Name: Stacie Turner
Location: West Hartford, Connecticut, USA
You are a commercial photographer who does portraits and art photography.Do you find the techniques you apply to your art enhance your portraits and vice versa?
One thing working with a Holga really drives home for me is giving up the illusion of perfection. When you shoot digital it’s easy to try to get a “perfect” picture instead of trying to get a true picture. By limiting myself to a set number of shots with a subject with a holga I force myself both to slow down and SEE what’s happening in front of me but also to value the off beat quirky nature of my subjects. People, water, rocks – we’re all incredibly complex and chaotic and if you let yourself ride that chaos and trust what happens you can get magic that you had never expected. Once I got used to shooting that way I became similarly organic in how I worked with digital shooting. I go when the light is what I want and trust that something magical will happen (though I generally don’t limit myself to 12 shots at a time with digital.)
Most of your portraiture involves children, mothers and babies. How do you capture your subject’s personalities on film?
One thing I love about working with kids is how ruthlessly honest they are. They don’t have a hugely elaborate constructed social persona yet that they I have to work at getting them to put aside and relax. ”Just be yourself” is somethings kids just ARE whether you want them to be or not. Sometimes this means I have a portrait session with a kid who is really serious the whole time. Yesterday I shot a boy who barked like a dog the whole session. Kids just ARE and though that can be exhausting as a parent it’s great as an artist. And mothers, well, most mother’s of babies are simply too tired to dissemble.
BUT one thing that i think really helps me is that I use “weird” tools a lot. I shoot with an old TLR as well as holgas (and digital) and because the toys cameras and old cameras don’t LOOK like what people think of as a camera they relax and don’t put on “camera face” as much. One great feature of TLRs is the waist viewfinder; you can get your subject positioned how you want inside the frame, look up and interact with them and then push the shutter when they are relaxed and don’t even realize you are shooting.
I really enjoyed the long exposure shots from your water series. Could you tell us about the technique you used?
Those are all shot using a Holga 120N with very slow film and three neutral density filters attached to the lens. Because there isn’t an ND filter (that I know of) that is designed to slip over a Holga’s lens I use poster putty to attach them. Then I put the camera on a tripod, meter, and count the seconds while I expose. I generally shoot multiple times in each location varying the exposure times by quite a lot to see what happens.
You seem to frequently experiment with your Holga; what’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned?
Well, the most embarrassing thing I’ve learned is to double check that you’ve moved your option to B before doing a long exposure shot. I’ve gotten a whole roll back that was black. Ooops. I think the most surprising thing I’ve learned is how flexible these cameras are. There is always something new to try, always something new to learn. I think the limitations of lousy focus adjustments and no aperture adjustments is really freeing because it keeps me from being able to just nitpick myself about technique and forces me to think visually and creatively. I’ve realized the limitation is never my equipment, it’s me.
Do you prefer color of B&W? Any specific type of film?
I generally prefer black and white, anything ISO 400 will do. I have, however, been falling in love with slide film and am determined to master it in the Holga. With slide’s general fussiness about exposure this is a challenge but one I am enjoying.
What’s your favorite camera to shoot with?
Oh, who can pick just one? My two favorites are Holga 120N and my Minolta Autocord.
Do you have a favorite technique you’d like to share?
I’ve been slowly working with doing long exposures with people where I ask them to sit very still except for one thing, so I’ll have them turn their heads or shake their skirt, all to try to get a sense of isolated movement.
Do you have any projects lined up for the next 12 months.
I am finishing up a series of portraits of children on the autism spectrum and want to start doing some minimalist abstractions.
Any advice for aspiring photographers?
Give yourself permission to fail. If you don’t push the boundaries of what you know you’ll never get any better, never have any fun. If a roll (or card) is filled with trash (or is, say, all black) remind yourself that failing means you’re trying, not that you are “a failure.”
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