Regular readers should be familiar with the recent #5FramesWith article by today’s interviewee. If you’re not, click away and check it out for some lovely large format photography.
When you’re ready, it’s time to meet Antonio Lastoria!
Hi Antonio, what’s this picture, then?
AL: This is place in the city where I live called the Scarborough Bluffs,. Also known as the Bluffs, the area faces continual risks from erosion. Over the years, the city has worked at protecting the shoreline by adding boulders, rocks and tress to help slow the onslaught of the wind and water .
It is a place I have visited numerous times over the years. No matter at what of time of day or season I visit, I usually find a special image. It is also the place where I first started to explore landscape photography with my Linhof Technika V. For me, the most powerful moments of this place are being here just before sunrise and then waiting for the sun to crest over Lake Ontario. As soon as this happens, the cacophony of chirps, trills and shrieks disturbs the peacefulness of the morning. Then, all of sudden, the birds are off and heading towards the sun.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
AL: I am a first generation Canadian (eh!) from immigrant Italian parents, which was a problem growing up, since I would not conform. A rebel, instigator, troublemaker would be appropriate terms used to describe me, but age has soften some of these edges. As a wallflower in social situations, I tend to gravitate toward inanimate subject matter, but I am attempting to work outside my comfort zone, so people are in the cards.
I have been fortunate to travel because of my work which afforded me the opportunity to meet and interact with different people and cultures. Luck of the draw has given me the privilege of living in a great part of the world
Finally, I think I am one of the luckiest people around as I have a beautiful spouse and great son who understand my creative need and patiently support and encourage my photography.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
AL: Back in High School in 70’s, using a Kodak Instamatic doing snaps of the family. It was not until my late 20’s that I really started to focus on photography as my creative outlet and have not stopped since. The natural progression, started with 35mm and then moving to 6×6 , 6×7 and finally settling on 4×5 for many years.
For a short period, I dabbled with 8X10, but I found this format a bit too cumbersome due to the rickety 100-year camera I was using. It did not matter how much time and effort I spent trying to secure the camera it never failed to move just before I pressed the shutter. I really enjoy large format photography, as it is a slow meditative approach that forces me spend more time with my subject.
Nowadays, 35mm and 6×6 are formats I use when shooting film. Film has an organic natural look as I really have come to love film grain. This is not something I would admit when I used 4×5 because, back then, grain was the enemy in my eyes, and I did everything to reduce it. In addition, using film requires me to be more cognizant of the process because if I make a mistake I will not know until I am looking at my negatives, which is too late.
One of my biggest concerns with digital images is storage, raw formats, potential compatibility issues and not being able to access my images in 10 or 20 years. I currently, have 12TB of storage in my computer and an additional to 24TB backup storage, as I am terrified of losing my work. I am sure there is a better way and maybe your readers can provide some guidance.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
AL: Back in high school, I had this delusion of being an architect. I really enjoyed drawing, working with line and space, but I soon realized I would rather shoot pool than study, so that idea went up in smoke. Although a career in architecture did not materialize, I am still drawn to architectural subjects, so I would say Eugene Atget’s and Kirk Getty’s work provided a lot of inspiration in this area.
Fast forward to my early 20’s after working in a number of dead in jobs I decided to return to school. This time no pool and more study where I focused on electronics. This eventually led to a rewarding career, in guess what – management. How does working in management translate to a creative outlet in photography, well it doesn’t, but it has allowed me to the opportunity to experiment with many film cameras.
Architecture and landscape photography have been a significant part of life, but now, I am devoting a lot of my photographic energy to people I encountered on the street. I call this photography taking my camera for a walk. Personally, these photo walks have been very rewarding, mainly, because it allows me to do something I thought I could not do. It also has allowed me to meet many interesting people.
These photographic adventures have opened my eyes to many photographic opportunities that transpire around us every day. Not to mention, the challenge of having mere seconds to make a decision on pre-focusing and proper exposures based on subject distance and lighting – manual cameras with no exposure meter keep me on my toes ☺.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
AL: Yes, definitely!
These days, I try to use film for most of my people photography as I like the raw gritty nature of the film I am using. Although I use both 35mm and 6×6 film for these photographs, I really enjoy using a TLR camera in these situations.
These cameras allow me to be less conspicuous than using a 35mm camera because there is no need to bring the camera to my eye. I am a 6’3” male and I don’t hide easily in a crowd, so using a TLR enables me to be less conspicuous in public. As well, the TLR is a great icebreaker where I can start many conversations with people that are drawn to this old quirky looking camera.
Many times, I will also carry a digital camera, especially if I am going to be photographing when it gets dark and I need more speed – I typically do not push film.
Here is an interesting link to an article on film pushing that your readers may enjoy ☺.
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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?
AL: I am starting to explore long exposure film photography, which I typically have only done in the digital realm. I am going to be using a Hasselblad 503CX camera for this work. It will be nice to use a tripod again forcing me to really slow down and spend more time at each scene. I hope to develop two bodies of work from this project – architectural elements and landscapes in and around the province of Ontario.
In regards to improving my technique, I have decided to use only one film and one developer, so I can really learn these materials – Kodak Tri-X and Rodinal. My moto when using these materials is, embrace the grain!
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
AL: I think it is obvious by now that I like architecture, landscape and people photography. The most telling sign of my work is that I exclusively work in black & white, which was a creative choice that I made at the onset of my photographic journey.
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?
AL: For the camera, it has to be my Rolleiflex with the 80mm f2.8 lens (there are no lens choices because it is a fixed lens camera) that is relatively compact and lightweight. Film is going to be tough one – I think it will be Kodak Tri-X and let think about the next roll, maybe Kodak Tri-X.
Tri-X is my go to film for the last couple of years and I do not plan to change that any time soon. There are many great films, but I have decided to stick with just one, as I want to limit the variables of the photographic process.
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?
AL: Duh? – Tri-X, I guess.
Location – Kensington Market in Toronto. Here is a description of the area I found on the net.
“Kensington Market is a walkable bohemian neighbourhood that draws artists and tourists to its indie shops, vintage boutiques and arts spaces. The Market is also home to a wide array of specialty grocers, bakeries and cheese shops. Hipsters frequent trendy bars, cafes and international restaurants that range from casual to fine dining. Students and families populate Victorian houses along tree-lined streets.”
The ‘Market’ is a treasure-trove of photographic opportunities where it would be very difficult to get bored, especially true for people photography.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
AL: No! it can’t be.
Well, I guess I am going to have to learn how to make emulsion and the coating process. If that doesn’t work out, then I’ll have to start a crowdsourcing campaign.
Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland is the place for me to be with my last roll of film. I would mount my Hasselblad on tripod, load the camera with Ilford Pan F (I really should say Tri-X) while I slowly absorb the majestic beauty of this land. After each exposure, I would have a celebratory toast with my favorite firewater – Lagavulin. This Islay malt is a deep, dry and exceptionally peaty and considered most pungent of all Islay malts. Much like Newfoundland, Lagavulin is not for the faint-hearted but inspires fanatical devotion in its many followers.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
AL: I encounter many people on the street and usually get number of comments or questions when they see me with my film cameras. Does that camera work,? Do they still make film? It must be very expensive.
All I can say is that the demise film has been greatly exaggerated. I live in Toronto, Canada and we have a very vibrant user community. Film is readily available in our area and one store, Downtown Camera, provides many different film stocks with fast film processing service.
Regarding film being expensive, all I can is that If you are a photographer that works on the premise of spray and pray approach; then film can be expensive. However, if you are a diligent photographer where you know your materials, understand your camera controls and have a good grasp of photography fundamentals, then I am confident your hit rate will high; thereby, reducing costs.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
AL: I am very encouraged by all new film stocks being introduced and it seems there are many younger photographers willing to explore this medium. This renewed interest should keep film alive for many years to come and I am hopeful this is not a passing fade. I believe that If new film photographers take the time to understand their tools they will appreciate the subtleties of film and continue using it in their creative process.
~ Antonio Lastoria
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