Welcome to this weeks Artist Spotlight. Today we are featuring the work of Blake Pack. You may remember a few months back when we had Blake on the blog with his wet plate work. You can find that post here. Blake has grabbed our attention again with his instant photography. Shooting mainly with a Speed Graflex and producing some of the cleanest bleached negatives we have seen, we are happy to have him back on the blog sharing his work. You can find more of Blake’s work and follow him on the web at the links below.
• A little about yourself. Where you are from and what you do.
Man, I have the worst time telling people about myself. I am a farm kid. I was born and raised on a dairy farm where I spent most of my time milking cows, working harvest, and reading books. My favorite was The Lord of the Rings growing up. Somehow that translated into me getting my Bachelor’s degree in English with my minor in photography. I always felt that my photography was stronger than my writing, but I love both equally and I feel the two have married and I can’t do either without thinking about the other. It has always been a dream of mine to work with a documentary team where I could assist with the photo aspect as well as the written portion on different projects. Anyway, I digress. Though, I did warn you that I suck at writing these things.
How did you get into instant photography?
Who didn’t grow up with polaroids? (Oh wait, this entire up and coming generation) Still, I can think back to when I was five; my grandmother had a Polaroid 600 Spirit, or something like that. I remember playing with it and thinking it was a magic machine that made pictures from nothin’. I didn’t understand that you had to load film into the camera for it to work. I was five, after all, and I would get so frustrated when I would click the button, the motors would whirr but nothing came out, because I wanted to watch that image appear shot, after shot, after shot. Now, I wish I could say that this is when I started, it wasn’t, but it was where that love came from. I really started to delve into instant film when I first saw a bleached negative of Fuji FP100C. I’ve been addicted since.
What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?
My favorite camera also happens to be the first camera I used for my own instant photos: My Speed Graflex 4X5 with the film back for 100 type film.
What instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?
If I had the chance, I would come close to killing to shoot 20X24 Polaroids. Ever since I saw the True Grit promotional shots, I have been dreaming. But I’d even be stoked on shooting 8X10 instant film. (If you couldn’t tell by now, I have a thing for large format)
What’s your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?
The film that pulled me in, and still one of my all time favorite films, is Fuji FP100C. As evident in the images attached to this post, I love the versatility and duplicity that comes with the negative. I’m getting to the point where 80% of the time I am shooting it for the neg now.
How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?
In the past, I only used instant films for personal work or special projects. But just this summer I blew threw 8 packs (4 FP100C and 4 FP3000B) at a wedding. In fact, at a wedding I did in Reno, 3000B saved my ass. The wedding had fallen so far behind schedule, that the small amount of lighting they had set up was all but useless. They couple was exiting for the evening, and for whatever reason my main camera jammed. In desperation, I grabbed my Mamiya Universal. I fired and prayed. It ended up being best shot of the evening in my opinion.
How would you describe your voice or vision with instant photography? (does it differ from your other work?)
One of my favorite things about Instant film is that it pairs so well with my “style” of photography. It has many of the aspects that drew me into film in the first place. I love the tangible, hands on, organic feel, the subtle flaws and the imperfections that come with the process. I had a buddy of mine say I was like Jack White (not in artistry, but process): I need a bit of a challenge, a more haptic approach and I get that with instant film.
Any personal projects we should know about?
In relation to instant film and my regular work, I have been doing wet-plate collodion for the past few years. I’ve even had the pleasure of have some of that featured here before. Until now, I have only made 4X5 tintypes and plates. But this fall I finally finished building my 8X10 camera and have since made my first few plates. I can’t wait for the snowboarding season to come in full swing so I can start the series I have been pining to do since I started the process: photographing snowboarders. I’ve always had a thing for environmental-esque portraiture. Naturally I will be shooting instant film as well.
What other photographers do you look up too?
I could not begin to list the people who inspire me in life and photography. I love that I live where I do because I am surrounded by many of them. And for those that don’t, I have the Interwebs.
What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?
One of the first things I would tell someone who is getting into instant film is to lean how to expose it. I know that’s pretty obvious, but one of the biggest frustrations that I had when getting into shooting and bleaching instant photos was learning that you can’t expose for the print and the negative. You have to choose. A great print usually struggles when being bleached, where an image great for bleaching would be a bit dull and underexposed. People often ask why my instant negs look way they do, and it is because of how you expose the shot.
Where does your inspiration come from? Do you seek it out or wait till it finds you?
I am definitely a conceptualist. I often get an idea for a shoot, but it needs to bake. Sometimes that inspiration comes from combining two ideas, or from seeing the work of someone truly inspiring.