I am Ron Ritz, MD and this is why I shoot film
Week 2 has rolled on in, so that means another fresh face to talk to about their perspectives on film.
Today we’re very pleased to share the thoughts of Ron Ritz, MD; reconstructive surgeon and Hasselblad aficionado.
You might remember Dr Ritz from a short piece we did a few weeks back about his stunning INDIA – The Heratige Collection. More on that later.
Let’s jump in.
Hi Dr. Ritz, what’s this picture, then?
Man trying to sell this car; flee market Athens, Greece 1977.
I always try to pick out juxtaposition or interesting faces when I’m shooting on the streets. Most of my shots are candid as is this one. The look on his face says he’s been sitting there a long time trying to sell the wreck and the juxtaposition of him and the wreck is quite obvious. Still, one of my favorites.
Ok, so who are you?
Good question, no good answer. Still evolving. That’s the short answer.
When did you start shooting film?
It was 1968 in Chicago. I was looking for an apartment before I started medical school. I had never before traveled from my home in L.A and I wanted to take a picture of Chicago so I got a badly used Minolta to take along. As I was walking the streets looking for a place to live I heard about this demonstration in Grant Park about some war in a place called Viet Nam. So, I found Grant Park where there must have been a hundred thousand people. I started shooting. To this day, these are still some of my strongest images.
What about now, why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
I love the quality of a good silver negative. The physicality of handling the film, processing it and the chemistry involved in bringing up an image and that anticipation getting that first look at the developed negative you just don’t get digitally. With film, you have to be much more selective in what you shoot which makes you much more attentive to what you see.
What drives me to keep shooting is simple; so many places, so little time. The desire to capture on film a place or fleeting moment or face that will never be seen or happen again and then be able to preserve it and share it for anyone to appreciate
Any favorite subject matter?
The streets. Whether it be in London or Paris or a village in Kenya or town in Mongolia, the people are the main attraction.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
Ilford Delta 120, 100 ASA.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of the subject matter. What to you take with you and why?
Ilford 100 and 400 medium format film, my Hasselblad H1 and 80mm lens. The film choice allows for different lighting situations when I have to shoot fast. The medium format camera gives me a nice size negative to work with, the lens is small, light and gets me in close to the subject.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
Any place where I haven’t been.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
Film is old school and why use it when you can take a thousand shots with a digital camera and see immediately what you shot. Well, I suppose that makes a pretty good argument but it doesn’t make you a better photographer.
There is the magic and anticipation of seeing and holding an image on the negative as it comes out of the can, something that is tangible and physical that you can actually hold up to your eye. I still love to treat my negatives with chemistry but there is also the option of digital scanning the negative and doing the fine tuning on the computer.
Finally, in your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
I am working with a digital landscape photographer. He has been doing post production digital scanning of my negatives. He tells me that no way can he compare his digital quality to my film quality, especially with large print size (30×40 inches). He is now shooting medium format film and scanning his negatives.
There we have it. Dr. Ritz has been shooting for over 45 years and (if I’m right), was quoted as saying he takes two bags with him when he travels abroad; his surgical kit and his film cameras.
Dr. Ritz’s curator, Joaquin Salazar, is currently working his way through 20,000 negatives; organising, archiving, duplicating, printing. It’s a massive task and the first fruits of his labour should be with us in early 2017 with the release of “The Heritage Collection”, Dr. Ritz’s first photography book. There’s more to see in our own Film Culture piece and at the REPRISE page at Durango Arts.
You can also find out more about the Doctor’s work by visiting the temporary online home of Legacy Studio Gallery, or by getting yourself over to Sorrel Sky at the Upper Gallery, Durango, Colorado Location. It’s a juried exhibition featuring the ‘Creativity of Healers and Heavenly Minds’. Proceeds will benefit the Mercy Health Foundation for Durango Cancer Center at Mercy.
Thanks again to both Dr. Ritz (who is still a full-time working surgeon) and Joaquin (who hasn’t seen daylight for 38 months).
EMULSIVE needs you. If you’d like to take part in this series of film photographer interviews, please drop us a line, or get in touch in the comments. We’re featuring to photographers young and old; famous and obscure, so get in touch and let’s talk.