Artist Spotlight: Chris Ward

img285 We are back on the blog with another Artist Spotlight. If you are new to the blog, this is a weekly feature, where we spotlight photographers and artist that are inspiring others with there instant film work. If you would like to be featured, or have someone in mind that you would like to see, reach out and let us know. You can email us or simply comment below.

This week, the spotlight is on Oregon based photographer / camera refurbisher, Chris Ward. Chris caught my eye with the conversions he has preformed and the endless post he has showing snippets of his little projects. Just enough is put out there to make you wonder what he has up his sleeve. A man with a passion to keep instant film alive and doing what it takes to shoot formats on cameras they were never designed for. You can see more from Chris at the following links.

• A little about yourself. Where you are from and what you do.

My name is Chris Ward and I’m a father of four located out of Eugene, OR. I’m a photographer that loves to primarily shoot instant films of all varieties, from 8×10 to Instax Mini and incorporate into my everyday workflow whenever possible. I shoot all films formats (even a little Tintyping as well)I can get my hands on as well as a little digital on the side. Among all the shooting I also run SecondShot Cameras, a camera repair/refurbishing and custom build shop leaning towards Instant Film Cameras of all types. Also servicing just about anything camera related that’s tossed at me, 35mm, 120, 110, 127, 4×5, 8×10, etc. you name it. If it’s a challenge then it looks like fun to me. I’m always trying to work on new solutions to modify your vintage equipment to for use with newer wireless flashes and similar systems or any other problems my customers might have. Among those solutions are also Conversions to cameras with formats that are no longer in production. The idea is to keep these beautiful cameras out of the landfill and into the hands of the user to help keep film of all types alive and kickin’. With all that said, unfortunately the shop will be temporarily closed for about another month while I finish up all the design work and build of my current project. I’ll announce when the doors reopen to customer work just as soon I can.


How did you get into instant photography?

When I was young I was always fascinated by the process of this magical developing picture appearing before my eyes and shot it occasionally but it wasn’t till later down the road that instant film, in many ways; saved my life. About five years ago I had a pretty bad accident, blew out a few disks and a crushed vertebrae in my lower back. After surgery my doctor prescribed a hobby for recovery, as you could guess I picked photography back up again. I couldn’t get out a lot but wanted more to keep me occupied so I built, the ever so useful to many; bathroom darkroom setup. I loved it but one problem still remained, it was very difficult to last for long periods of time due to the injury limitations. I needed something faster; I needed something “Instant”. I soon began to fall in love the process all over again and all the amazing things that could be done with instant film (emulsion lifts, image transfers, etc.) and the fact that I still had a print in my hands was becoming the perfect fit for me. I loved the hues, the gratification of seeing my results so quickly, and the smells oh man the smell (yes I’m an instant film smelling junkie). I can smell the unique smell of instant films from a mile away, I would dream about peeling pack film, and the noises of each Polaroid camera is like music to my ears. I fell in love with everything that had to do with instant film from the films to the cameras. All this came to me at a very troubling time in my life due to all my limitations and the reality I had to face, instant development freed up a lot of the things that stopped me in the darkroom and gave back the artist in me that had been missing. It has put a smile on my face again and brought back the joys and excitement to face the obstacles life presents. The work I’ve done with the film and cameras has kept my family above water on numerous occasions and has truly been a dream come true in more ways than I can count. Big thanks to all of you that have supported me over the years, I couldn’t have done it without you.


What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?

Converted 110’s and the SX-70 folder have to be among my favorites. The true original classic beauty of the older roll film cameras to me is very stunning and a thing of beauty before the turning to smaller autos and 195/180’s style. And then there’s the SX-70 with all its complexity, the baffling design of complex gears, mirrors and sleek design in a compact package. Among these is also the 350 land cam, I had to sell mine to fund a current project but I found I truly miss it and the autos’ simplicity of use. No scrambling to meter and set apertures, shutter times and compensation for bellows extension, just cock the lever, frame, shoot and enjoy.


What instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?

I think the top on my list would be the famous 20×24 mammoth camera not quite as portable as I like them but MAN the size of those prints!!! And for a guy that has had the chance to touch just about every camera Polaroid ever made you might be surprised that I’d love to play with the image/spectra macro camera (Macro 5 SLR), I’ve not had the chance to play with one yet and would love to check it out.


What’s your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?

To tell the truth out of all the beautiful instant films out there I think Spectra/image film is among the most favored. More of that instant gold to go around. I hope in the future Impossible will work more with this film as it truly is a wonderful full frame format. I have both Pro versions of the spectra cameras (Minolta/Polaroid) but wish for a way to have just a bit more control and I’m in hopes that soon I’ll have some extra time to build a way to mount to 4×5 systems but only time will tell.


How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?

I had to chuckle a little bit on this one as almost daily, instant film is incorporated into my work. Either by working on a customer repair/custom or headed out with the kids to take graduation photos. Most days it feels like a dream knowing that when I wake my day will be filled with some form of fun with in an instant. I haven’t had the chance to get more Photography related projects in to the works but soon I’m hoping the more I work through my recovery. Keep an eye out for more to come soon I hope as I get out from under the pile of cameras and get behind them a little more in the studio.


How would you describe your voice or vision with instant photography? (does it differ from your other work?)

I think as far as my vision goes with instant work it ranges from artistic progression to re-break the mold, in this day and age of digital; showing the versatility of the format and it’s beauty. All the way to snapping the everyday moments into a tangible memory with no worries of having it printed later and spending time behind a computer screen that could be spent elsewhere, like shooting more instant. Shoot more buy more and keeping it alive is in part my ultimate vision for instant films. My hope is to show its importance to keep it around for years to come and hopefully get new productions from being a dream, to turning into a reality.


Any personal projects we should know about?

Um I suppose I have a couple. First off I will be venturing out to do some studio work soon on a project I have in mind called “Exposed” in the next few months to come as soon as the current project is finished and ready for its debut. Which brings me to the next, I’ve been working on a personal project on and off in my free time for the last year or more. I two months ago I decided to put orders and repairs on hold to free up more time to go full time on the project to see it through before more time passed. What began as a personal camera project has over time grown more towards the public, and has grabbed attention of so many people that I decided to go full on into a production of sorts. I loved the conversions for portability but I also love shooting with my field camera and when out in the field I missed either one or the other that had to be left behind. After searching high and low for just the right camera I kept coming up at a loss. Plus I kept thinking that I couldn’t be off shooting with something other then a Polaroid camera when here I am a Polaroid repairman (wouldn’t be supporting my work with cameras very well if I didn’t right?). So I spent months working on a design to put it all into one camera body, an older classic Polaroid 900 that would be fully universal with all my 4×5 backs and lenses and yet still give me the movements needed. Stay tuned as you start seeing pictures of the finished product up soon!


What other photographers do you look up too?

Years ago I would have filled up the page with all the names of influences, artists, sculptors and photographers I admired and that inspired me. But as of recently one man sticks out, Mr. Edward Land. Haha, I know what you’re thinking, kind of cliché right? True in a way, but truth it’s not so much for the obvious reasons that you might think. In the time of Lands’ career he changed the way we saw/see photography, business, and innovation. He paved the way for advancements in medical industries; right down to even the sun glasses we wear to protect our eyes (“POLA”rizer). He collaborated with so many other companies and even clock makers to help him in his discoveries, advancements and innovations. And yet for all the directions of photography he worked towards he is not known for his picture taking skills, he was the photographers’ camera man, making it easier for the photographer to concentrate on his work. I admire that most about the professor and it inspires me to put that dedication into my work as well in both photography and camera builds.


What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?

Just dive right in! Don’t get discouraged with your first results if they don’t quite come out as you hoped, you’ll get there. It takes a little time to get used to the film and the cameras. My biggest words of advice with instant film would have to be to find the camera that’s right for you, whether it be an auto or a manual doesn’t matter. What matters most is being in the moment and not being distracted by all the gadgets and doodads. Sometimes simplicity in the gear can render far more beautiful images because let’s face it you still have to worry about the picture once it’s ejected or pulled from the camera and in the end if that’s all you have to worry about then you’ll spend more time composing the shot and enjoying the results. It might take a few more tries then you might of first expected but that’s fairly normal and the more you work through, the easier it will become. But most of all, to me; it’s all about having fun and keeping that excitement just like it was the first time.

P.S. Coming from refurbishing experience I’d couldn’t stress more to consider having your cameras serviced or at least looked at by qualified techs if after a while you’re still experiencing difficulties. 8 out of 10 times I find that shutter timing is the cause of most problems, and having properly adjusted shutters and/or exposure metering systems are half the battle.


Where does your inspiration come from? Do you seek it out or wait till it finds you?

A little of both I think. I look into what is around me, what I’ve faced, and we all have faced through life. But most of all I grab the most inspiration from my kiddo’s and the love I have for and from them. Without them I don’t think I’d be where I am today and to strive for more every day, they’re my lil’ heroes.

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