An Interview with Fine Art and Portrait Photographer Ian Tuttle

It’s been a while since his LomoHome was last updated, but it was a pleasant surprise to learn that San Francisco-based photographer Ian Tuttle began his affair with photography via the lomographic route.

Ian Tuttle

Amazed by his work, we published a feature on Ian Tuttle and shared some of the spectacular analogue photographs he’s taken. And boy, are we lucky! He agreed to have an interview, and gallantly answered all our questions.

Please tell us about yourself and what you do. Maybe tell us something not all people know about too.
I live in San Francisco. I wrote a book of short stories that was published in 2011 (it’s called *StretchyHead*). Before that I was a road bike racer. Now I’m a photographer. I have two awesome brothers and good, caring parents. I’m thankful for that. I like to climb mountains. I love ice cream.

When and how did you get started with photography? How has it been so far?
I first started taking pictures about four years ago with a Diana F+ camera. I’d always been intimidated with all the wheels and knobs and whatnot on DSLR’s, and the Diana was an easy intro… all I could do was frame a shot and click! Gradually I desired more control over my images because I’d know what I wanted to capture, but the result would be way different. So next I started using an old Nikon Nikkormat SLR which I could actually focus, and it had a light meter, and I learned what all those knobs and wheels do. It replaced luck with technique. Eventually I got a high-end DSLR, which I use a lot for work, but I still prefer film’s characteristics.

Some of Ian Tuttle’s early photos taken with the Diana F+

When do you shoot on film and on digital? Why?
Pretty much all of my personal work is film. For commercial work I usually shoot digital because of cost constraints, aesthetic requirements from the client, and the need to proof work on site. But anything I’m doing under my own direction will be film. For me there is a certain undeniable veracity about an image physically impregnated in a piece of film. It’s like a time-stamp… like a punch-clock. The frame is there, and sure you can manipulate it in the darkroom or with a digital scan, but there is always the raw and permanent record that you can hold in your hand. That is important to me. It’s like a bar of gold, versus a credit card. You can either have this physical artifact, or you can have these invisible ones and zeros. Which do you trust more?

What inspires you to shoot? What are your preferred subjects?
PEOPLE! You know, people change their behavior for the camera, so I love catching people when they don’t know they’re being photographed. There’s an honesty in their expressions and gestures. But then I’ll also intentionally use the camera to provoke and instigate. When you’re holding a camera you can ask people to pose, to posture, and usually they will. Even complete strangers. Especially complete strangers! It’s like the camera gives them permission to get a little weird. I really like that. And then, I also look for big landscapes with a sense of loneliness to them. The built environment with a little anonymous figure in it… I love that shot.

Any photographers you particularly admire?
*Nan Goldin* just opens the door to her world, wide open, and you look at her pictures and you feel like you’re looking at movie stills, like how can this not have been staged? I really admire her. I like *Noah Kalina’s* work, especially his series Pictures that look like this. *Thomas Prior.* He’s always up to something cool. The guy who curates the If You Leave tumblr, oh man, it’s all different photographers but the style is so tight and consistent. And then, there are other people who guide my attitude towards art. *Bob Lefsetz* writes an email newsletter about music and it translates to any creative endeavor. *Stefan Sagmeister.* He’s a cocky genius. *John Cage* the musician, doled out a lot of wisdom.

What cameras and film do you use?
Most often I’m using my Nikkormat with a 50mm 1.4. I’ll go through phases with film… at the moment it’s mostly black and white (Kodak t-max 400, or P3200). I like shooting at night with the 3200, the light sources—street lights, headlights, candles—are so different than overhead sun, so you get unexpected illuminations. Also, Ektar 100, and old slide film that I’ll cross process and push a bunch of stops. Oh, and I go through a lot of disposables.

Photo by Ian Tuttle

How would you describe your photographic style? Do you follow a set of rules when you shoot?
Yikes…I guess for me a good picture makes the viewer ask questions. Like, it’s a piece of evidence that doesn’t, by itself, tell the whole story, but it does tell part of a story, and your mind is forced to fill in blanks and extrapolate and wonder. You look at it, and you maybe want to be in the scene, or you want to comfort the subject, or you want to know what has just been said, what is about to happen. It’s unresolved. There is longing. There is suspense.

Tell us about a body of work, projects, clients that you’re particularly proud of fond of.
I just got my MBA from Babson College and I thought it would be cool to make a yearbook for my class. So I traveled around the country to take portraits of each one of my 51 classmates wherever they lived. These are people in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and they have impressive titles at global companies, you know, vice president of sales, or chief operating officer, at places like Nike, Microsoft, Oracle, the Federal Reserve, but behind these titles they are amazing, generous, funny, interesting individuals, so I wanted to show that in the portraits.

A photo from Tuttle’s Babson College portrait series

Any cool projects you’re currently working on or exhibits? Any links to promote these? Where can fans admire more of your work?
I have some work in a group show starting September 24th at Photobooth SF (1193 Valencia Street, San Francisco). The whole show is lo-fi film stuff, with a bunch of other awesome local photographers. And I have some work in a show in Portland through October (at Black Box Gallery). Also, my website is and I have a tumblr that I update often:

Do you have a dream project? Could you tell us about it?
I have always wanted to go to outer space. Maybe I’ll score a gig with Space Travel And Leisure in a couple decades.

What advice would you give to aspiring photographers?
Take your camera everywhere. If you show up somewhere without your camera, your friends should be shocked and ask you, “where is your camera?!” Just make it a fixture, like your glasses, or your house keys. Having a camera on you will make you look at the world as a boundless series of photographic opportunities.

Aside from photography, are there other creative endeavors that you’d like to pursue or are currently pursuing?
I play piano. I write. I make a mean piece of toast.

Any last words?
We’re all going to die eventually and then none of this will really matter. Don’t waste your time being timid.

And there you have it. An interview with a community member who’s now a well-reputed portrait and fine-art photographer, no less. Hopefully, he serves as an inspiration and you’ll heed his advice. Take your camera everywhere, and lomo on.

For more information and to see more of his work, visit

You might also like:

Memories and Visual Tales by Ian Tuttle

An Interview with Ukranian Photographer Alina Rudya

Big City Girl: A Gallery of Images by Alina Rudya

Amber and Ashlie Chavez: A Symbiosis of Talent

Symbiotic: A Series of Photos by Amber and Ashlie Chavez

An Interview with Director and Photographer Leo Berne

Stunning Photographs by Leo Berne

written by Jill Tan Radovan on 2013-10-04 in #people #lifestyle #analogue-photography #ian-tuttle #interview #features

More Interesting Articles

  • My First Lomo Affair: Sonjay and her Holga 120 CFN

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-05-23 in #gear #lifestyle
    My First Lomo Affair: Sonjay and her Holga 120 CFN

    Sonja started her analog adventures during her teenage years. She took her first film photographs when she was 13 and has been in love with the magic of the process since. Her idea of a perfect day involves developing film rolls while listening to jazz and having a cup of tea in between. In this interview, she recalls about her experience with her first Lomography camera, a Holga 120 CFN.

  • Arnold Genthe's Portraits of Women with Buzzer the Cat

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-11-24 in #world #lifestyle
    Arnold Genthe's Portraits of Women with Buzzer the Cat

    Originally trained as a classical scholar, Arnold Genthe was a self-taught photographer famous for, to name a few, his photographs of San Francisco's Chinatown in the early 1900s, autochromes, and portraits which included famous individuals, dancers, and women with his beloved pet, Buzzer the cat.

  • Shooting the Petzval Lens with Ian Taylor

    written by givesmehell on 2015-04-29 in #people #lomoamigos
    Shooting the Petzval Lens with Ian Taylor

    Canadian-born Ian Taylor is a full-time photographer specializing in kids and development work. It all started when his five siblings started having children at the same time he was into photography. This passion then spiraled into something amazing, and now Ian works primarily with kids, shooting them when they are in their purest form. Based in Asia, Ian has agreed to share this amazing series of photos he shot with his Petzval Art Lens in Cambodia and Thailand. He also shared with us some of his insights and views on photography.

  • Shop News

    the perfect surprise for every analogue loving enthusiast

     the perfect surprise for every analogue loving enthusiast

    Let your loved one pick the gift of their dreams. Lomography Online Shop Gift Certificates are the perfect present for every analogue devotee on your gift list

  • Through New York City with Markus Hartel and the New Russar+

    written by zonderbar on 2015-09-11 in #people #lomoamigos
    Through New York City with Markus Hartel and the New Russar+

    New York City-based graphic designer Markus Hartel has a passion for street photography. On one of his last strolls through the city, he captured some scenes on the busy streets with the New Russar+ Lens. Read on to learn about his experience photographing with the Russar+ and get insider info on how it is to be a street photographer in the Big Apple.

  • First Impressions of the Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Lens by Fashion Photographer Issa Ng

    written by Jill Tan Radovan on 2015-06-10 in #people #lifestyle #reviews
    First Impressions of the Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Lens by Fashion Photographer Issa Ng

    Issa Ng is a Hong Kong-based fashion and commercial photographer. Leveraging on many years working as an art director and stylist for several international brands in the advertising industry, he was able to develop a strong sense of style and talent for conceptual execution, composition and intense imagery. He now specializes in portraits, and is continuously on the lookout for new and exciting projects. He talks about his experience shooting with the Lomography Petzval 58 Bokeh Control lens in this interview.

  • Scott Brasher Chases Fashion in the Streets of New York with the Petzval Lens

    written by antoniocastello on 2015-03-09 in #people #lomoamigos
    Scott Brasher Chases Fashion in the Streets of New York with the Petzval Lens

    Scott Brasher is a fashion street photographer based in New York City. His work has been featured on many media outlets while working with brands like Cover Girl, MTV, Reebok, and Target, among many others. But before this, Scott started shooting in the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, capturing its daily urban fashion. Last month, he took the Petzval Lens to the streets of New York to photograph scenes at the famous New York Fashion Week.

  • Shop News

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Really want to bring your film photos to life? We’re now offering totally analogue fine art prints in a host of large sizes and formats! Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • LomoAmigo LomoKev Tests the New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens

    written by Jill Tan Radovan on 2015-06-03 in #people #lifestyle #lomoamigos
    LomoAmigo LomoKev Tests the New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens

    Kevin Meredith, more popularly known as LomoKev, is a photographer based in Brighton, England who gained notoriety for his use of the Lomo LC-A and his lomographic style of creating images. Aside from a plethora of personal and commercial projects, he has also conducted workshops on photography, written and published photography-related books, and participated in a few exhibits. With his evident passion for photography, it comes as no surprise that he was selected to test a prototype of the New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens.

  • Five Things Lomographers are Thankful For

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-11-26 in #world #lifestyle
    Five Things Lomographers are Thankful For

    In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we take this opportunity to express gratitude to some of the things that had made the lives of us lomographers even more exciting this year.

  • Photo of the Day by inrod

    written by lomography on 2015-11-26 in #world #news
    Photo of the Day by inrod

    A roll of color-shifting film is an adventurous lomographer's ticket to otherworldly paradise.

  • Shop News

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Whatever kind of film development you're after, you'll find it here! Now you can confidently shoot from the hip without having to worry where to develop those film rolls!

  • Edmundrt is our LomoHome of the Day!

    written by lomography on 2015-11-26 in #world #news
    Edmundrt is our LomoHome of the Day!

    From everyone here in Lomography, congratulations to edmundrt for winning Home of the Day!

  • 5 Tricks for Timeless Event Snapshots

    written by lomographymagazine on 2015-11-26 in #world #lifestyle
    5 Tricks for Timeless Event Snapshots

    Are you the night's designated photographer? Take shots that age better than your memories of a special reunion.

  • Lomography X FOTO HITS Medium Format Rumble

    written by Lomography on 2015-11-26 in #world #news #competitions
    Lomography X FOTO HITS Medium Format Rumble

    With an expanded field of view and its ability to produce high quality images and capture minute detail, medium format photography has become the top choice of many photographers. Lomography is working hard to make sure that it keeps going with the continued production of medium format film and cameras. The current issue of German magazine FOTO HITS focuses on medium format photography. And with this rumble, we want to prove why medium format photography is king. Take your Diana F+, Holga 120, Lubitel 166+ or the new Lomo LC-A 120 and show us your best square shots!