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In the Shop: Looking Glass Photo

*Looking Glass Photo* of Berkeley, California has always been the spot to head when in the Bay Area looking for all things photographic. Hosting classes such as Pinhole Photography, this is one analog destination not to be missed. The staff consists of primarily photographers, giving you a chance to geek out and open up a dialogue on shutter speeds, aperture, film speed, and anything else a shutterbug can dream of. We caught up with owner Jen to find out more about the store, the Bay Area, and life behind the lens.

Looking Glass Photo of Berkeley, California has always been the spot to head when in the Bay Area looking for all things photographic. Hosting classes such as Pinhole Photography, this is one analog destination not to be missed. The staff consists of primarily photographers, giving you a chance to geek out and open up a dialogue on shutter speeds, aperture, film speed, and anything else a shutterbug can dream of. We caught up with owner Jen to find out more about the store, the Bay Area, and life behind the lens.

Describe the genesis of your Lomo-love:
Well, I must say that this question just sounds kinda dirty in a sci-fi Luke and Leia sort of way. But, my love of photography began around age 8 when I made my first pinhole camera. I never met a Lomo till I was working here at Looking Glass… borrowed a friend’s LCA and cross processed a bunch of expired film, didn’t want to give the cam back, but Cha, my friend, would have killed me if I tried to steal her LCA, her baby. Lomo never really left my camera arsenal after that- Fisheye, Frogeye, Colorsplash, you name it, if it did something new that I’d never tried before and I could afford it (or borrow it) I was using it.

Best food in Berkeley?

This is the kind of question that can start a fight. People around here are really serious about their food and there’s tons of great stuff to eat… unless you like fast food, there’s really isn’t much of that around here. I would say that Berkeley is kind of a mecca for Thai food (and Indian, and Mediterranean, and Japanese, and Vietnamese, and Mexican… hmmm… perhaps ‘ethnic’ is the best answer, but there are plenty of awesome and ‘not-so-ethnic’ options too) wow, I’m really hungry now.

Best place to bring your camera in the bay area? Got the picture to prove it?
I think you should take your camera with you everywhere you go, because you never know when you’re gonna have that perfect picture right in front of you…

Best place to pick up some sweet threads?
Did you know sweetbreads are thymus glands? I’ve never eaten them. Are they good? They sound pretty gross. Sweet threads though… I dunno, I’m not exactly a fashion hound. We’ve got some amazing thrift stores here… my personal fave is Buffalo Exchange.

Rockin Bay Area band?
My friend and the former owner of Looking Glass would never forgive me if I didn’t take this opportunity to plug his band, or I should say his wife and her band: Claudia Russell, she’s simply lovely… here’s a link to their website www.claudiarussell.com

Favorite photographer of all time? Why?

That’s just way too hard a question and I have to politely refuse to pick just one photog as my fave. My answer to that question is constantly changing and I think that’s probably a good thing. However, one of the most interesting photographers I know and one of my favorite people is Rondall Partridge… You should look him up, he’s awesome. I’ve never met another seasoned photographer who is so completely unafraid to try something new, and the guy is 91 years old…. amazing.

Tech Nerd: What’s the strangest/rarest piece of photographic equipment to land in the store?
This super old-school off camera flash handle thing that I’m told was actually George Lucas’s inspiration for the base of the light saber in star wars (it looks exactly like a light saber, but with out the light-up saber part).

Favorite film (type, brand, speed)? And why?
Anything that’s expired by many, many years that no one else would dare shoot… and of course the now long gone Polaroid Type 55 which I have horded a couple cases of. The Polaroid is for my pinhole photography. It’s nice to see the image quickly and have a negative when you don’t have a viewfinder and each shot takes many minutes of exposure time. And the expired stuff is great because it’s usually free and I like letting semi-chaotic circumstances determine what my image is going to look like. When I let go of certain control aspects of a photograph and allow a picture to just kind of happen, I feel that I can be as anal as I want in the darkroom afterwards guilt-free and yet my control-freak nature is still somehow satisfied.

Digital Photography: the good, the bad, the ugly?
Personally, I think digital is just a tool like any other. It’s convenient, it’s clean, it has its own specific aesthetic appeal. There are certain jobs that I would always recommend digital for, but for my personal taste I simply adore film, and there is no substitution for the magic of the darkroom. Even after all these years there is no feeling like the feeling of watching as your image begins coming up seemingly from nowhere on a piece of paper in a bath of chemicals under that eerie amber light… pure magic and that is one thing that digital will always lack. there will always be aesthetic differences between digital and film just like there are differences between lens qualities, coatings, film grains, saturation and sharpness, etc no matter how much people may argue that it looks the same… different tools produce different effects, there is no bad or good about it, they are just different. but digital will never have the same magic as traditional photography. A darkroom will always look, feel, smell and be more all-encompassing and romantic and visceral than staring at a computer screen.

What role, do you think, will analog photography have in the future?
What I see happening in the world of photography is not people turning away from analog and switching to digital (of course I do see that) but what I mostly see is more and more people becoming interested in photography as a whole. Digital has opened up the medium to people who never would have picked up a camera in the past. It’s become an integral part of almost everyone’s life. And with that new interest I foresee nothing more than expanded interest in photography in all of it’s forms. Yay for taking pictures… lots and lots of pictures!

Jen’s Advice of the Day:
If you let it, photography can change your point of view, your life, and the world… so take it all in and never stop taking pictures.

written by laura_jacqueline

2 comments

  1. the_fstops_here

    the_fstops_here

    Great interview. I visit San Francisco every year for a geophysics conference and try to sneak off to Berkeley. I know exactly where I'm heading this year!!

    about 6 years ago · report as spam
  2. jeffmoore

    jeffmoore

    i'm not sure if they still have them or not but Looking Glass had these shirts that said "Film is NOT DEAD" and "think negative." on them. If they do, you should drop in and pick me up one! ah, sweet analog-love...
    about 6 years ago · report as spam