Regular readers will know today’s interviewee through his beautiful black and white photography, those who don’t are in for a real treat. Ed’s interview below ranges from concert photography of Patti Smith in 1976 on Kodak Ektachrome all the way up to landscapes on ILFORD HP5 PLUS in 2020.
Over to you, Ed.
Hi Ed, what’s this picture, then?
ES: This is a photograph I shot in 1990 with a Kodak Medalist II, on Verichrome 620 film. I recently found this negative stored with all of my other old negatives. I never bothered to print it back then. Today I realize this negative foretells what type of work I would be creating 20 years later digitally. My recent digital photography involves water and the patterns and forms it takes on as it moves against rocks and bedrock.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
ES: Name is Ed Steinerts, I’m a photographer living in Milford, CT. In 1980 I landed a job as an In-house industrial/corporate photographer for a manufacturer of specialized industrial equipment. My assignments covered company news items, employee mugshots, product photos, R&D records, executive portraits, advertising, etc. The company always employed an in-house photographer since 1910. I was the third and last.
My office was a well equipped black and white darkroom. When I first started, I was handed a 4×5 Century Graphic camera as my everyday shooting camera. Product photographs were shot with an 8×10 Calumet view camera with a Schneider lens. After a couple of years I finally convinced my bosses that a 35mm camera was a more practical choice for the everyday work.
My personal photography during the 1970’s and 80’s documented the Punk rock movement in N.Y.C. I also shot a series on the New Jersey Shore architecture and other scenes of Americana.
After 15 years of refining my skills in the darkroom, the company I worked for moved to a new location. I lost the darkroom and had to explore other means to deliver photographs. This forced me to become an early adopter of digital photography. At first it was pretty exciting. I could now retouch images, remove background from product shots, and make adjustments in a few minutes that once took trial and error in the darkroom.
After retirement in 2017, with a lot more time to focus on my personal work, I started scanning some of my old negatives which reignited my love for film. I purchased a Fuji GW690 II, a Fuji GSW690, and a recently refurbished Olympus OM-1n to replace my aging OM-1n. I unearthed my collection of Olympus lenses I purchased in the 1970’s and 1980’s which I’ll use with the OM-1n and Sony mirrorless cameras for digital.
Now I process black and white film, scan the negatives and import the images into Lightroom. There I can make further adjustments and remove dust spots, add sharpness, and some local adjustments. I may also use other software for local equalization.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
ES: I shot my first complete roll of film when I was 10 years old with a Kodak Brownie during a school class trip to the 1963 World’s Fair in NYC. I learned right away that you don’t go out shooting with just 1 roll of film.
What keeps me shooting is a mystery to me. I guess it’s something that’s written into my genetic code.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
ES: Before I acquired my own camera I was fascinated with the photography in Life, Look, and National Geographic Magazine.
When I acquired my first SLR camera, I learned about photographers like Minor White, Edward Weston, Irving Penn, and Imogen Cunningham.
Today with so many interesting photographers posting on social media sites like Flickr, there is no shortage of good influence.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
ES: Yes, I shoot in both mediums. I’ll shoot film if I want a monochrome image capturing a subject with an extreme range of light values and I want to retain detail in the highlights and shadows. If I expect to be shooting lots of images during the course of a day, or when traveling, I will use a digital camera.
I enjoy the occasional abandonment of electronics, instead relying on a mechanical device. Afterwards, processing black and white film, the result is a physical object bearing the image I captured. Film images have an organic quality that is hard to replicate digitally.
What’s your next challenge…your next step? How do you see yourself improving your technique? What aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?
ES: Recently I tried stitching together two 35mm frames shot in 1978 using Lightroom to create a panoramic image. I’ve done stitched panoramas many times with digital photos, but not with scans of negatives. That worked pretty well, so I’m planning to try more panoramic images shooting 6x9cm format.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
ES: I’m drawn to interesting random textures and forms. The subjects can be weathered, decayed man made or natural materials. When shooting in color digitally the final image becomes more abstract.
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You have 2 minutes to prepare for an unknown assignment. You can take one camera, one lens, two films and you have no idea what you’ll be shooting. What do you take with you and why?
ES: On my shelf right now, is an Olympus OM-1n with a 50mm f/1.4 lens and two rolls of 36 exposure ILFORD FP4 PLUS. Back when I worked as an in-house industrial/corporate photographer, I would get that type of assignment, and that’s the camera and film I would bring.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location for the rest of your life. What do you take, where do you go and why?
ED: Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah, with Kodak T-MAX 100 in 120 rolls. I would bring a Fuji GW690II and a Fuji GSW690II. Both of those cameras are portable producing a nice 6x9cm negative. The scenery there lends itself well to Black and White. Kodak T-MAX 100 has great detail, and a nice grain. Since development temperature is 75°, it’s easy to process in warmer climates.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
ES: I’ve been wanting to try ILFORD SFX 200 film. It’s supposed to look pretty interesting using a deep red filter. And I’ll use the Fuji GW690II.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
ES: IMO, the misconception that just because a photograph is shot on film it has some special importance and value over digital. It’s how well the image conveys the photographer’s message, not the medium. Sorry Marshall McLuhan.
Setting that straight is outside of my pay grade.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
ES: Right now there are photographers who love film and those that use film cameras as a fashion accessory.
I think the current resurgence in film photography will level off, becoming once again the domain of craftspeople who appreciate the look of film and experimenters of unusual film emulsions and processes.
In the far future, unless someone starts manufacturing film cameras again, the medium will slowly die out as analog cameras break down and can no longer be repaired.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone just getting started, or thinking about jumping into film photography?
ES: Compared to digital, film photography is not for the faint of heart. So many critical things can go wrong from the exposure to when the negatives are dried. Absorb all the knowledge you can about film photography. Don’t look just on the internet. Go to a library and read everything you can find on photography techniques. If you are buying a used film camera, know what to look for to avoid problems. With knowledge and practice, you will attain full control of the process.
Or, just go have fun and collect a body of work along the way.
A huge thanks to Ed for stepping up. Hand on heart, this one was an absolute pleasure!
Please do make sure you check out Ed’s Flickr (and to give him a follow if you have an account). As usual, please add your comments below and stick around for a while and catch up on what’s been published since your last visit.
I’ll be back with another fresh interview in a couple of weeks but until then, if you’d like to be featured, check out the paragraph below and drop me a line. I’d love to share your work and words.
As ever, keep shooting, folks.
The community 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.