Photographer of the Month - Lewis Ferris (May 2020)
Datestamped seemed pretty ambitious, to shoot each and every day, what started it? Did you stumble onto it or set out upon it from the start?
It was really a combination of things falling into place. I had been shooting film on my Grandfather’s old viewfinder Agfa (1/125 fastest shutter) for several years. After using a series of pretty bad SLRs I decided I wanted something that actually worked. Purchased a Canon EOS 50 from trademe. Found out it had the ability to put the date on the photo and I was set.
I was new to Wellington so I could just jump on my bike and go somewhere I’d never been before. Why did I have to do it every day? Shit knows - I like a challenge?
Didn’t know I would commit to 850 days hah!
A large project is a great learning tool, do you feel it has changed your photographic style?
Well, before datestamped I took bad photos 99% of the time. I reckon I’ve greatly increased the amount of keepers but I’d be fooling myself to think I don’t still shoot a significant proportion of trash haha. In terms of style, I still like the same photos I liked 5 years ago, but I have a better eye for it now.
When shooting daily did you have a minimum or maximum quantity of shots?
I just had to take at least one photo per day. Most days it would just be one, some days up to 10. At the other end of the scale, I shot a whole roll at the climate march in about 20 minutes.
Your composed style is quite haunting and solitary yet your street work is quite the opposite, is this a balance that you strive for or is it a case of street is harder to be solitary?
I’m always searching for one-off moments. On the street that’s usually going to involve people, whether they are doing something odd or if they’re just in the right place, it’s very reactionary. Away from the street things happen a lot slower but I’m still looking for scenes which are temporary. It might be fog, certain windows lit up, or just light/colour combinations.
With the end of Datestamped, due to the date stamp on your camera not increasing past 2019, are you going to tackle any large projects? Any projects on the go?
I’ve got a couple on-going personal projects which I hope will be books one day. They’re more focused on ideas than Datestamped was. Also I’m planning a retrospective exhibition to close the Datestamped chapter once congregation is allowed! Lastly, I want to take more photos for people/events/businesses this year.
With a long term project inspiration can be hard to come by, how did you tackle this?
I know that all too well - there are plenty of uninspired photos in the Datestamped archive that will never see the light of day hahah. I basically took my camera everywhere, to work, on bike rides. I don’t like sitting still so it’s very easy for me to chuck my headphones on and go for a walk. Knowing that at least one photo from each day was going to be posted gave me some motivation to at least give it a decent attempt. The worst days were when I’d not shot anything by bed time - lucky for me I have a very patient/understanding/supportive girlfriend who got called into frame on many occasions haha.
Looking back on Datestamped do you feel the project, overall, improve your photography? I’ve always been a fan of shooting to improve and fine tune your ‘voice’ do you think a project on the scale of Datestamped helped you with this and would you recommend it to anyone else?
Without a doubt, I’m a far more competent photographer now. I pushed myself to shoot in environments I never would have before - taking photos of subjects I hadn’t attempted previously. I’m a firm believer in progression driving progression. You’re only going to get better at taking photos by taking photos.
Would I recommend taking a photo a day for 850 days? I wouldn’t start out with that as a goal, in fact I’d only recommend it if someone had a strong desire to take photos. I mean don’t start if you expect to take ‘good’ photos each and every day - that sounds stressful haha. You’ve got to be invested in the process - getting out there, seeing what photos can be taken.
Quick fire ten questions
35mm or 120?
35mm for snapping, 120 on the tripod.
Colour or B&W?
B&W, if I really had to choose. It’d be like losing an eye though.
Zoom Lenses or Fixed?
Fixed, based on compact size.
Portrait or Landscape (Orientation)?
Shoot more landscape but it’s the scene that depicts the orientation.
Flash or Natural Light?
Natural light - but using more flash as necessary.
SLR (or TLR) or Rangefinder or Point and Shoot?
RF just cause my canonet is so small/usable.
Must be razor sharp or more about the aesthetic?
Somewhere in between.
Honestly, the canonet QL17. Compact, quiet and nondescript.
Guy Bolongaro (@bandini3000)
Favourite Photo Book?