Discussing mindfulness, balance, and constraints with Blake.Snapshots
My photography journey began my senior year at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA circa 2012. I had just signed up for my first photography course, and we were tasked with taking photos on film, developing them, and hand printing them. Being a Communication Arts Major, the visual arts always spoke to me, but it was something about the process of photography. Something about capturing a single moment in the light. I immediately appreciated the idea of creating something out of nothing, and the magic of film photography completely hooked me. Starting with film was the best way to experience the medium. Never before did I feel as creative with my visuals. Developing prints in the darkroom gave me the childlike feeling every creative person craves. I instantly remember watching television as a child and dreaming of being surrounded by photographs in a red-lit darkroom.
Upon graduation, I stayed obsessed with making images. I tried all genres of photography. Baby showers, weddings, headshots, portraits, events… While fun, none of these sparked the childlike feeling I had when I first started. That is until I stumbled upon street photography. It was something about the purity of the moment. I saw fleeting moments, most without a camera in hand overlooked, dialing in my aperture, my shutter speed, composing, and firing a shot. I knew that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. But, I also knew that I was only interested in personal work. For me, photographing to make other people happy enough to pay me felt like a betrayal. This was going to be a journey. My journey.
It was, and is today, my therapy. As I walk the city streets observing the geometry, light, and shadows, all life's stresses fade to the back, and my observational senses are heightened. It is truly a practice of mindfulness. The current moment is the only moment.
As film prices increased, my thirst for photography also increased. Film photography being an ever more expensive hobby, I got my first "perfect" digital camera. The Fujifilm x100S. The form factor. The simplicity. I was hooked, fuming off the tactile dials and clicks, feeling for my next shutter click. However blissful these moments were, they pale compared to when I got my first Leica camera. The Leica M3. This camera, in my opinion, is by far the greatest camera ever made. The craftsmanship, engineering, attention to detail, and carefully curated materials make this camera that was made in the 1950s ultra-relevant today. I still use this camera as much as I can. It taught me the importance of gear minimalism and simplicity. The Ricoh GR has done the same for me in the digital realm. This tiny camera that I can carry with me everywhere feels like an extension of my eye.
I like the idea of seeing the city in ways that most do not, stripping it down to its most basic, geometric elements. I'm interested in shapes, shadows/light, repeating patterns, lines, half-lit, or silhouetted human subjects to add a sense of mystery to the city landscapes. Finding candid moments of humans interacting with the environment, shadows, and light around them brings me joy and makes me feel my artistic side. I also love documenting life and the people around me. I love the gift of giving memories to the people I care about and permanently saving moments that, when looked back at years later, make the heart skip a beat. I photograph to document my family and loved ones.
I photograph because I never want to forget. This, above all else, is why I love to make photos.
Just take the shot! Don't overthink it. The less gear, the better. Bare your gear down to the basics and focus on the environment around you.
I leave with two cameras; one film and one digital. Typically a fixed 40mm or 28mm for digital (Ricoh's) and one lens for film. I usually shoot 40mm or 28mm, so I'll bring the opposite focal length for film (40mm or 28mm). Having two options but in different formats allows me to focus on what I have in hand vs. what I have on hand. Music is also a must when primarily concentrating on geometry, patterns, and light/shadows. However, if I'm doing a lot of candid street portraits, I like to hear my surroundings just in case someone speaks to me.
Growing up, I moved a lot. My family tended to be in transit, both literally and metaphorically speaking. As a result, much of my photography has anonymous subjects in transit. Moving to Baltimore nearly ten years ago, I was fascinated by how people on the streets were always either on the go or not going anywhere at all. Any time of the day and night, you’ll see people either idle or coming and going on foot, bus, car, or of course, on a dirt bike. Everyone seemed to be either on a mission or mission-less but engaging with the infrastructure either way.
Living in Baltimore, I became obsessed with this spectacle. My photography naturally turned toward humans in flight interacting with concrete, brick, and light. The beauty and humanism in this city truly intrigue me.