This week I continue to highlight the work of amazing photographers within the analogue film community and got the chance to chat with Jason Brewer. Jason describes himself as, using analogue and digital photography to explore and interpret the world around him. Taking pictures for himself of the things that capture his attention and pique his curiosity.
RP: Hi Jason, thanks for agreeing to talk to us to start please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi Robert! Thank you for choosing to interview me! It is an honor to be among those that came before me, especially Jacob Murphy, Nick Mayo, and Wes Bowker who over the last year have looked to for inspiration with my own Photographic Art.
Now about me, my name is Jason Brewer, and I am Full-Time IT Professional and Father of two (very soon to be three!) and a Photographer from Wisconsin where I focus on capturing Street, Fine Art, and Documentary Photography. I shoot mostly 35mm and 120mm Film but also shoot digitally on the rare occasions I am asked to capture for Volunteer events (which is something I recently stopped doing).
“I was always interested in capturing the mundane and banal things more than anything else”
RP: what inspired you to become a photographer?
I have always been a bit of a shutterbug as a kid. I was regularly taking pictures with my parent’s Polaroids, Kodak 110 and Disc Cameras. I didn’t have any close family members that were photographers so because of that; I had joined my High School photo club my senior year to learn more about Photography to take better pictures. However, it didn’t work out well as I quit after a week or two as I was more interested in skateboarding instead and I didn’t feel the drive to pursue it further.
I did keep taking pictures, and I was always interested in capturing the mundane and banal things more than anything else especially after seeing the movie “One Hour Photo” with Robin Williams.
It wasn’t until about 20 years later at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 that I got serious and took the “Complete Course in Professional Photography” at the New Your Institute of Photography (NYIP) to improve my Photographic skills, and it boosted a love of the Art.
RP: You seem to have a good selection of prints and zines on your site, how important is printing your work to you?
I think it is vital to print your work. I believe we have gotten too far away from the tangible, tactile feel of holding something you created in your hands and being proud of it yourself first before you present it to the world. It feels like we all get caught up looking for instant feedback from others on social media like we are fishing for compliments and approval from others before we feel proud of it ourselves.
Additionally, printing has so many benefits. Two that stand out for me are: 1) Holding the print allows one to focus in on the good, bad, and the ugly of the image to better improve your skills and composition. 2) It helps you sort through a series of pictures by laying them out on the floor or table thae physically arranging them together forming a sequence for a Print Project or Zine.
“I believe we have gotten too far away from the tangible, tactile feel of holding something you created in your hands”
RP: Can you share with us what you’re working on at the moment?
To be honest, too many projects! As a full-time Father and IT Professional, I often have to sacrifice my photography time for work or time with my family. However, I do try to shoot during free time when on work trips or when my family is with me and make it an outing for all of us by combining Family Adventure time with my Photography Project time.
To answer your question though. The current ongoing long-term projects are focused on capturing the small Midwestern Life around where I have lived in a project called “Home Towns.”
I also drive around on weekends to surrounding small farming/pre-WWII industrial towns by documenting their forgotten history left behind by people migrating away from them to larger towns/cities for work in my “Small Town WI” project.I new project called “Fair View” is one where during the late summers, I try to visit county fairs in the region and capture the people and activities on a Holga 120N.
In all my travels I also try to document smaller things we as humans have left behind but not torn down in a project called “Where We Were.”
Another project I have recently started though challenging my self to do more portrait work of friends and strangers is a project called “People are Strangers.”
Because these projects will go on for a long time and my limited time to shoot is why I created my “Oddments” Zine. This way I can share my projects as I work on them instead of waiting years to create a single complete body of work for each project.
RP: What/who inspires your photography?
Most of my inspiration comes from just wanting to capture what I find interesting around me. I do not have an Art background, and it wasn’t until about two or three years ago that I even heard of photographers like William Eggleston, William Christenberry, Lewis Baltz, Steven Shore, Walker Evens, and Henry Wessel. These photographers (especially Eggleston and Baltz) validated and confirmed that it was OK to shoot the subjects that I typically preferred to shoot growing up!
As far as more contemporary Photographers/Artist that inspire me, there is an even longer list. There are so many great people I have seen in the last couple of years out there that are producing great work both in film and digitally.
If I had to give a top 10 list of people I actively follow, it would be these people:
For color work: Jason Lee (@jasonlee) and Caleb Jenkins (@calebjenkins)
For Black and White: Nick Mayo (@nickexposed), Jacob Murphy (@jacobmurphyphoto), and Simeon Smith (@_simeonsmith)
For proving that I can be a Dadtographer: Matt Day (@mattdayphoto), Wes Bowker (@wesbowker), and Charlie Boucher (@charliewboucher)
For simple amazing cinematic aesthetic: Ken Kornacki (@kenkophoto)
Lastly for inspiring me to no having to choose between shooting only Black and White or Color Films: Sam Cashmore (@samcashmorephoto)
RP: What does photography mean to you?
As a Disabled Veteran, photography has been very therapeutic by allowing me to focus on something in a meditative way that engages my mind to reduce day-to-day stress when out on photo walks alone or with others.
I am glad I rediscovered my love for the Art and was able to learn not just from attending photography school but also from working with people who have mentored me and helped refine my Art and Vision more. The relationships I have built add to the fulfillment I get from photography and hope they grow along with my skills as a photographer.
RP: What cameras/films do you shoot with and why?
Digitally I shoot Fuji. I have an XT-1 and a few lenses and an X100T with the two adaptor lenses. I love the X100T as it is an unobtrusive street camera for digital shooters. My poor XT-1 has only been used once in the last year and a half; I should sell it in all honesty!
For 35mm film, I currently rotate between a Canon AE-1 and Elan 7e as main cameras. I recently picked up a $3 Yashica Microtec Zoom 70 P&S for a quick walk around camera when at work.
I also have a Holga 120N, FPP Debonaire, and Lubitel 166B for shooting 120mm film. I do love the unpredictability of those cameras when shooting as they produce exciting results!
For future wish list items, I do hope that someday I can afford to get a better Medium format camera like a Mamiya 7 or 645 for more consistently in everyday work. I also would like to pick up an Olympus XA3 or Rollei 35SE for good pocket shooter to replace the Cheap Yashica.
RP: what’s your main reason for shooting film?
I use to say that fill was better because it slows you down and makes you think about your shots more due to the limited number of frames per roll or for some other reason along those lines that I feel is utter B.S. and a shallow excuse I used to be different from most everyday digital shooters.
In the last couple years I have come to realize, that for me, shooting film has become more about the process of using a type of physical media to capture my subjects versus using a digital sensor. The organic nature of the chemical reaction with the light inside a camera that physically changes the film to create the image has brought about a more profound connection with my Art. The addition of being able to hold the negative before moving on to work on the final image or print adds to the emotional satisfaction of physically holding something you created.
Lastly, and many others have said this too, but the community of film shooters is more welcoming and supportive than most others online!
“I have come to realize, that for me, shooting film has become more about the process”
RP: Any anecdotes you can share from your time as a photographer?
I don’t have any anecdotes or stories that I can tell. I have had it pretty easy for taking pictures of strangers. I have no problem just going up and asking, or if I can’t ask first, I say thank you or smile at them and wave in a friendly manner afterward. I try to be as non-confrontational as possible and talk to people I shoot when I can.
A tip I learned from Scott Kelby to make it easier when people seem like they are about to confront you is to keep a 10 to 15 Page Photo book on you that you created. Pick 10-15 images, upload them to Blurb and order a cheap book with a title and your name on it. When someone wants to know why you took a picture, you show them the book and tell them about the photo projects you are working on while letting them look through the book. Doing this often disarms the person and starts a conversation with them.
Additionally, take time get the person’s name and address or social media info and then send them a 5×7 print or tag them in your feed as a thank you for letting you take the picture! People will appreciate it.
I carry a proof copy of my first Zine in my bag just for this reason, and it has helped me get shots or keep shots more often than not when people have looked through it and talked with me about it.
RP: What are you looking for in a photo?
With most of the subjects I capture, I want to evoke an emotional response and curiosity in the viewer, but it doesn’t have to be the same emotion that drove me to capture the image. I like giving the viewer room for their interpretations and meanings to be assigned to the pieces I present. We come from such varied backgrounds and experiences, so by allowing them to attach their context, I as the artist get to collaborate with my viewers.
“I want to evoke an emotional response”
RP: Biggest regret relating to photography?
Getting caught up in G.A.S. (Gear Aquisition Syndrome) and buying too much digital equipment before I thoroughly knew what I wanted or genuinely liked to photograph. I wanted to try it all and be ready for anything, but in the end, it was just a waste of money that I will never get back.
RP: Any closing comments?
Just go out and shoot, make Art for yourself of the things that capture your attention and pique your curiosity.
If you are starting out in photography, fight getting G.A.S. Start with only one body and one or two lenses only. You will be amazed what you can create with a simple set-up!
Go out and meet people to ask your questions, stop using Google and YouTube (Sorry Matt & Nick!). Reach out to people via DM on Instagram or Twitter in your local area and go meet people at a Meetup!
Thank you again, Robert, for this opportunity to share my thoughts through this interview! I appreciate the work you put into these and have enjoyed reading about others that you interviewed!
Lastly, want to give a big Thank You to everyone that bought a Zine or Print since my shop went up last November! I still have a few Zines and Prints left for sale if anyone is interested at reduced prices.
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