Oakland-based photographer Justin Nambiar is often in pursuit of beauty unseen. Unlike other photographers, Justin likes to create an illusion of presence in which the audience would somehow feel being pulled back into an older time where bright neons and milky pastels are found in everyday lives. Through his 4x5 camera, he looks for the finer details that we normally overlook.
Here's our interview with Justin.
Hi Justin!, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, what got you into working with film photography?
Thanks so much for having me on here! I started in videography filming skateboarding and weddings and putting together videos in high school. Eventually, I picked up a Pentax 35mm camera in my parent's closet and took it on a trip to Yosemite shooting my first film photos. I was blown away by the results, and continued shooting daily with a friend who was also into film photography at the time. We would take drives after school and photographed anything that piqued our interest - it was like seeing everything with new eyes when getting back our film from the lab.
We are very interested in the locations you choose to take your images, as most people opt for busy, buzzing capital cities or touristy-landscapes. What interests you to capture the neighborhood?
I really enjoy finding the beauty in things that most people either don't notice or don't care to notice. I also like the idea that most of my photographs weren't captured by anyone else – there is so much of the same thing in photography nowadays in terms of subject matter, and I try to get away from that as much as I can. In a way, I feel that I'm returning to the way I first started photographing. Exploring areas in good light, and capturing anything that grabs my attention for any reason, without much pre-planning as to what I'm going to capture or find. A huge part of my photography is based on subjects that are old, aged, and vintage which appear that they were photographed in the past rather than present day. To me, the 1950's-1980's was a golden age, so I try to bring that back in some of my photos with classic cars, old buildings, signs, etc.
As a photographer, what's the most important element in a composition?
I think there are many things in composition that are important to me but some of the main things I look for are nice leading lines to guide the eye through the photograph, proper framing of the subject, beautiful light, shadow and color, and interesting subject matter that people aren't used to seeing.
We love your soft palette! Do you have a certain mood or ambiance you're going for when taking pictures?
I'm glad you noticed and appreciate it! I tend to overexpose my photographs to have a nice soft and airy feel that is slightly vintage and dreamlike, with muted color. I feel that the film I use lends itself to this look very well. Many of my photos do not contain people –I like the viewer to feel that they're the only one there viewing this moment, which makes it much more intimate of an experience.
If you could spend some time with any photographer or artist, dead, alive or fictional, who would it be?
Steve McCurry. He has such amazing portraits from around the world which I really appreciate. The connection he seems to make with all of his subjects and environment is an amazing thing, and I'd love to pick his brain. Secondly, I'd love to meet an Instagram photographer named Joe Greer. His travel and street work is amazing – I take a lot of inspiration from his color and tonal treatment within his photographs and he also shoots film.
What's a day in the life of Justin Nambiar look like?
A normal day of photography would be me getting out of the house in late morning or mid-afternoon and taking a bike ride around town. I try to explore different parts of the neighborhood I'm around to find something new I haven't seen before. Being on a bike is a great way to photograph – I can literally just step off my bike and shoot right away once I see something. Sometimes I'll take the train into San Francisco and walk or skateboard around in the same way, shooting anything that stands out. I mostly shoot during the weekends and will bring my film to get processed once every week or two. I'm slowly getting back into the habit of carrying my camera in during my commutes on a daily basis and shooting in the morning and afternoons after work which lends itself to great street photography opportunities.
What's next for Justin as the photographer?
I am working on an on-going series of neon signs and lights during or after rain. I just love the way neon turns out on film and having those beautiful colorful reflections on pavement or through windows dotted with raindrops and being able to capture a dying signage. I would also love to work on more documentary style imagery in other countries – capturing the different and amazing ways other people live their lives, as well as any strong issues they may be dealing with, getting more in touch with the human soul and experience