography. My problem is that I live where I live and I'm feeling like I'm running out of locations for that. In that light I tend to have more shots of isolated scenes as opposed to vast landscapes. I sometimes also use my job for subject matter, taking shots of pumps and valves and things of a mechanical nature.
I'm also a fan of shooting objects... animate or not. What's your take on those? What is it about things or about nature that makes you want to shoot?
I do stills in the house on days when I can't get out or am too lazy to go anyplace. Things in the kitchen, a vase, things like that. It can be fun to do. As for the nature, I just love being out enjoying the silence and beauty of it all and I suppose I want to capture as much of it as I can. And there is much more to it if you just stop and look.
It sound like a very deliberate exercise. What's your gear of choice for this type of photos.
For stills in the house I just use my kitchen table usually with window light. I have sliding glass doors right next to the table and the morning light comes right in on the table. Although I'm pretty sure I've run out of subject matter by now. I use my B&J 4x5 and recently attempted a few shots with my homemade 8x10. I also use my Bronica S for it's ability to focus at 18" from the subject.
For outdoors and nature I also preer my Bronica(s) "S" and ETRS, and my 4x5. I sometimes use a Ricoh Diacord or Isolette and Minolta 35mm cameras of which I have 5 and a Hi-Matic AF2.
Is there something besides the technical or physical aspects of the camera (i.e. focus distance, weight, etc.) that make you prefer one over the others for a particular theme?
I like the Bronica S because of the 1/1000 shutter speed and the ability to focus at 18 inches, plus the Nikkor lens it has is excellent. Also recently I got a chimney finder for it which is a very nice addition and makes focusing much easier. My other medium format cameras focus only from about 3 ft. The 4x5 is light and I have several lenses for it and so I have a wide range of options for very close up to infinity for landscapes. I use a 135mm Primula which is excellent, a 150mm Schneider-Kreuznach, 170mm Kodak Anistigmat and two Russian barrel lenses, a 210 and a 360mm. Also a Buhl 203mm projection lens. The Bronica is a just a beautiful camera to look at even when not using it. I have gotten quite a few comments from people when they see me using these cameras. The Bronica weighs as much or more than the B&J 4x5 but that's fine, I'm not hiking miles with either of them. Well, not usually anyway, I have gone 2 or 3 miles carrying them in the past.
Is there someone's work you look up to? Be it in the sense of trying to emulate their work or just to find inspiration.
I don't look up to anyone's work in a sense of trying to emulate them. I am not them, and I never will be them so trying to emulate is kind of a moot point to me. I am me and no one can ever be me. However I do have an admiration for Stieglitz, Adams, Weston (Edward) and a few from days past. From present days I admire the works of Tim Rudman and Wolfgang Moersch. There are a few folks in some FB groups whose work I like a lot but I won't mention any names because that may or may not change at any time. I find inspiration in these works but never try to produce the same.