One of my favorite hobbies is to talk photo (film photo. of course) with anyone that's as passionate about it as I am.
This time, I had the pleasure of such a conversation with an artist and friend I've come to admire, not only because of his work, but also his willingness to share what he knows.
Without further ado, I present you: Kelly-Shane Fuller.
Efrain B. G.
SO, LET'S START WITH THE BASICS: WHO ARE YOU? HOW AND WHY DID YOU GET INTO PHOTOGRAPHY? WHY FILM?
I'm Kelly-Shane Fuller, a concept portrait photographer in Portland, OR USA.
I got into photography originally at a very young age, my Grandmother would give me cameras and film and pay to have it processed for me so she could see my family's day to day lives through my camera. She would make copies of all the photos for her albums. This continued until my teen years when I lost interest in photography to do all the usual teen things. I didn't pick up a camera again until I found out my wife and I were going to have a son and I wanted to have photos of him, I then re-discovered how much I enjoyed photography and am almost never without a camera these days.
At first I was solely digital, but as I progressed towards fashion and concept work I kept seeing these images that just had something magic about them, I began to research them and quickly discovered that they were all shot on medium format film. The look was something that just pulled me into an image in the way that digital just didn't. I found a deal on a Yashica 635 on eBay, and the rest is history.
ON THIS SECOND TAKE ON FILM PHOTOGRAPHY, DID YOU START RIGHT AWAY DEVELOPING YOUR OWN STUFF? WHEN WAS IT THAT YOU STARTED GOING INTO THE RARER, MORE OBSCURE PROCESSES THAT WE'VE SEEN YOU PULL OFF?
I started developing almost from the get-go, as my customers demanded quick turn around and I knew I'd save a large amount of time and money by going that way, as time went on I just started adding more processes, going from B&W to C-41, then E6.
I started getting into the older processes for a couple reasons, first off I would come across them and was very intrigued by their look, wet plate especially, and wanted to add some more hands on to my process. I also was drawn to them because I'm somewhat of an obsessive tinkerer, when someone tells me "Kodachrome is a dead process, nobody can do it anymore!" it just sounds like an invitation to prove them wrong, and working out the nuts and bolts of a dead process feeds the part of me that needs to tinker.
YOU MENTIONED EARLIER THAT THERE WAS SOMETHING MAGIC ABOUT FILM THAT MADE YOU DIVE INTO THIS WORLD. WHAT ARE THE QUALITIES YOU LOOK FOR IN A FILM STOCK OR PROCESS NOWADAYS? DO YOU ADAPT YOUR VISION TO THE MATERIALS/PROCESSES YOU EXPERIMENT WITH OR IS IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND?
I tend to like very slow films with higher contrast, as they tend to be very grain free and allow me to shoot with a wider aperture. I quite often pick my film based on what I'm shooting. I've got a LOT of Portra 160NC in the freezer in 220, which tends to be my go-to for portrait sessions, as its got great skin tones. Ektar or Provia tend to be my go-to for fashion, as they both offer bright punchy colors that compliment the pallets of fashion wardrobe nicely without getting too garish. If I'm shooting in black and white(Ohh I LOVE black and white!!) my one true love is Fuji Neopan Acros 100. Its like film noir in a can, deep inky blacks, lovely contrast, grain free. Its magical.
Beyond that, I'll really shoot almost anything. I'm always looking for the color palate, or tonal range that fits the feel I'm going for with my subject. Lately Vision3 200T has been in my 35mm arsenal a lot, and even more recently Kodachrome 64 has been creeping in on a couple shoots.
SPEAKING OF VISION, WHAT IS IT THAT YOU TRY TO CONVEY IN YOUR PHOTOS? WHAT MADE YOU GO FROM MAKING PHOTOS OF YOUR NEWLY FORMED FAMILY TO THE WORLD OF FASHION AND CONCEPTUAL PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY?
What I convey depends a lot on my client, but in my own work I'm often trying to create a moment from a movie that never existed. Trying to make it feel like you're seeing a piece of a larger narrative. I moved from taking photos of my family to fashion and concept almost accidentally, I had begun shooting with flash a bit, as I learned how to take better portraits of my family and friends, and had posted a few of the shots online. A local aspiring model saw them on Facebook and asked me to shoot a couple headshots for her, those ended up online, then one of her friends asked, next thing you know I'm shooting for publication in magazines, and getting regular paid clients!
HOW HAS IT BEEN TO BE ON THE BUSINESS SIDE OF PHOTOGRAPHY? HAVE YOU EVER FOUND YOURSELF TO QUESTION OR EVEN COMPROMISE YOUR LOVE FOR PHOTOGRAPHY BECAUSE OF IT? HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO ALIGN WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS WANT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER?
It can be hard to keep up your passion for photography when it becomes a job as well for sure. I've found that its important for me to keep personal projects going along side my commercial work, this can be little things like shooting a self portrait for 30 days straight, or what I'm currently working on: A coffee table book of medium format black and white classic cars.
NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT, AND SINCE THEY'RE A VERY PERVASIVE SUBJECT IN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY, WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOU AND CLASSIC CARS? WHAT DRAWS YOU INTO THEM?
Heh, cars have been part of my life since day 1. My Grandpa owned an autobody shop where my dad and uncles worked. Some of my earliest memories are of handing my dad tools as he was working on cars. He had several classics as I was growing up that made a big impact on me. I started building my first classic, a 1973 Plymouth Roadrunner, before I could even drive and have had 29 of them to date. I find they have an aesthetic and attention to the artistic side of design that modern vehicles lack, I love being able to take a bit of rolling art with me places!
I find a lot of parallels between them and classic cameras, they can both be a thing of beauty outside their functionality.
I TOTALLY SEE YOUR POINT REGARDING THE AESTHETIC AND DESIGN OF THE CLASSICS ERA, BOTH IN CARS AND CAMERAS. IS THIS BY ANY CHANCE THE REASON YOU GOT INTO REPAIRING/REMODELING CAMERAS?
I started repairing cameras as a way to fund my want to try new bits of gear. I discovered I could get the medium format cameras I wanted for a LOT less if they were non-functional in some way. I could also repair them and sell them again to earn funds for the gear I really wanted. I've managed to get some fun cameras this way, my Hasselblad 500c for instance cost me only $300 for a full camera. But took me over a year to collect all the bits for!
I SEE THERE'S A TREND TOWARDS CLASSICS HERE. IS IT THE SAME WITH PHOTOGRAPHY IN REGARDS TO STYLE OR AESTHETICS?
Absolutely! I feel that the style and aesthetic of a classic camera very closely mimics those of classic cars. The lines of a 50's medium format, or a 60's SLR have a beauty to them that transcends their decade making them a functional work of art thats almost as fun to look at as it is to use (almost!).
AND HOW ABOUT CLASSICS IN PHOTOGRAPHY? IS THERE ANY PHOTOGRAPHER IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU CONSIDER TO BE AN INFLUENCE IN YOUR WORK?
I've had a lot of influences in classic photography, one of my favorites is Richard Avedon. I go back to "In The American West" again and again, as his portrait work captures such fascinating faces stripped of any distractions. I also really love the work of Irving Penn, his lighting while shooting for Vogue was always so intricately planned while seemingly so simple. Its something I think a lot of portrait photographers fail on, but you can really tell he was thinking about it. Stephen Shore is another, his work finally helped me understand shooting in color. For the longest time color just didn't make sense to me, I was strictly B&W. Finally I'd say Alfred Hitchcock. While not strictly a photographer, his work showed me how to use a simple set to construct a fantastic story, and he's another source of inspiration for lighting.
HOW ABOUT ANY CONTEMPORARIES? IS THERE ANY ONE OUT THERE WHOSE WORK INSPIRES YOU?
Honestly, I'm sorry to say that none are coming to mind. Its not to say I don't find inspiration in the work of modern photographers, but its usually an individual piece that catches my eye, not the artist's work as a whole. I find that a lot of modern photography doesn't hold my interest too long, it tends to be heavy on photoshop and creating the photographer's vision inside a computer instead of out in the real world. Not that I don't appreciate the skill involved in that, but its not something that interests me much. I'd rather create fantastical worlds in a studio and explore them with my lens, not my mouse.
Kelly-Shane Fuller is a creative concept portrait photographer based out of Portland Oregon. He loves shooting portraits with a story especially ones with a cinematic feel. He has found that quite often medium or large format film provides the best look for this style of work and has managed to carve out a niche where he can make film photography work in the high paced world of magazine, commercial, and fashion photography while still producing images at the speed digital demands.
When he's not shooting in studio he's obsessively restoring vintage film cameras (supposedly for resale), restoring classic cars, and hanging out with his wife and son.