The unpredictable magic of film photography renders Rich Burroughs’ photographs with natural beauty and strong passion. Every moment when he sees the negatives he shot is like Christmastime to him: wonderful in every way.
Tell us something about yourself.
I live in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been doing photography on and off for years, but I got started again seriously about four years ago when I bought my first Holga. I’ve had several images in group exhibitions at galleries, and one of my images won second place in the Nudes category of Holgapalooza 2010. There will be a feature and interview about my work in the upcoming issue of Light Leaks magazine, issue #19.
How/When did you begin taking pictures? What was your first camera?
I had some film cameras as toys as a child, a Brownie from the 1950s and a Polaroid SX-70, but I didn’t actually shoot film in them. My first experience with film that I can remember was shooting for my
high school newspaper with a Pentax K-1000. I was more of a writer but I learned to take pictures to go with my articles, and to use the darkroom. My first camera that I actually bought was a Nikon FM2n.
Describe your style in photography. What are your usual subjects and themes?
One thread that runs through a lot of my work is natural beauty. I’m also a minimalist. Right now I have a Holga series that I’m doing with models on black and white film, a lot of those are nudes. I also have
a series of Polaroids I’m doing shooting with models on expired film. I’ve done a lot of landscapes and urban landscapes, many of those have been shot with toy cameras or my Hasselblad.
Amongst your numerous film photographs, which is your favourite?
It’s hard to pick one, but there’s an image of a horse I shot in the desert in Central Washington that I really love. I was on a group trip to shoot some abandoned buildings. As we were going down the road from
one spot to the next planned one, we ran across some horses. This one boy was very friendly, not at all camera shy. I really love the detail in the image. That’s frost on his ears, it was very cold.
What is the soundtrack for your series of photographs?
In most of my shoots with models I play Portishead, so I have to go with that. It seems to fit the mood I like in my work very well. Kind of languid and introspective, layered.
We all have our idols, which photographers do you look up to? *
Sally Mann, Robert Frank, Stephen Shore, and Diane Arbus have all been big inspirations to me. For foreign photographers, Helmut Newton comes to mind.
If you could take anyone’s portrait using film, can be living or dead, who (would it be), which (camera would you use), and why?
Natalie Wood. I’ve always thought she had a classic beauty that I’d love to capture. Young Liz Taylor, too. I’d take that kind of image with my Hasselblad on black and white film, I’d want it sharp and high res. I’d really like to shoot with Lindsay Lohan. Her personal issues aside, I think she’s lovely and I’ve seen some amazing images of her.
Analogue vs. Digital. What makes analogue/film photography more special than digital?
I shoot some digital images with models. When I’m shooting digital I really miss the dynamic range of black and white film. It’s also interesting to me that a lot of the digital post I see people doing
mimics the look of film cameras. But you just don’t get the kind of unpredictable magic with a Photoshop action that you do with film. And you miss that wonderful moment when you first see the negatives you
shot, or see a Polaroid image start to come in as it develops. It’s a little like Christmas every time.
Do you own Lomography cameras? Which is your favourite?
I have a handful of Diana+/Diana F+ cameras, and the Instant Back. I also have several Holga 120Ns and a Holga 120WPC. I’m very interested in doing panoramic landscapes, I think something like a Horizon could be fun to play with.
A lot of people are into photography today, what would you say to them to inspire them more?
It’s important to develop your own voice. Look for themes and subjects that you have a strong emotional connection to. If you’re passionate about the work, that will come across. If you’re interested in going
down the fine art photography path, you need to define the projects you’re working on. Just shooting random images isn’t enough, galleries want a group of images that are cohesive somehow.
Do you have any ongoing/future projects?
Right now the work with models is my big focus. I think the Polaroid series will be my first book when it’s complete. A future project I have planned is a series of images of greyhounds. They’re such striking and sweet dogs, I owned one years ago and really love them. I’m hoping to start on that this year.