Featured Project: Kids of the Black Hole – by Madison Somerville
My name is Madison Somerville and I shoot exclusively on film with my Mamiya 7II and Pentax 67. I have been photographing on film for about 5 years now and gave up digital in 2016 to focus solely on analog photography.
Most of my work is photographed on ILFORD HP5+ although I do shoot color film if requested by a client. But the shooting, processing and darkroom printing of black and white film is my first love.
For my business, I work primarily with female clients, sometimes including their significant other or family, to create one-of-a-kind artisan prints that will be passed down through the generations.
My main personal project is titled “Kids of the Black Hole” and is a series of portraits of the underground heavy metal music scene in Austin, TX. I began this project right after I discovered black and white film 5 or so years ago and have since amassed an enormous library of negatives documenting this scene.
For the uninitiated, heavy metal may seem to be no more than a style of music. But Metalheads know it is a mindset and a way of life.
Metal culture is alternative, different, an outlier. The mainstream population has become more accepting of the metal scene in recent years, but it hasn’t always been that way. Metalheads used to be “weirdos”, “satan worshippers”, and people you didn’t bring your children around. For me, that is one of the most compelling aspects of the metal lifestyle.
Growing up, I knew I was different, strange, out of the ordinary. I was interested in things that most of my peers didn’t even know existed like the occult, herbal medicine, and obscure medieval art. So when I found metal, or rather it found me, I knew immediately that this is what I had been looking for. Not only was the music dark and moody, but it was loud and exciting and rebellious. It matched how I saw myself in relation to the world. Finding metal gave me a foundation upon which to begin building my adult identity.
Later, when I discovered photography, I had the exact same feeling of coming home all over again. This was what I was meant to do. It only made sense to me to marry these two integral pieces of my identity. I began photographing my friends at shows and bars and anywhere else we congregated.
The images that I produced became the beginnings of Kids of the Black Hole.
I have chosen to photograph on black and white film because, like the metal scene I am portraying, it is DIY, gritty and retains a sense of direct engagement. Metal culture was born out of a desire to do things differently, without help or involvement from the mainstream.
Similarly, I have my hand in every part of the film development and printing processes. I have my own darkroom, in a rented studio, where I hole up for hours on end, printing and reprinting until I achieve the perfect print. I often lose track of time and suddenly realize I have been working on the same print for 2 or 3 hours.
Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I refuse to release any print that is not as close to perfect as I can possibly get it. The darkroom is meditative to me, though, and I am happiest when I am there. Frequently, I will photograph several rolls of film at a show one evening and then spend the next day processing the negatives, creating contact sheets, and beginning to print my favorites.
I use my Mamiya 7II almost exclusively when photographing in bars and at shows. It is lightweight and portable and the rangefinder ghost image makes focusing in the pitch black much easier. I also use a hotshoe mounted flash on manual to both illuminate the scene and to freeze any action. It is far to dark to rely on shutter speed alone. If I want to photograph someone that I don’t already know, then I always have a conversation with them first, asking them about themselves and getting them to open up a bit before I start photographing.
I usually only take between one and three images of each person or group of people before moving on. I only have 10 images per roll so I make sure that the image is worth taking before I press the shutter button. This technique has caused me to be much more observant and less wasteful and has proven to be quite effective.
Through my work, I seek to give a peek into what life as a metalhead is all about. These photos are for the dreamers, the do-ers, the ones who have stuck around, and those who continue to support the underground music scene.
Thanks for reading
~ Madison Somerville
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