Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Feature Photographer - Erin Antognoli

I'm sure you will find a lot of inspiration in the following interview and images.  Erin shoots (amonst other things) documentary style wedding photography, and has found unique ways of incorporating Holga images into the mix.  She combines her frames by selective advancement of the film, creating beautiful dreamy shots.  Thanks Erin for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing your work with us all!
How did you get introduced to your first Holga and how long have you been shooting?
I bought my first holga in 1999 while in grad school but only used it a few times. I hadn't really gotten my holga style down at that point and i wasn't getting results i liked. so when i moved, it got packed up and just got carried around for the next 5 years. i picked it up again in 2005 when i wanted something lightweight to carry with me around the city and recalled that i could control the advancement (or lack thereof) of the film, and that's how i got started on the path i'm now on with the holga. since then the holga is almost always with me and i have hundreds of images that i feel are worthy to show to the general public.

What is it about the Holga that draws you to it? Why do you shoot with it?
I shoot with a lot of different cameras for different reasons, but i choose the holga when i want to overlap images in camera and have more of a warped, imperfect image as the final product. i like that it forces me to think ahead for the multiple exposures, but at the same time allows me to be more spontaneous and free. it's also very challenging because of the lack of controls, which is something i liked. 

What made you decide to use a Holga in your wedding shoots? How has the response been from clients on this unique style of wedding photography?
I have photographed weddings documentary style professionally since 2002, and have quite a few friends who are also wedding photographers. i just got it in my head one day that it would be fun to shoot a wedding entirely with a holga and asked some of my pro friends if i could tag along with them at weddings with my holga gear so i could try it out. they found couples willing to let me come and use the images from their weddings for my own site, and so that was how i started.  the response has been all over the place. most of my clients respond positively because they hire me for my unique vision, but i find other photographers can get into heated debates about the merits of using a holga at a wedding.  the argument usually consists of one side saying that you need "pro gear" and one side saying it's the photographer, not the gear that makes an image good. i think the whole argument is silly because they're both right to some degree, and both wrong to some degree. it's not completely black and white.

How do you plan out a session when the Holga can be so unpredictable? What challenges have you encountered and how have you over come them?
I plan for different scenarios and give myself wiggle room for improvisation. if i know where i'm going to be ahead of time, i can formulate some plans as to what i might possibly run into and what i can do with that, but i like to leave room for the things i think of when everything physically comes together and i see the full possibility of the shoot.  when using this camera, you have to be willing to let go of complete and total control because it's never an exact science. the challenges are too many to name, though i always say the main key is knowing your gear inside and out and knowing how to overcome the pitfalls using what you have.  with the holga, the obvious obstacles are the lack of controls, so knowing all the various ways to overcome that problem is the first best step to getting good images from this camera.

What else do you shoot with your Holga besides weddings?
I shoot just about everything.  i shoot mostly city-scapes, details, and portraits, and the only thing i don't really shoot that much of at all in any form is rural landscapes.  i almost always have a holga with me and photograph anything i come across that i think will work well with the process.

What other cameras do you have in your arsenal?
A lot. :)  I have digital SLR cameras for my wedding and commercial work, and film bodies for my personal artwork.  among those i use most are a hasselblad 501CM, hasselblad xpan II, nikon fm3A. i like to shoot with different styles and formats of camera occasionally to switch things up and get myself out of a rut of thinking. getting too complacent is a bad thing.

Favourite photo film(s)?
I tend to use kodak tmax 400 for most of my work, though that is mostly for simplicity's sake for developing (i develop my own film). i'd be willing to try other films, i just haven't gotten around to testing them all out to see how they behave. i shoot almost exclusively black and white film. since getting digital cameras, i have not shot color negative film. i have shot color slide film, which is awesome (the last i shot was fuji velvia, i believe) but that's rare. i like black and white because i can print and tone the images myself on fiber paper in my darkroom. fiber paper is beautiful, and that's my choice of presentation.  black and white is also more moody to me, and leaves more to the imagination. i like to make images that people can sit with and examine and i think that happens more commonly with black and white.

Your favourite Holga photo that you've taken?
I don't have a favorite.  i've taken so many, and they all mean different things to me. 

What inspires you?
A lot of things. being a photographer, my surroundings inspire my art directly because i have to take a photo of *something* that is around me (theoretically speaking).  and for me to seek out or be drawn to something means that it inspires me to some degree. so that's more of a direct inspiration. but the way my brain patterns and way of thinking are formed over time is really a culmination of everything i've experienced, which is what causes me to be drawn to this type of image and image making in the first place. i like to think of my art as me taking everything in, stirring it around and shaking it up, and then letting it back out again only changed to reflect what was happening inside of me.
Erin's Links:
personal art: www.eantognoli.com
holga weddings: www.erinantognoli.com
hybrid documentary wedding + portrait / holga wedding + portrait: www.evilantognoli.com
formspring (for questions): http://www.formspring.me/antognoli


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