Welcome back to another Artist Spotlight. This week we featuring Joey Early. I actually came across Joey while searching Google for a tutorial on bleaching negatives. The more I searched his site, the more I became fascinated with some of his work. The large print series he did using Fuji FP-100c 4×5 film, blew me away and shows just how great a medium instant film can be. I got the chance to meet up with Joey in Charleston, SC a few months ago. Not only is he a talented photographer, but he is a pretty rad dude too. I have to mention, that even though this blog is devoted to instant film photography, Joey has recently put out a series of blog post on developing B&W film. If you have ever thought about doing this, his post walks you through the process. You can find him online at the following links.
• A little about yourself. Where you are from and what you do.
I am a vagabond of sorts. Growing up, we moved around quite a bit until we finally settled in North Carolina. I claim to be a southern boy at heart but I think in reality I have a little bit of everything in me. I worked with a camera for 3 years or so but decided that I am really just a kid right now, or well I like to think of myself as a kid. For the last couple years I have been working outside of being a photographer, just shooting for myself and going to school, trying to find what is that is important to me in photography. I recently just moved back to Montana after spending a year working at the FIND lab down in Utah. The last year as allowed me to grow tremendously and I just now feel like I need to give this photography thing a shot once more. I like to call myself a story teller, because I don’t think it is just the creation of images that draws me towards photography; instead I think it is just the medium that I have found that has allowed me to fluently communicate what goes on upstairs.
(1) How did you get into instant photography?
Well if you want to get technical my first camera was one of those iZone cameras that polaroid made; my mom got that thing for me when I was pretty young and I remember burning through film day after day. In reality though, I think I needed something to give me instant feedback. When I was making the move to film the only real draw back for me was the time. Granted I was developing and scanning my own film so I don’t think this is a good excuse but I needed a cure to my restlessness and shooting instant did just that. I used it as a way of proofing but then it made a transition itself into so much more and became a huge part of my photography.
(2) What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?
Has anyone given you a straight answer to this? I think cameras are like tools and with instant there are too many options to really have a favorite. The only instant camera I really miss is my 600se though, I probably put thousands of sheets through that thing in the short time I owned it and (despite its size) it became a close companion on many trips. I also love shooting instant through a 4×5; remember when I said I was restless well this lets me be a little more patient when shooting large format. I think shooting any film that big has its own look and when you have all the options in the world in front of you the depth that instant can hold really comes out.
(3) What instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?
There are a ton! I think I have shot just about everything out there, excluding a few rare/random ones, but I would really love to shoot an sx-70 more (as soon as I can afford the film that is) there is just something about what impossible is doing and the way that camera renders images, I think its pretty rad. I am also in the market for a 180/195 right now, I miss taking pack film everywhere I go.
(4) What’s your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?
My love for 3000b cannot really be explained; I shoot mostly black and white when it comes to normal film and it just melds in so well to what I do. Both the print and the negative have their own look and really that film is crazy versatile. I think I could probably shoot 3000b and TriX from now until eternity and never really be bored. 100C comes in at a close second, I just love the color pallet and tones that film produces; Both the negative and the print have something about them I cannot really explain. Well see if my mind changes when I get into shooting more Impossible film.
(5) How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?
I do not thing the word incorporated is the right word, that almost makes it feel like I had to find a spot where it fit in. Shooting instant just sort of fell into things and filled a spot that had been missing since the beginning. It really just melded into how I function with a camera and gave me a new tool to say what I need to get out. When I was shooting weddings and commercial work it did a couple major things for me. When shooting events it gives you something you can deliver right away and almost curbs that impatience everyone develops when waiting on images, and it does this in a way nothing else can. For me it had a similar effect within a commercial world too, it shows that you are getting the shots despite being able to see them right away. It curbs everyones own woes about everything and makes them trust you more. I think really it is sort of like a magic ticket when you are a film shooter, instant helps justify and explain shooting film in a digital world.
(6) How would you describe your voice or vision with instant photography? Does it differ from your other work?
If I knew what my voice was I think I could answer this better; I am still searching and struggling to figure out what it is, I wish I had a better answer than that but I think this might be the hardest questions for every photographer out there. It certainly is for me. With that said, I think what I shoot on instant compliments the rest of my photography well. Like I said before they sort of just work together to allow me to communicate what I want to show the viewer. Instant is just a tool in my bag and it is a tool that I love.
(7) Any personal projects we should know about?
It is sort of all personal projects at the moment, I have a few big ones that are slowly taking their toll on my sanity. The big one though is a project that has been sitting in its infancy stage for a few years now and I cannot seem to either get the courage to start or communicate my idea fully. The goal would be to take an in depth look at the theological and spiritual state of the US right now, but through my eyes and my journey. I want to talk to those who are seen as leaders within these communities and talk to them about their personal faith, independent of their religion or spiritual ideologies. I also want to travel around the country and visit places that have been deemed with a spiritual or religious significance; There I want to take the time to get to know them as best I can. These sorts of things fascinate me, just the idea of faith is something I think most people take for granted. I think it is a pretty touchy subject right now and sometimes gets taken a little out of context, which is what I want to avoid. I am not working on some expose about different religions but really I just want to educate myself on the diversity of these different ideologies that are so protected yet controversial in our society. Obviously this is a bigger project than myself right now which is why I am sort of letting it build itself up at the moment, I don’t want to rush through something and not give it the time it deserves. I think the old adage about a photo project taking a decade is going to stand tall with this one.
(8) What other photographers do you look up too?
Oh wow, I have answered this question so many times and yet I think my choices are different almost every time, it really just depends on my mood. Obviously I have to say Robert Frank, Avedon, Elliott Erwitt, Diane Arbus, and W. Eugene Smith have had a huge impact on me but I think that is not unusual with the state of photography today. More contemporary I would say Daniel Milnor, Trent Parke, Alec Soth, Rodney Smith, Debbie Flemming Caffery, and Norman Jean Roy probably have the biggest impact on me day to day; not just photographically but also philosophically.
(9) What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?
Really I think the only thing is to just do it and experiment. You will find that no two people really approach shooting instant the same way and it takes a while to get it down and figure out how you want it all to look but it is so worth it. Try it all too, every camera and film has its own feeling.
(10) What is one question you would like us to ask on a future interview?