Artist Spotlight: Dr. J Caldwell

portraitIt’s Thursday, and if you are a regular follower of the blog, you know what that means. Time for another Artist Spotlight. This week we bring you Dr. J Caldwell (on right) from Durham, NC. J is a man of many talents. He is a photographer and an editor of a magazine. He holds a PhD in Biology, but gave up science to flex the more creative side of his brain. He also does marketing/PR/social media and photography for a contemporary art museum. Oh, and he has a cat.

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How did you get into instant photography?

A number of years ago EJ Holmes gave me his old Polaroid Automatic Type 100. It quickly got out of control from there. I managed to snatch up hundreds of packs of original polaroid film during TIP’s fire sale; my fridge is packed.

What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?

Spectra AF. I love the colors from spectra film and the level of control you can get before you take your shot is pretty awesome (plus double exposures).

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

The 20×24. Duh.

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

The generation of PZ 680 before COOL. The colors are incredible and weird.
And, of course, Polaroid Type 100 Chocolate.

How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?

I think a lot about instant film on a day to day basis. I am always eager to push it more towards the artistic side. The 600 on a 600 project really showed me the value of planning out my shots, so I aim to do that more often and that will only benefit my craft as I use instant film for about 90% of my shoots. I only wish I could see how every else was making their photos because there are some amazing instant photographers out there.

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

I consider my instant photography an essential part of my work. I shoot a lot of black and white film so the color from instant helps balance that. It doesn’t hurt that the instant film lends itself to hazy, emotional and, dare I say, sexy shots.

Any personal projects we should know about?

fixation magazine! 🙂

What other photographers do you look up too?

For anyone that knows my work this will come as no surprise, but Julian Humphries is my idol. He’s also my best friend.

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

Experiment with all of the formats you can get your hands on. Don’t shirk the pack film cameras, they are fidgety, but there’s nothing like them; price-wise they are also a wise choice. The integral prints from TIP are getting better and better. I’ve been using their film from the beginning (oh first flush photos you look so sad now) and they are really tuning the chemistry to give reliable results that aren’t exactly like Polaroid. Also, talk to other instant photographers. Despite the claims of many, to key to getting great instant shots is not just happenstance.

Also, carry a notebook.

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

Strangely enough, Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is my biggest source of inspiration. I have extraordinarily vivid dreams when I take benadryl and those then serve to inform my photos. Also location scouting helps inspire me. I find a great spot and imagine the ideal lighting conditions/time of day/year and the best subject to shoot there; ultimately all of the components matter. To paraphrase photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, the eye should be lead through the different levels of the image such that the background is as important as the foreground.

Chris Lloyd Robinson recently spent an afternoon filming with J. He captured some great behind the scenes footage of a photoshoot and gives you a glimpse into the mind of Dr. J Caldwell. The video can be found here. (there is brief nudity in the video)

We are always looking for Artist to feature. Have someone in mind, maybe it’s you? Drop us a line in the comments and we will see what we can do!

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