Black and white will always have a place in the world. It's an indispensable vessel of art and photography. Philadelphia-based photographer and monochrome artist Benjamin MacMaster knows that by heart. His street photographs come alive in a masterful mix of grain, contrast, tones, and texture.
Hello, Benjamin and welcome to the Magazine! What do you do and how did you get started on your photographic journey?
I'm currently a freelance photographer and videographer. I also work at a camera store, Webb Cam, in Philadelphia. My photographic journey began when I was younger and was fortunate enough to travel all over the country with my mom and sister. There were no digital cameras then and I had a zoom film point-and-shoot that I would use to document the trips. I found it to be incredibly enjoyable to work with photography.
How would you define photography? What do you like most about it?
Photography is the visual representation of a story — an incredibly versatile medium used as a method of documentation and a way of capturing and creating an experience. What I like most about photography is how it impacts a viewer — what images can make someone feel and how it elicits emotions.
What inspires you to create images?
Life inspires me. Experiences that are different from my own understanding inspire me.
What challenges you in your career as a photographer?
A challenge that I continuously work on is to not fall into repetition. Instead of taking the same image in the same place, I look for a new way to see a subject.
Strong contrast and tones make your photos pop out while some of your photos look like they're straight from a movie. Was this a particular style you were going for?
I am always looking at light and tones for my images. The quality of light and contrast work into the mood of an image that I am looking to capture so it is a contributing factor to my style.
We're loving the character and moody vibe we get from your black and white photographs. How do you know that a certain frame will look good in monochrome?
Thank you. There are several reasons why I work in black and white. Part of what I enjoy photographing is timelessness — in that the viewer would not know when the image was taken. And for this black and white lends itself very well to create the look I am interested in. While I do enjoy color work, I find that it can become easy to be lost in color — distracting in a way from what the subject is. I am also red-green color blind so my vision is already more adapted to seeing with black and white imagery in mind.
Why choose film for your work? What keeps you shooting with this medium?
For me, film has adds visual depth to the images. I can select a film with a certain grain structure that I like with a developer that I like to bring out the look I am seeking in an image. There is a great level of creative control and freedom with working with film.
Do you have any advice for aspiring film photographers out there?
There is no substitution for going out and shooting. Always take your camera with you and print your work. Printing your work allows you to see the images in greater depth.
What's next for Benjamin MacMaster?
I am currently completing a book of my Rodeo images, as well as a body of work visualizing sound. The next step would be preparing for an upcoming exploration of the American landscape.
Lastly, if you could have one camera and film to shoot with, what would it be and why?
Well, the one camera and film to shoot with for me is the Leica MP and Fujifilm Neopan 400. The MP is already the camera I use and love for its viewfinder and feel. Fujifilm Neopan 400 was my favorite film and I have had many images that I really enjoyed with it. Its tonal range and grain structure are very pleasing. Neopan 400 is one film I really wish Fujifilm would reintroduce.