Q: Most people know you as a musician and sound professional. Have you ever done photography before?  

A: Yup. I learned the basics with a rangefinder in a high school elective, which got me into the class yearbook staff. I even had my own darkroom for black and white developing and printing. I took another photography elective in college with the same camera. I just missed getting into the end of term class exhibit on a technicality because I forgot what f-stop I used for my featured photo. I bought my last film system when my daughter was born, to document her growth. My pièce de résistance was a humongous hammerhead flash unit, which was handy during school programs. While all the parents crowded in front of the stage with their puny point-and-shoots, I could stand at the back and light up the entire auditorium. By the time my daughter was in high school, photo labs began tranferring negatives to digital positives. So some of the photos survive in my current laptop. But all my film gear has been in cold storage since she finished high school. I’m still deciding whether to have them CLA'd (cleaning, lubrication, and adjustment), or just sell them. The camera needs new light seals, the motor drive is stuck, and the lenses have fungi, despite keeping them in tupperware with silica gel all this time. My wife later got a DSLR for a research project, but I wasn’t that interested in taking pictures at the time, so it’s been in storage too for about a decade. 

Q: So where did you get the bright idea to take it up again? 

A: When the COVID-19 lockdown began and classes went online, I wanted to get a nice webcam because the one in my laptop sucked. I ended up with a supposedly top of the line USB webcam. But it looked nowhere near the crisp image from streamers and youtubers. I waffled for a year before making the leap to a used DSLR and an HDMI capture card. The gear junkie in me still wasn’t satisfied however. The kit lens was nothing to write home about, so it didn’t take long before I acquired a pair of prime lenses, flash, and other accoutrements. This is obviously overkill for streaming, so to make the acquisition worth the investment I took up a “daily shoot” exercise for both creative and cathartic purposes. The pandemic forces me to stay within our house, so all the pictures are taken inside our perimeter. The sad part is that not a few sellers on Facebook Marketplace are unloading gear at bargain prices because they are either  hobbyists or pros who lost their jobs and were trying desperately to make ends meet. Oh, well. I’m happy with the purchases, and they get to live another day. 

Q: So far all you’ve taken are objects. Are you planning any portraiture?

A: No. My family is extremely camera shy. Our only photo ops are on Christmas and New Year. I’m not about to hire models because I’m a cheapskate. I don’t have to pay objects or ask their permission, although Susan Sontag might disagree.

Q: How about nature? Landscapes? Animals? Birds? The latter seems to be real popular right now.

A: Landscapes? Are you kidding? I can’t even set foot outside our gate. Birding may be possible since lots of them hang out in the surrounding trees and serenade us every day. I’m not sure if I have the kind of patience needed for birding, but hey, never say never.

Q: How about post-processing? 

A: Again, I know the basics, but use it very lightly. Mostly just straightening. I bracket a lot though. It used to be consume a lot of film, and there was only so much one could do in the darkroom. So I like how digital was emancipatory in that sense. 

Q: While we’re on the subject, how do you feel about the film vs digital debate?

A: OMG, is that debate still alive? I find it silly. I was fortunate to live in both ages, film and digital. Both are wondrous technologies. I say use whichever you want, need, and/or will better actualize the image in your head. The one thing that has developed independent of capture formats is optics. Glass is glass. My old manual focus 80-200mm f4.5 has a wonderful character. But my new autofocus 70-200mm f2.8 is out of this world. So right now I’m torn between selling the old one packaged with the rest of my film stuff, or keeping it because it’s really cool. 

Q: Is there anything different about this foray into photography versus your previous ones?

 A: Yes. My past was mostly documentation. Snapshots, events, family, those sorts. I rarely did artistic work. This round is all conceptual. For example, my texture series was inspired by my wife’s painting collection. One of her current favorites is a gorgeous Benjie Cabangis. Abstract, textured, color blocked, sublime. My views series is my take on impressionism, trying to make sense of a momentary glance. I also have a couple of themes in progress. The biggest challenge is sound. A number of artists have tried to visualize sound, but none have impressed me. I think It’s because my relationship with sound is so fundamental and intimate that no one else could possibly articulate it. The framework is still a long way off though. So don’t hold your breath just yet. 

Q: Your photos seem …. to put it kindly, unrefined. Why is that? Is it a shortcoming or a feature? 

A: Its easy to position art in some kind of binary between technique and creativity. Sure I’ve seen jaw-dropping, distortion-free, technologically perfect photos which are woefully uncreative. On the other hand, I’ve seen photos that are completely unique, but simply looked like crap. Instead, the Art Studies professor in me begins with Alice Guillermo’s “four planes” of analysis, then takes it from there. I might add, each photo provoked my curiosity in a different direction than what my sight experienced. 

Q: Nice way to dodge the issue.

A: Whew. Did it work?

Q: Moving on to the last Question .... do you think your foray into photography will last? Or will it just wither like the last time?  

A: Too early to tell. I only started two weeks ago. But life is filled with distractions, even while locked down during a pandemic. Some of them may be photogenic. We’ll see. So do I get the job?

Q: Hmmmmm …. we’ll call you. 

15 September 2021