It’s rumoured that today’s interviewee spends so much time on the water because he was sent by an ancient subsea civilization to spy on us dry-landers using German glass and 6×7 format cameras. Some even go as far as to accuse him of writing reviews of old cameras based on actual past-life experience.
We don’t know if any of this is true but can wholeheartedly say that Ray Larose seems to have a knack for effortlessly dragging both the un-initated and the old skeptic into his photographic world.
So much so, in fact, that we like to call him the Pied Piper of Plaubel.
Let’s see what he has to say for himself…
Hi Ray, what’s this picture, then?
RL: What better way to kick off an interview than with a botched exposure, eh?
This was shot between a couple of buildings in New York’s Chinatown with my new (read: untested) Plaubel Makina 670. I had picked it up the day before my trip into the city and didn’t bother to read anything about the camera. I blew through several rolls before I realized it was a double-stroke camera, not a single-stroke as I assumed, and ended up with a large batch of double and triple-exposed images. But in there was a lesson. Not all botched exposures are junk. Many photographers fall into the trap of seeking nothing more than technical perfection. I’ve been there. And that’s not where the gold is hidden.
As I thumbed through my proofs, kicking myself for being in such a rush to use the camera, I began to realize that some of these images show a creative side I would not have otherwise explored.
They show the chaos, the hustle and bustle, and the beauty seen everywhere in the city. Hidden in this image is not only the obvious parking lot, but also 2 other scenes: A Lion Dance on the top half and a Chinese fruit stand on the bottom. My “botched” series of images from NYC now contain some of my absolute favorite images I have taken.
OK, so who are you (the short version, please)
RL: I’m a New England native striving to tell a story – not just mine, but of those that have something interesting they want to share. It’s taken me 44 years to figure this one out.
I was born in 1971 in Hartford, CT. After a whole lot of nothing happening, I graduated college in 1993, went into the military as a software developer, got married, had children, received a Masters Degree in Computer Science, held various IT jobs for a dozen years, became a school teacher and am now an IT Director for a school district.
This is what pays the bills, but the passion is all about photography and finding the next story to tell.
When did you start shooting film?
RL: I began as a kid in the early 80’s playing with my dad’s Minolta SRT-102. He loved taking photos of interesting things, like tomatoes, rocks and sneakers on the floor.
He taught me all about metering and what the film speeds were all about. In all seriousness, he enjoyed taking pictures, but didn’t have a deep passion for it – but it was enough of a passion to set a spark for me.
I took a handful of photography classes in Middle School to learn all I could about the darkroom. This is what really began my passion to understand the medium and also when I first learned about Ansel Adams.
What about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
RL: I converted back to 100% film after a brief and reckless affair with digital a few years back. The beauty of film, in my opinion, just can’t be matched by digital yet. There is so much more passion, not only in the result, but in the process of making a photo.
I love the mechanical and nostalgic feel of film cameras. The simple dials, the “click” of the shutter, the loading of the film, the lack of immediate feedback. Like with antique watches, I enjoy the build of the old bodies much more than of modern ones. I love to hold (and admire) my 1958 M2 and my 1937 Zeiss Super Ikonta. They are solid and feel like they were built with love – not mass-produced on an assembly line by robots.
This passion spills over into my passion for hearing stories from others. I spend more time listening to them, taking just a handful of images that will almost certainly be keepers.
I spend almost no time on a computer, mucking with images afterwards. Maybe a crop or straighten, but that’s it. This allows me more time to be out there, doing my passion in the field.
Any favorite subject matter?
RL: Without question, the people that make their livelihood off the wild sea. The romantic version of what they do is not even close to the reality they experience. Trying to capture this has been one of the most exciting photographic things I have done, and I continue to head out with them to develop their story more and more.
Shooting the raw emotion and unfiltered truth of their struggles has really moved me on so many levels. I’ve always felt a calling to the sea, and riding along with the crew of the F/V Rimrack has given a small window in what the life is like.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
RL: Now that’s just mean. Ha ha ha! If I could only shoot one more roll, it’d have to be an expired roll of Kodak Portra 400 NC. There was nothing like that film. The colors it produced were just incredible.
I was crushed when Kodak decided to drop that film for the modern Portra 400. I do enjoy the new one, just not as much as the NC. I’d take that roll, put it in the M2 and head out into the North Atlantic for one more trip on the Rimrack.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of the subject matter. What do you take with you and why?
RL: Boy, without an idea of what I’d be shooting, I’d want a fast lens – and that would be my Carl Zeiss C Sonnar 1.5/50. This is my go to lens and one I am most comfortable with. The camera would be either the Leica M2 or M-A, but I’ll go with the M2.
Why choose a nearly 60 year old camera over a new one? I’m not afraid to get the M2 banged or sprayed with water. Simple as that. For the film, I’d have a roll of Kodak Portra 400 and a roll of Portra 800. This would cover just about any light I’d be shooting in.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go
Do you really have to ask?
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
RL: Cost. It seems like everyone I run into that has a conversation about film says something along the lines, “I’d shoot film, but it’s just too expensive.” I’ve written posts before, trying to break down the costs of replacing digital equipment vs shooting vintage film cameras and it’s often an eye opener.
But the main point is asking, “what’s the price-cap on living their passion?” If they golf, I ask how much they spend a week on fees, balls, carts, booze and so on while out there. Then I follow up asking, “do you really think about the cost or do you head out to enjoy your passion, the best way you can?” Because that’s how I feel about film: I am out there living and enjoying it with my favorite medium.
I also try to spread the film love by giving away a film camera and a pile of film every few months.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
RL: I feel there will always be people shooting film, just like there will always be people restoring and driving antique cars.
Even if digital figures out how to perfectly emulate film results, people will continue to want the real thing, not a knock-off. In my circles, film has really taken off in past years. Values for old film cameras are creeping up and demand for film stocks has also begun to return.
As long as manufactures continue to produce quality stocks, we’ll continue to buy them up.
~ Ray Larose
Plenty of interesting perspectives from Ray; creativity from supposed failure, a feeling of being intertwined with the gear he uses. They’re all themes which have been echoed throughout this series.
My take-away from Ray’s thoughts would have to be his conversational depth charge, “what’s the price-cap on living their passion?”
As folk who walk around with old (and occasionally expensive) film cameras, readers of this website are no-doubt seen as oddities by many people they encounter. It seems that the norm today is that unless you carry a generic lump of black plastic with a fishing vest overflowing with accessories and quick-release objects, you’re simply seen as someone with either too much money to use something “serious”, or part-way through some form of mid-life nostalgia binge.
Sure, many film cameras, accessories and film stocks are unobtainable for mere mortals (like myself and many readers alike) but that said, I for one will occasionally buy bits and pieces over my initial budget because feeding a passion isn’t always a clear-cut, black and white issue – pardon the pun.
Perhaps this is left to a future piece (thanks for the inspiration, Ray!)
Rumination aside, it goes without saying that you’d do well to find and follow Ray on Twitter, as well as making sure that you give his website a very thorough one-over. It’s a mine of incredibly useful information. One word of warning, reading it may cause you to develop an uncontrollable desire to go out and buy a new object of desire!
If you’re feeling
stalker-ish adventurous, you might also be able to find Ray at the September 2015 NYCWLK, or the following month at the New England Photowalk.
Thanks for taking the time to have a read, we’ll be back with another unwilling victim very soon.
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.