Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Feature Photographer - Ernie Button

This month's featured photographer is Ernie Button.

For over 30 years, Phoenix, Arizona has been my home. I received my B.S. in Economics and my M.S. in Communication Disorders from Arizona State University. For much of my adult life, photography has provided me a forum to communicate my past & present, my humor & concerns, my observations & explorations. It has undeniably changed the way I see the world; how I look at individuals, places, or objects. Although my subject matter varies, my images focus on the individual nature of objects (and occasionally people) and the unique qualities that each possesses. My images often provide a voice to objects that are ignored and are frequently overlooked or taken for granted.


Ernie Button


How did you get introduced to your first Holga and how long have you been shooting?


I was introduced to the Holga in a photography class I was taking at a local community college. I ordered one but really didn’t start using it until I stopped taking classes and just started shooting for the love of shooting. I have been shooting consistently with a Holga for about 10 years.

What is it about the Holga that draws you to it? Why do you shoot with it?

I didn’t know how the Holga was going to fit into my photography because the images I was making before I started using the Holga tended to be more constructed, shot in the studio, relying on the clarity of a conventional camera. But there was a pull from the Holga to that blurred, dreamy, emotional image than what I would shoot with my conventional camera. I take my Holga wherever I travel (and typically whenever I am out of the house). The image it produces has a unique way of depicting memories of a journey. Portions of the image are clear and other portions are more blurred & out-of-focus. For me, that mirrors my personal recollection of travel; there are portions of a trip that may be crystal clear and sharp in my memory while other encounters may be a little more difficult to clearly recall.

Please tell me a bit about your series in which you use a Holga

In 2009, I was invited to exhibit work from my Cerealism series at the Lishui International Photography Festival in Lishui, China. The people were welcoming, generous and seemed to truly appreciate that I had come to share my photography at the festival. After attending the festival's opening ceremonies and the multiple exhibits around the city, I had an opportunity to explore. Armed with my Holga, I set off to explore the city of Lishui and the surrounding landscape.

During a previous photographic series, Back and Forth, I postulated that the coin-operated ride was disappearing from the urban landscape in the States, specifically Phoenix, Arizona. What I found here in Lishui was just the opposite; a plethora of coin-operated grocery store rides dotting the urban landscape. The rides were flourishing, lining most of the streets that I ventured down. I've seen a fair amount of China and in my travels, I have seen a few rides in various Chinese cities, but nothing like what I saw in Lishui. I would openly (and jokingly) wonder if they were all being shipped from the USA right into Lishui, except that it is obvious that the rides are constructed of very different characters and animals than what I've seen in the US. I'm not sure what, if anything, the large number of coin-operated rides is saying about the city of Lishui, or what it says about our society vs. theirs, but it was a pleasant surprise seeing them after having spent the past decade documenting their disappearance from America's urban landscape.


Professor Rabbit (from the series ("Riding through Lishui")
Up and Down Duck (from the series “Riding through Lishui”)
Ultraman (from the series “Riding through Lishui”)

Giraffe (from the series “Riding through Lishui”)

Seal (from the series “Riding through Lishui”)
Below are various images from my travels in China.

 
3 Monks on a Wall


Sun Moon Mountain
Tired of Driving
Dianchi Lake, Kunming
Qing Hai Lake Canola Fields
Urumqi Nightmarket
Outside Urumqi
What are some of your biggest challenges shooting with a Holga and do you have any tips for over coming them?

If you are going to shoot without the mask, make sure the tops of the wall are smooth. I've had more fine, straight line scratches in my negatives than I care to mention from the film running over the pillars. I have been lightly buffing the edges with a Dremel tool which has helped tremendously. For my work, I'm a big believer in taping the Holga up to prevent light leaks. It's become a meditative process, loading the film, taping the sides, getting me in the mindset to shoot.

What other cameras do you have in your arsenal?

4 Holgas, 1 Pinholga, Holga 135, Pentax 67II, Pentax k1000, Nikon f3

Favourite photo / film(s)?

It’s difficult to pick a favorite photo. I currently like the image Cartoon Sheep from the Riding Through Lishui series.


Cartoon Sheep (from the series "Riding through Lishui")
 I was so sad to see Kodak Ultracolor 120 discontinued a few years ago. That was my favorite film. I currently shoot a lot of Kodak Portra 400.

What inspires you?

  • Music.
  • The photography community (Toy Camera and all others included): so many strong images to admire and inspire.
  • My grandparents: although they are no longer alive, they were a constant reminder that hard work and love of family will get you farther than you think in life.
  • My wife.
Ernie's Website: http://www.erniebutton.com/

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