Pittsburg, Pennsylvania based photographer Zac Cageao worked with a variety of Lomography film. We were able to chat with him about his roots in photography, love for film, and also what he shoots. His soft and sultry images seem like they're straight out from a dream.
Hi Zac, welcome to the magazine, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
From a young age, I was interested in storytelling. I started out in theater and found myself gravitating toward filmmaking. After attending film school at Savannah College of Art and Design, I moved to Los Angeles to work in the film industry. I came back to Pittsburgh when I found out I was going to have a son. In order to support a family, I started a commercial filmmaking and photography company, and took a a job creating marketing content and teaching filmmaking and photography at an arts center and charter school, where I am currently employed. I found myself in need of personal artistic expression and turned to film photography. I spend most of my time outside of work making documentary films, and shooting film with my son who is now five.
Who or what got you into photography?
Having a background in filmmaking and cinematography, digital photography came easy to me. But, I never saw it as an "art form" until I started shooting and developing film. My great cousin passed away and left me three cameras: An Argus C2 Rangefinder from 1940's that he had taken to Korea during the war, a Nikon Nikkormat FT, the first consumer Nikon SLR, and a more modern Nikon FG from the eighties. After shooting my first few rolls I was hooked.
What about film do you gravitate towards?
Film has a tactile nature that I love. In this digital world, it is exciting to actually create something that you can hold in your hand. Also film forces you to slow down and engage in the creative process. When I'm shooting something digitally it is easy to fire off a thousand exposures and not think twice about it, but with film you are limited (in a good way) with ISO sensitivity and the number of exposures. This forces you to really have intention, and an artist's intention is often what defines art.
You seem to have a pretty diverse portfolio of what you like to shoot, between your portraiture, street photography and nature, what do you look for in a great photo?
I don't discriminate when it comes to subject matter in my photography. Defining greatness in photography is hard, due to the subjective nature of art. I always tell my students to capture what they love to look at; what interests them. If they love taking the picture, chances are that passion is going to filter out onto the viewer and give them joy as well. To give an academic answer, there are three things I feel make a great photo.
First is emotion, and the most effective path to emotion is storytelling. I want to capture images that look like they have a history, or a story to tell. I wan't the viewer to study the image and want to know more. Second is Intent and concept. I often want to convey a deeper meaning in what I create. I want people to take something away from an image; a conversation or a thesis. And third is aesthetics; the design elements that make up all visual art. Is there a strong value contrast that is pleasing to the eye? Are the colors vibrant, warm or cool? Is there a pattern of forms or an enjoyable texture? I will often take a photo for purely aesthetic reasons and a meaning, or emotion will come to me later.
What do you like about working with instant and negative film? Do you prefer one over the other and if so why?
Negative film is rewarding. To actually hold something in your hand that you have created is amazing. This feeling is heightened buy instant film. Negative film gives you tons of control of your workflow in post. Development times, chemicals, digital negative scans v.s. prints, not to mention the digital tweaks that can be made in Lightroom. Negative film, especially my preferred format, 120mm film, can be enlarged easily and makes great prints. The creative control you have with negative film is unparalleled. That being said. There is enjoyment in letting go of that control and shooting instant. Instant is just that, instant gratification. I feel that instant film is the gateway drug of film photography. It is also a great experience I can share with my son. Most instant film cameras are mostly automatic so you don't have to be an expert to enjoy creating art. I can't say I prefer one type over another.
How was it working with Lomography film?
I love working with Lomography's products. They never disappoint. I first discovered Lomography's film when I stumbled into a storefront in Manhattan. I picked up some Lomo Color 400 and it has been one of my favorites ever since. Perfect for other-worldly saturation when shot at box speed, and great balanced color when shot at 200. It's sharp, fast and affordable. I always have a roll or two on me, and my son's point-and-shoot is always loaded with this killer film.
I have yet to try the 120mm, but I am looking forward to using it in the future, especially the 800 speed. Aside from film, my favorite experience with a Lomography product has to be the Lomo Instant Wide. This camera is amazing. The amount of control that is available is like nothing else on the instant market. The best feature for me is the 49mm filter thread and the exposure compensation. This allows me to use warming filters like the Skylight 1A for color, and color filtration, yellow and green filters, in black and white. This combination allows you to create images that are unparalleled in instant photography.
If you had to choose one camera and one roll of film to take with you, what would it be?
If I could only take one camera and one roll of film with me, it would be my Rolleicord and Ilford hp5 black and white. I would use my Rolleicord Twin Lens Reflex Camera for the sharpness of the german glass and the 6x6 square negative. I would pair my Rollei with Ilford Hp5 400 and I would push it to 1600. I absolutely love the contrast and grain you get when processing Hp5 this way.
What influences you as a photographer?
My son October is a huge influence on me as a photographer. He sees the world with such joy and passion, I just try to keep up. Sometimes he stops and wants to take a shot that I would have overlooked which leads to a killer image. We are able to spend such quality time together traveling and working with film.
Any advice for those who want to get into photography or are afraid to?
My advice to people who want to get into photography and are are afraid to is this: Good art will always be accompanied by fear. If the art you are creating doesn't scare you than you are not challenging yourself, and if you are not challenging yourself than you are stagnating. Get yourself an instant camera and learn how to see the world, there are stories out there, and even if it scares the piss out of you, you have to tell them. The world will be better place and you will be a better person if you just create a little art.