If there's one thing we learned with our interview with Aaron Crossman, it's that sometimes it's better to pay no mind to what others think. Just keep doing what you love and everything will follow. It may sound naive at first but something about what he said just resonates the truth. After all, concentrating on your craft sounds far better than lusting about whatever it is everyone else is doing. We'll let him charm you with his beautiful handiwork and words now. Enjoy!
Hi, Aaron! Welcome to the Lomography Magazine! What do you do and what got you started on your photography journey?
Hey! Thanks for having me!
I am a fashion and portrait photographer (I think?) I’m never quite sure how to pinpoint what exactly it is that I shoot as it can change from day to day but for the most part, it's portraits.
I got into photography actually by being an avid fisherman when I lived in the UK around two years ago. It came as a byproduct of sleeping out in beautiful settings whilst fishing. One morning I woke up at sunrise and thought to myself, “WOW I’d love to be able to capture how beautiful this sunrise is.”
So, cheekily, I ‘borrowed’ my younger sister's DSLR and took it with me the next time and before I knew it, I was ordering a 50 mm prime lens and spending most of my time trying to learn more about taking photographs than I would spend trying to catch fish. I became pretty well known for my photos in the fishing community, being featured in print and journals.
This is mostly what sparked my interest and it wasn’t until I one day took a photo of my friend that I thought: you know what, I enjoy working with people and capturing their personalities (or lack thereof sometimes).
Why choose film in this day and age? What do you like about it?
Films a funny one, initially as everyone does, they kind of start film photography from seeing photos with dust and grain and scratches on them, but as time has progressed I’ve realized that this to me is, in fact, quite the opposite to how film generally lends itself (especially the film stock I shoot – Kodak Portra). I shoot film for a few reasons:
Firstly I love the process, I realized you begin to slow down everything, becoming a little more calculated and more methodical. I don’t go out and shoot hundreds of photos, generally, I think on a shoot with a model I’d shoot anywhere between 1-4 rolls happily (10-40 shots). Shooting this way has made me use my mind's eye a lot more, seeing a final image before I hit the shutter button, rather than hoping for the best and then assessing the damage later. Although sometimes, those in-between shots work nicely and they come as part of sometimes overshooting or not being so meticulous about the shot being ‘perfect’.
Secondly, it's hard to describe to people who don’t shoot film with the intention of printing or really taking a closer look, but, I love when shooting medium format how the focus rolls off subjects, I mean it's largely due to the larger medium but it's just so pleasing to me when in the darkroom hand printing and seeing the paper develop into a photo and seeing the effect that all these things combined give you, it's just something digital doesn’t do.
Lastly, the colors. With Portra, I get a nice amount of contrast in my photos and the colors are never too saturated and hold good skin tones, to me that’s important, especially when I'm trying to maintain a style in color and contrast. Touching on the film grain aspects, I like my photos to have minimal grain in them especially when scanned straight from the negative, so film gives me a nice fine grain that if exposed properly and doesn’t become overpowering. I haven’t shot other film stocks because I don’t want to move away from what I’m already getting, I’m sure there are lots of great ones out there but hey, why fix something that’s not broken?
How would you describe your photographic style?
In all honesty, I would describe my style as… clean?
I’m not entirely sure, to be honest, color-wise for the style, it's starting to move towards where I want it to be, but bearing in mind that I’ve not really been doing this too long yet, I’m still learning and trying to find my ‘style’.
I really want to move away from what I’m shooting currently and move towards more high-end fashion editorial work. I’ve always had an interest in fashion photography more than anything and generally will try to style my own shoots so perhaps looking forwards you might see my style change towards a more polished, ‘cleaner’ looking style.
What inspires you to create? What do you look for in a scene before you hit the shutter?
It used to be inspired completely by the urge to just shoot, then that progressed to seeing a model I wanted to shoot and at that time, location and styling didn’t really even cross my mind.
Now, I’m inspired mostly by color and light, I always create a look in my mind based on how I see light illuminating color. Currently, I have a huge obsession with deep reds and also really nice yellows. This then translates into the styling and then the models looks and skin tone and location will come after.
In a scene, I like it to be pretty simple, I’m not a huge fan of lines and lots happening in the background, I feel it sometimes distracts from what I’m trying to say in my photo. Generally, just a nice light and a neutral color will do. The moment I hit the shutter is only when I really feel it when looking through the viewfinder.
We love how natural your portraits are. They look so clean and composed. How do you achieve this look?
Thank you! It’s funny because I do it almost subconsciously like I’ve been asked to shoot for people in the style of other photographers and it sometimes really boggles my mind, sometimes it's just how someone goes through the motions from start to finish. I think that goes for my work, I’m so used to shooting and editing in a certain way that I don’t even consciously make decisions, it just sort of happens when editing. But mostly, I like to keep the subject very centered and I try to never have them posed TOO much. Editing-wise, I like to keep things simple — my personal taste is the more simple, the better.
What would you say was the most challenging thing in being a film photographer nowadays? How did you get past it?
Mostly, just the challenge on my bank balance. Film isn’t always cheap and neither is paying a lab to develop and scan it. For a period I would develop and scan my own film but the novelty wore off pretty quickly, having a bad back from leaning over a bath twisting and rolling a chamber full of chemicals.
It’s a little more challenging the further you progress too, as like myself I like to spend time at a lab hand printing and that incurs more expense as paying for lab time and also nice paper to print on, not to mention the time spent trying to get it right.
I kind of get past it by having faith that this money spent will be the reason my work will stand out in the future and hopefully will earn back all that money spent initially.
Who are your favorite photographers?
Currently, I’ve had the pleasure to meet some of my favorite photographers since coming to New York.
My main inspiration at the moment is a lovely guy called Jens Ingvarsson. This guy alone has inspired me more than anyone, not just with his beautiful work but also the fact he has given me a great amount of advice and information to help me better myself moving forward with photography and motivating myself. I really urge you to go check his work out and support what he is doing!
Alexander Saladrigas — another great photographer producing beautiful high-end work. Great concepts and lovely colors.
Lachlan Bailey — because he produces some great work too. A lot of his work is very clean and very captivating. Kind of reminds me of the old photos we all reference so much nowadays when scrolling through Pinterest or flipping through old photography books.
Lastly, the late great Peter Lindbergh — the first real photographer's work I followed obsessively and tried to recreate on my own. It's such a shame that he's passed on but the iconic photos he produced will forever live on and inspire people for generations to come.
Do you have upcoming projects? Please share them with our readers.
Right now, there are a few things in the pipeline but as of this moment, they are just at the very infant stages of being created. An idea to do a trip across America with my girlfriend (who you probably see a lot of on my Instagram) trying to create a photobook or exhibition of our work, the mood will be very nostalgic — like a girl from a different time (the 50s to 60s) traveling around in the world we live in today.
What does a perfect day look like for Aaron Crossman?
Honestly, just to wake up healthy and be able to have the freedom and resources to go out and do what I do every day. Probably 9 am sun, slightly overcast and not too cold —perfect conditions to shoot in my opinion.
Any last words for our readers?
Go out and do what you wanna do and do not get too distracted by what other people are doing. Have faith in your own work and no matter what the world is doing around you try and take it in sometimes. You don’t always need to have a camera with you, you can live in the moment too. It doesn’t always need to be photographed.