We're always happy to have Robert Saint Rich back at Lomography, especially when he's the bearer of such good news! His newest book The Black Box is now available for preorder, and will soon be published. Robert is a poet of monochrome shots, black and white compositions, and perfectly lit negatives. Although his previous work was more personal, with his latest book, he takes us on an adventure both inside his mind, and out on the streets of New York City during the end of winter. With some Berlin Kino ISO 400, Robert perfectly captures the ever-changing state of New York City, alongside those mental notes he made in his head while shooting.
Have you been shooting despite the cold weather and bits of confinement left?
I have been shooting a lot despite everything – mostly street photography with some portrait work mixed in. I’ve really enjoyed capturing moments in New York City with all of the rain and snow – it has suited my photography style well. Some weather conditions were quite challenging to shoot in, but working was worth it as I have made some of my favorite photographs in my current body of work in those conditions.
You come to us with big news! The release of a new book! Can you tell us more about it?
Yes, very big news! My newest book is titled The Black Box and has been my most ambitious photography project so far in my career.
The title and conceptual themes of this project were heavily inspired by Marcel Duchamp, with the aesthetics of my photography being inspired mostly by Vivian Maier and Garry Winogrand.
The Black Box in concept is simply an effort from me as an artist to extend my perspective as a human being passed myself and given to my audience. I like to consider The Black Box as a real thing – a sort of metaphor for my head. I refer to my photographs in The Black Box as ‘notes’ inside the box, which relate back as the ideas inside of my head.
Outside of its concept, I made a conscious effort to lay out the contents of The Black Box to simulate a walk through the streets of New York City at the end of the winter season. I have always found the most opportunity for growth in self-reflection during this period of time, and this fits well for me with this project as The Black Box showcases the growth I have made as an artist since my first photography book, Sad Poems by a Very Sick Person.
The Black Box releases on the one year anniversary of Sad Poems by a Very Sick Person.
How long have you been working on it?
From its initial conception to receiving the final copies of the book, The Black Box took roughly four months to execute and produce.
I first conceptualized the idea for this project at the beginning of December 2020 and began working in January 2021. For this project, I forced myself to completely change how I create street photographs, and that made my workflow very uncomfortable. To get used to my new way of shooting, I produced a handful of test rolls to make sure the content I’d be putting in the book was good. By February, I was comfortable and ready to start shooting for The Black Box. Between February and March, I shot close to thirty rolls of Berlin Kino in the streets of New York City. After every shooting session, I spent the night processing the film, creating contact sheets in the darkroom, and scanning the negatives to have them digitized. Being a photographer, I have built an incredible visual memory, so I had already mostly decided how the spreads of my book would be laid out while I was shooting. For instance, there may have been moments captured on the seventh photo walk that I knew would pair well with an image captured on my second walk before I had even processed and seen the negative. This made it very easy for me to layout the book, which only took me roughly five hours to do.
I spent about a week flipping through a digital copy of The Black Box so that I was able to digest it fully and make sure that the sequence of the images was perfect. I then sent the digital copy to five friends for feedback and critique, made some adjustments, and sent the book to print.
By the end of April, I had a physical copy of The Black Box in my hands.
You chose to shoot the pictures with some Berlin Kino. How did it fit your style?
I did! I had used Berlin Kino for the first time in my piece titled From the Room Where the Bed is Made but the Heart is Broken and knew the film stock would work really well with my style of street photography. When I first conceptualized this project, I knew immediately that it would have to be done on Berlin Kino. No other film would do it justice. Berlin Kino fit the style found in The Black Box by giving the photographs an intimate feeling. When you look at these pictures, you really feel like you are immersed in the scenes that are being captured. With the main focus of The Black Box being the extension of my perspective in the world, the immersion given by this film was a perfect match.
Your pictures always had an intimate and mysterious aura, from your personal work to your more street related work. How do you relate to them?
I relate personally to my works in a lot of different ways, whether that’s by immersing myself in the environment and capturing aesthetics that portray emotions that I am feeling, or by creating conceptual themes to carry a narrative in my visual works. The intimacy and mysterious nature that may be found in my work likely stems from my process in creation, which is always personal and emotional.
Do you have any tips for anyone wishing to publish a book?
My biggest piece of advice for anyone publishing a book entirely on their own would be to be patient and expect some things to go wrong. Bookmaking is a very extensive and difficult process with a lot of things to be considered. Patience is key, and you have to allow yourself room to grow and learn from the process.
Your first book won’t be your best book so long as it isn’t your last book.
Are you working on any future projects we should be on the lookout for?
For the moment, I am back to producing single sets of works until inspiration strikes again for a longer and more thought-out project like The Black Box. At this time, I am just enjoying creating when I feel the need and allowing myself to rejuvenate after completing my last project.
My new works can be seen on my social media pages as they are completed, and news concerning any future projects or exhibitions will be announced here as well.
Get a Chance to Win a copy of The Black Box and some Berlin Kino Film!
Robert is giving away a copy of his book The Black Box along with some Berlin Kino Film!
The giveaway will be open until June 4, 2021.
Note: The giveaway is open internationally!