Artist Spotlight: Cromwell Schubarth

We are back on the blog with another Artist Spotlight. If you are new to the blog, this is a  feature, where we spotlight photographers and artist that are inspiring others with there instant film work. We try to provide our readers with a new spotlight each week, but we apologize that we have missed a few. Believe us, we have interviews out, but it’s a busy time of year for a lot of people and getting them back can take time. If you would like to be featured or know of someone you would like to see on the blog, drop us a line. We love putting people in the spotlight!

Me with SLR 680

This week, the spotlight is on California photographer, Cromwell Schubarth. We found Cromwell through our Instagram feed and Flickr. We loved the images he is posting with instant film and we have featured his work in our Featured Friday post.  His Flickr and Instagram feeds are amazing and full of inspiration. Please take a moment and check out his feeds on social media and show him some love.

Flickr | Tumblr | Instagram | Twitter

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

I was born in the Panama Canal Zone (briefly an Air Force brat), started school in Rochester, NY (frat brat) and then most of my life around Boston and Cambridge before moving to California almost 10 years ago. I have been around cameras and photography all my life, from the days when my dad was a student at RIT and developing pictures in the bathroom, to his days as a photo engineer at Polaroid and my years in the news business.
 
In my day job, I am senior technology reporter at the Silicon Valley Business Journal and edit a daily email newsletter about founders and funders in the region called TechFlash Silicon Valley. I have been a journalist for a very long time, mostly in the vanishing daily newspaper business.

At work I am a digital shooter and on my own time I am mostly analog.

How did you get into instant photography?

Like I said I grew up with instant cameras. My dad started at Polaroid in the early 1960s in their copy department and I remember him being at work almost constantly from sometime in October until into December because that is when all the orders for Polaroid Christmas cards would come in. There are, of course, annual shots of me and my sisters from those days in a box somewhere.

He then started traveling to wherever Polaroid was setting up a new copy service, making sure that went smoothly and finally shifted to quality control so that he could spend more time with his family. This is when I remember him bringing home all the new test cameras and films.

My first camera, I think, was the Swinger and I later had an SX 70 and a Reporter. But from sometime in the mid-1970s until just a few years ago all of my Polaroid cameras sat in the closet. I just got restarted with instant when I started playing with a Diana with an instant back about four years ago. I discovered what Impossible was doing and pulled one my long-dormant cameras off the shelf and fell in love again.

Ironically, my wife had been playing around with Polaroid transfers about 12 years ago and we had 15 or so expired pack films stored in our fridge that we even hauled across country with us. So I found a Polaroid 250 and started having fun with that.

What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?

In a few short years I have managed to greatly grow my instant camera collection to include a few SX 70s, an SLR 680, a few Spectras, a couple of 600s, the 250, the Macro 5, Super Sense Pinhole, Polaroid Pinhole, SLR 670m and some Lomography cameras with instant backs.

It is very hard for me to say which is my favorite, but the ones I go back to most often are the 250, SLR 680 and lately the 670m.

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

I love the expired peel apart films and can’t get enough of them. I have had relatively good luck, knock on wood, with buying them online and the ones we kept in the fridge all those years have been fine. Not knowing what is going to develop is part of the fun and I always try to peel these backwards to keep the interesting borders and chemicals in the shot.

I also love the soon-to-be expired FP3000B. I will miss being able to use that in low light and night shots when it goes. 

With my Spectra, my favorite film is black frame B&W. The wide shot with all that black border just seems right.

I specially like the Giallo Duotone test film I shot recently with the 680 and hope Impossible makes that a permanent member of their film family. And while they are at it, how about a Chocolate clone?

How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?

I have only published one set of my instant pictures for work. It was of a series of garages and storefronts where Silicon Valley was born:
 
 

I was trying to capture the feel of snapshots from their era.

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

I am discovering my “vision” as I go along, finding that some themes are starting to pile up as I go along. 

 
I love shooting abandoned places and disappearing traditions because it feels like instant film was abandoned and disappearing. It just seems like the right medium for those shots to me.
 
I also enjoy street photography because I feel comfortable walking up to strangers and snapping away. Must be my years as a journalist. One of my first assignments was going out with an old photographer who would show up  with a Speed Graphic, asking random people what they thought of the news of the day. He wouldn’t wait to find out who they were or whether they would answer my questions. He would just walk along, shoot 10 interesting looking people and say “Go talk to that reporter over there.” Then he would flip out at me if any of them decided they didn’t want to answer and he needed to shoot more 🙂
 
I want to do more work with models to explore some ideas that I have but that seems to take too much organization for the random moments I get to shoot for myself.

What other photographers do you look up too?
 

There are too many on Flickr, Instagram and other online sites to mention, although I have said before that one who inspired me early on when I rediscovered instants was Penny Felts. I would put The Gentleman Amateur on Flickr in there, too, and am happy to see some new postings from him recently. I often go back to “The Polaroid Book” by Taschen for inspiration and I just recently got “The Polaroid Years” about experimentation done with Polaroids over the years. Bot provide lots of inspiration.

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

My advice to anybody interested in instant photography is to just go out there and start shooting. Don’t worry too much about vision and inspiration. It will come the more you shoot.

 
And (almost) never throw a picture away. It’s amazing to me how many times I failed to see the picture I had in my hand until long after the picture that was in my head faded away.

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