35mm, medium format, large format…today’s interviewee takes it all in his stride, shooting developing and printing everything himself as he goes. Oh, and he’s into year two of an ongoing large format 365 project. Someone keep this man in developer so we can see how far he goes.
It’s time to hand over to the one and only Brian Miner.
Hi Brian, what’s this picture, then?
This is one of my rare color 4×5 exposures from 2015. Most were black and white for my 4×5 365 project.
I planned this shot for several days in advance using desktop astronomy software and google maps.
There are obvious flaws. My timing on each exposure and calculating the exposure for the moon was less than perfect. 4+ hours of camera discipline is not simple.
That said, this is 26 exposures on a single film sheet during a 2015 total lunar eclipse. All without the luxury of Photoshop.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
I’m just a guy with a passion for photography. Husband, father, IT worker.
When did you start shooting film and what about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
May 7, 1984. I begged my mother for a Pentax ME super for my 13th birthday. I took horrible photos of everything I saw growing up in rural Kansas. Clouds, bugs, snakes, classmates, livestock, pets, and buildings.
That camera was stolen 3 years later, and with it went my aspirations in photography for the better part of 20 years. The digital craze brought me back, film takes me home.
My subjects haven’t changed, but my photos are perhaps a bit better.
I shoot a DSLR out of a necessity for speed. I shoot film out of love of the medium and a desire to be a better photographer.
Using large format film is slow and ritualistic. The entire process has to be completed without missed steps in order to achieve a acceptable result.
I believe that this time spent gives you a connection with your work that you would not otherwise obtain.
There is more sense of creation and less like Im a button pushing robot.
What’s the next challenge…your next step? How do you see improving your technique, or what aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?
I always look to keep learning and attempting to better my work. I still have several short term goals with general shot ideas that I want to attempt. These are situational and depend on specific weather conditions.
My next big personal challenge this year has been home printing. More specifically platinum/palladium printing. Controlling the entire process from creation to final print is very satisfying for me.
Any favorite subject matter?
Hands down, Storms. The variety of shapes and textures from such a large transitory object that impacts all of us.
Our water cycle depends on them, our agriculture too. And yet they can be devastatingly destructive.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
Last single sheet? Or last box of sheets? Not having any first hand experience with Fuji Velvia 50, I would choose new Velvia 100.
Why Velvia? I really like the purples and reds it can bring out. Sometimes with outrageous results that I would never imagine. I have a really hard time getting colors of this nature out of any other film. Also, a 4×5 color slide is amazing to behold in person.
…this reminds me, I need to shoot more of it as soon as possible.
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?
Camera: Toyo 45AII, Lens: Schneider APO Symmar 150mm.
Films: Kodak Tri-x 320, Fuji Velvia 100.
Must haves: Cable release, tripod, light meter, ground glass loupe. All that and I am good.
The Toyo field camera is light, sturdy and portable. The 150mm is reasonably bright, and versatile. I can shoot macro, portrait or landscape with it and the Toyo.
Kodak Tri-x for black and white, Velvia for super-saturated color. The cable release to keep my hand out of the frame. Tripod for composing, and leveling a shot.
Loupe to obtain critical focus. Light meter, it is not always sunny.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
I have never left the continental US. The thought of a people carving exquisitely ornate buildings directly into cliffs, in such a inhospitable environment, and still managing to control trade routes from this natural fortress.
Wow! So much history.
I really know very little about what photographic opportunities one would actually have there. It just seems like the sort of subject matter I would really enjoy. Even if it is choked with tourists.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
Film is what you make of it, literally. We are holding on to film, not because it is trendy, but because it can be the right tool for the job.
It’s less about the race of technology and more about capturing the moment, a scene, a place, a person and preserving it.
That is the soul of photography. “Fixing the shadows” as William Henry Fox Talbot described. Digital and Film both do a admirable job with the capture.
Film goes one step further and produces a physical and archival artifact. Film still being the archival gold standard of most historical agencies.
No one is going to bring me a hard drive if my house is shredded in a disaster, but they just might bring me one or two of my negatives.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
I am encouraged by the news I see of a resurgence in the use of film.
However, I am enough of a student of history to know that progress is a sloppy, uncaring, monster.
My outlook is to have my fingers crossed, but keep a few boxes in the freezer.
~ Brian Miner
It’s nice to meet a man after my own heart. I got in touch with Brian about doing this interview after seeing several new shots from his large format 365 project on Twitter. I was fascinated by it, especially as I’d not seen anyone else try the same thing at the time. It’s no small undertaking.
“Film is what you make of it, literally. We are holding on to film, not because it is trendy, but because it can be the right tool for the job.”
I’m a great believer in the “right tool for the job” mentality and have spoken about it at length here before. People are coming back to film in their droves not only because it’s cool, hip, or different (we have to accept this as a reality) but also because it’s the right tool for the kind of photography many of us was to pursue. Whilst you probably wouldn’t catch me shooting a sporting event, or air show with a film camera, for nearly everything else, I’ll be using film and not digital to get what I want.
Brian goes on to say,
“Film goes one step further and produces a physical and archival artefact. Film still being the archival gold standard of most historical agencies.”
This is a reality that most photographers (film and digital) are simply not aware of. Medium format and large format films are still used extensively for reproduction of artwork, historic archives and antiquities. They will continue to be used until a digital solution exists. For the moment, were still not quite there. For me there’s also the added feeling of looking at captured light each time I review my negatives. This isn’t bullshit spun to make people think that film has some magical property; it’s just the way I feel about the medium.
Thanks again to Brian and my most humble apologies for accidentally publishing his Lunar eclipse at Castle Rock multiple exposure, as the cover image for recent another interviewee.
We’ll be back with another interviewee very very soon but in the meantime (and as ever), keep shooting, folks.
Write for EMULSIVE
EMULSIVE is all about promoting knowledge transfer across the film photography community. You can help by contributing your thoughts, work and ideas to inspire others reading these pages: check out the submission guide.
If you like what you're reading you can help this passion project by heading on over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page. There's also print and apparel over at Society 6, currently showcasing over two dozen t-shirt designs and over a dozen unique photographs available for purchase.