Dustin Werbeski has two passions: photography and inline skating. He's combined them into a career that has taken him around the world, first to Spain where he was the in-house photographer for his favorite rollerblading company, and now home to his native Canada, where he works at Film Rescue International, which specializes in archaic film processing technologies and also saving/restoring vintage film.
Hi Dustin, welcome to Lomography! Can you please introduce yourself to the Lomography community?
Thanks, it's a pleasure to be a part of such a vast collection of film enthusiasts. So, I'm Dustin Werbeski, a 30-year-old Canadian. My two favorite hobbies, which have both become dream jobs, are inline skating and of course photography.
How did you get started with photography?
I think it began with my first access to a darkroom in grade 7, so when I was about 12. Instantly, I was addicted to the concept, and never stopped shooting and developing my own rolls. After high school I studied photography for a couple of years in college, then developed my portfolio which took me around the world, to begin a career in commercial photography. All while I continued to shoot for myself, accumulating a suitcase and multiple hard-drives full of "my" photography.
Have you always shot film? What are some of your favorite cameras?
As I mentioned, I started shooting pre-digital & have never left my roots behind. Photography is an art form, and it's the craftsmanship of the analog equipment and processes that make it a real fine art. Today I no longer own a digital camera, unless you count my iPhone. As for my favorites from my collection, I'd say my top three would be my Contax T2, Polaroid 104, and Olympus Stylus. Others that are close to making that list would be my Lomo Belair, Photon (an original Diana Clone) Vivitar Wide & Slim, Canon A1 or any 35mm half-frame cameras. Someday I hope to add cameras like the Widelux, View-Master & a 4x5 to my collection.
We understand you recently made a huge move for photography. Can you tell us about that journey?
Well, my photography was always a hobby, just as inline skating was. Then about 7 years ago, I made my first "big move" when I landed a year-long job in Spain, as the in-house photographer/blogger for the branding of my favorite rollerblading companies. One year in Barcelona turned into many, as I was granted the opportunity to skate professionally and endorse products for a living. It was the best possible way to live my 20's, but I did always promise myself that at 30, I'd relax on the "stunt work" and focus more on my photography. So here I am, "big move #2" living back in Canada, working a full-time photo job at Film Rescue International. It's mostly lab work, which gives me access to proper analog/digital darkrooms, and a lot of other essential equipment. This is great as it allows me to finally begin printing & exhibiting the massive amount of images I've collected over the years. FRI seems to be the most perfect photography-related job for me, as I feel like most of my images are in need of a rescuing and sharing with the world.
What keeps you inspired?
Inspiration is everywhere, so my list could run on and on. But here are a few things in no particular order... Movies and documentaries about the arts, history, and sciences. Being in nature is always artistically energizing, but I do also admire architecture, street fashion, skateboarding and many other things that come with cities. I love antiques and preserving history as well. As I think about it, visiting art galleries is the most inspiring thing for me, it sparks the most inspiration to create my own works, that may someday be worthy of a gallery.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
I've always loved the NY scene that was, with Warhol, Herring & Basquiat. With my time in Spain, I learned to really appreciate it's masters, mostly Dali, Clave & Miro. Obviously, I believe photographers are artists too, and really dig Newton, Cartier-Bresson, Sugimoto & Klein.
Film Rescue International seems to be a pretty amazing place, and we know that you guys share a lot of values with Lomography. Can you tell us about FRI as an organization?
Working at Film Rescue is like having a second family. It's a very entertaining & comfortable working environment. Before moving back, I'd yet to meet or even speak to anyone at FRI. Yet, I knew they existed, as I was always interested in their services. So I decided to write a lengthy email explaining myself and situation, which was responded too rapidly and followed up by an enjoyable and lengthy video call. From that moment on, I was a part of the family, and really looking forward to arriving and beginning our work together. Since starting, I've gotten to develop thousands of rolls of expired film, containing so many amazing "lost" images. It's an exciting job to do everything you can to save somebody's memories for them. The stories that come through this lab are unbelievable, and if it wasn't for the respect of our client's confidentiality, I'd share them all with you. The same thing goes for the developing processes we do, it's all pretty secret and it was such an honor to have been taught it all. It's a never ending class on all the different films throughout history and how to process them today in the best possible way. It's amazing the amount of smiles FRI puts on people's faces by rescuing and returning them their families' images, that they either never knew existed, or completely forgot about. It's a really special company, and one I am super grateful to be a part of.
What's next? Are there any projects from you that we should be on the lookout for?
At work we are in the middle of a couple cool projects, one being reloading 126 cartridges with new 35mm film. The results of this are unique square images recorded over the films sprocket holes. These films will be going on sale through eBay really soon, and will include the processing by FRI with the original purchase price. Another really interesting project we are working on is the reverse engineered K-14 process, for developing Kodachrome as it's intended color slides. But this one is really chemistry intensive and requires a bit more testing before we can offer it as a service.
I am also creating a short film about a client's undeveloped rolls of Super 8 film, which she shot while hanging out with Allan Ginsberg around the Naropa University. But personally, I'm currently creating a 20 part series of 11x17 salt prints. All are images I shot of strangers on the streets of Spain. Working with an 1830's printing technique is very hands on and organic. It's actually a quite simple way to produce archival silver based images, that have a very "one of a kind" look to them. I'm also weighing out how to print and display another street photography series I shot while on a trip to Portugal. It was a very wet weekend, so I made the most of it and walked around Porto with an umbrella, shooting other people hiding under theirs. I guess aside from trying to exhibit everything I have, I'm dreaming about curating a fine art photography zine. As I have met a lot of talented photographers already and only hope to associate myself with more as I get deeper into the scene. I guess I can only wait and see what my 30's will bring.
Let's close this article with your advice to another photographer, in ten words or less.
Shoot for yourself, develop your own "eye", don't copy others.