G K Lee. is a New York-based photographer with a lifelong passion for his craft and for music. He took the Russar+ Lens out for a spin around the city by trying it to his Leica M6! Beautiful wide angle shots were captured while accompanied by two models from Silent Models NY.
Hello G K, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Way to start with the hardest question! I suppose it’s best to begin with the basics – by day I work as a creative & user experience strategist at digital agency Createthe Group, specializing in fashion & luxury. Outside of that, I freelance as a photographer. Photography has been a lifelong passion of mine and over the years it evolved very organically into somewhat of a second job. It’s been amazing and I’ve been fortunate enough to have my work featured in places such as the NY Times, The Cools, and NOVASTYLE. I also really love music, especially house and electronic, so the rest of my free time is usually spent looking for new tracks to listen to or DJ’ing parties with my friends.
We have seen you in the NYC Lomography store a lot of times when you drop off your film for developing. How did you get involved in Lomography and how has your learning curve been since the first time we saw you here?
I actually learned about Lomography many years ago from my dear friend and producer, Caitlin Biskup. She had bought a couple of rolls of film from the store as a Secret Santa gift for one of our Art Directors and I’ve been hooked ever since! The store does such a fantastic job on the development and high-res scans of the negatives that it’s hard to imagine going anywhere else.
Around the same time that I first started coming to the store, I switched from a SLR camera system to a rangefinder one. That’s definitely been the biggest challenge for me, as it’s a completely different way of seeing. With an SLR what you see is pretty much what you get, but this is not the case with a rangefinder. The system is very punishing of sloppy framing, but it’s amazing to be able to shoot with both eyes open and see what’s coming in and out of the frame.
Tell us a little bit about these pictures, what you where doing with so many beautiful women?
This shoot actually came at the perfect time! The stylist for the shoot, Ana-Li Mraovitch, is a close friend of mine. She just moved back to NY from Paris and we’ve been talking about collaborating on a project for a while, so this was the perfect opportunity to do something fun. Ulla Reiss and Kelly Spronk, the two models for the shoot, are from the agency Silent Models NY. I’ve worked with Silent a lot in the past and have always had a great experience with their talent, so when we decided to put this shoot together I immediately reached out to them.
Give us a soundtrack to these pics! What songs do you think best describe your images?
Music is an important part of any photo shoot, as it helps to set the tone and get everyone excited and energetic. Here are a few of the tracks that we played while we were shooting:
Ivory by Owl Eyes
True Affection by The Blow
Drunk in Love by Beyoncé
Beatific by Candy Glass
Recover by Chvrches
Genesis by Grimes
Inspector Norse by Todd Terje
How was your experience with the Russar+ Lens?
I had a fantastic time shooting with the Russar+ lens, but I was definitely intimidated at first. It’s always a challenge to shoot with a lens that you’ve never used before since you don’t know what how it is going to react to different scenarios and lighting. Combine that with the fact that it isn’t rangefinder coupled and that my camera doesn’t have 21mm framelines, and you have a potential recipe for disaster. That all said, there really is something magical about how it renders images and how incredibly wide the field of view is (yet with very little noticeable distortion!). I was very excited to see the results and wish that I had more time to better learn how the lens “sees.”
For you, what is so exiting about shooting wide angle pictures that you can’t do with a regular lens?
I usually shoot on a 40mm lens or longer, so shooting on such a wide angle lens was a new experience. What was super exciting for me was that a 21mm perspective forces you to think differently about how you convey the atmosphere of what you are trying to capture, since the lens “sees” so much more of the world around you.
What is your favorite thing about shooting film?
What I love about shooting film is that the colors feel so much less clinical than digital, and that every film has its own unique characteristics. The best part, though, is the anticipation and surprise of getting a roll back from development. Sometimes it may take me a month or more to finish a single roll of film, and by that time I don’t always remember everything that I shot.
Any tips for Russar+ enthusiasts?
The legendary Robert Capa is famous for having once said, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Although Capa is referring more to the philosophy of being amidst the action rather than at arms-length from it, the sentiment applies here. When shooting on such a wide lens, its very tempting to take a step back to get more in the frame, but the most compelling shots will be the ones in which you instead took a step forward.
What is your next photo adventure?
Only time will tell, but I’d love a some point to go back to Iceland and do a shoot near the black basalt beach of Vík í Mýrdal. Hopefully the next adventure will be with Ana-li and Caitlin as they played an such an essential role in helping to put this last one together. Huge thanks to them, and of course to the lovely Ulla Reiss and Kelly Spronk of Silent Models NY!