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I am Tommy Nease and this is why I shoot film

I am Tommy Nease and this is why I shoot film

Today we’re welcoming a nomad into the EMULSIVE fold. Our interviewee hitch-hikes, hops trains and treks his way across America (and elsewhere across the globe). We’re not 100% sure of why he goes where he goes but in any case, his travels bring with them the opportunity to explore the source of his artistic output and understand how he can realize it.

Describing what exactly that work is, is best left to the man himself:

My work is my attempt to organize, comprehend, and visualize the unrevealed areas within my own psyche. Some images are literal interpretations of thoughts and dreams, whilst others are more concept-based.

Welcome to the dark, blurry, gothic world of 23 year old Tommy Nease. His process encompasses shooting and developing his own film, experimental darkroom techniques, as well as the occasional digital once-over to produce final prints that leave the viewer sitting somewhere between intrigued and alarmed.

There’s a depth here that you’ll need to spend some time uncovering and Tommy’s been kind enough to share some tintypes from his current project, NEVERMORE with us today.

Over to you, Tommy.

 

Hi Tommy, what’s this picture, then?

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

This image is a tintype from my most recent exhibition “Nevermore” (2014). In context with the series, the image speaks of nostalgic sentiment and acts as a paradigm for the passage through life. One might interpret the image with foreboding, while another may look at it as an advance from dark to light.

Using tintypes, I was able to utilize an archaic form of photography in order to bring a literal nostalgia into the work.

The image was originally captured during my journey through the ancient Parisian catacombs. Unspoken, this would be unknown to the viewer, but in sharing the context I would hope that it would bring even more of these sensations into the viewers interpretation.

 

Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

I am 23 years old, and I currently live in Seattle, WA. I have been spending my few adult years so far making images and traveling in the USA and abroad. I am currently working as a wild land firefighter and pursuing personal photographic undertakings.

 

When did you start shooting film?

In 2005. I was 13 years old and picked up a camera for the first time. I was fortunate enough to attend an art program at a local university in South Carolina, and became introduced to photography that summer.

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

I learned the basics of the Black and White darkroom by photographer Mark Hamilton – who was teaching the program. The process immediately enthralled me, and the magic has not dissipated yet.

 

What about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

I enjoy film for its uncertainty and its authentic, tangible nature. I have built a deep relationship with the methods that I use, and I would not want to dilapidate my process in the name of convenience.

 


Any favorite subject matter?

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

I do not like confining my work into certain subject matters, but I do find myself photographing hands more than anything else. I think that it is a subconscious captivation because they are the instruments I use to manifest my ideas into the physical realm.

 

You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

Efke IR820. It would be nice to experiment with infrared one last time if that was the case.

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

 

You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of the subject mater. What to you take with you and why?

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

My Pentax 645 with a 55mm lens, Kodak Tri-X 400, and Ilford SFX 200. This would be the best all around setup for me. 6×4.5 is my favorite format for unpredictable scenarios – it is quick enough and still has a large enough negative.

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

 

Tri-X and SFX are both dependable films that I find myself shooting more than anything, and they are also easily manipulated for any creative freedoms I may have on the assignment.

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

 

You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?

There is a cabin that I sometimes visit in the San Juan Islands, which overlooks the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is a large single room with a loft containing a bedroom, and lacks distractions such as internet and cell phone service. I would choose this location for the clear creative energy that I consistently experience when I am there.

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

I would set up a studio in the central room and start developing/fabricating all of the ideas I have gathered throughout the years that I have not created yet.

 

What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?

In a general sense, film photography is usually mentioned as a competitor to digital (i.e.- the “film vs. digital” debate). In my opinion, they are completely separate entities – a whole different process and experience. Imagine the difference between writing a letter by hand and sending an e-mail. Sure, you could send the same message, but the experience is largely different for both parties involved.

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

Digital photography is a great technological feat and is beneficial for many things, but in an artistic sense, I don’t think it can capture the same emotions as a silver gelatin print or a wet plate. To set this straight, I would recommend anyone to spend a sizeable amount of time in a darkroom instead of on a computer.

 

In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?

I feel that there is a strong resistance to the digital era, albeit in a relatively small community now. That being said, even if the big film manufacturers decide to give up production, it would not be the end of analog photography. Artists are known for resourcefulness, so there will still be ways of shooting on film emulsion.

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

“Untitled” from NEVERMORE (2014) // Tintype // 4”x5”

Look at traditional wet plate techniques for example: introduced in 1851- the collodion process is still widely used today within the photographic artist community. Traditional photographic methods are now deeply engrained in human history, and there will always be people who care enough to find a way to keep it alive.

 


 

Did anyone else go back up for a second look? Tommy’s work has changed considerably since his first published work only four short years ago in 2011. We’re left with a darker murkier view of the world (or should that be his world?)

I’m always fascinated by artists like Tommy. Photography is an art form, that’s a given but not all photographs can be considered works of art. Perhaps that’s a topic best left for discussion another day by others with a more informed view of the world. Speaking personally, I don’t think I possess a single filament of the necessary imagination required to produce anything close to what we’ve seen here today but I’m ok with that. I’d rather wonder at creations such as these and the those by Roger Ballen,  Krist Mort and Brittany Markert, than struggle to emulate something I openly admit I have no talent for. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but art is like that. It should polarize, envigor and infuriate.

You can catch up with Tommy’s past and present work on his website, where you’ll also find details of opportunities to see his work for yourself in person.

 

Your turn

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.

 

About The Author

EMULSIVE

Self confessed film-freak and filmphotography mad-obsessive. I push, pull, shoot, boil and burn film everyday, and I want to share what I learn. It might not all be right but it's a start.

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