This spring and early summer, we are thrilled to feature photographs from member Aaron Brethorst on our downstairs walls. Aaron has been a member at Office Nomads on-again-off-again since 2010 and this is his very first show at our space. We recently sat down with Aaron to talk about art, photography, and his projects.
There are so many ways we can express ourselves through art. What attracts you to photography as an artistic expression?
I was originally attracted to photography because it offered a way to ‘geek out’ on the more technical aspects of the craft. Although I told myself that digital photography would be a great way to spend more time outside, I still found myself in front of my computer quite a bit. Since then, my connection to the medium has become far deeper both because of the supportive community I have found at Photographic Center Northwest here in Seattle and also because of my greater awareness of the history of the medium. Also, I cannot draw to save my life.
Tell us more about “Liminal Points” – the series you’ll feature at Office Nomads. Where did the idea come from?
Liminal Points is a project that emerged from walking around Seattle while daydreaming. As I would walk past a door or entryway, I would try to imagine all of the possibilities contained behind it. Some of the images in this series are straightforward: either you can see right through the door frame, or the contents are literally advertised to you. In other cases, what exists behind the door can be as mundane or exciting as your imagination can allow.
On your website you mention a project that may bring together photos of Seattle as it goes through this time of great change we’re currently in, including the gentrification of many Seattle neighborhoods. Is that something you are still working on?
Yes, I am indeed still working on this project. The subject is near and dear to my heart, especially given that I see myself as being a part of the problem. When I first moved to Capitol Hill on Halloween, October 31, 2005, I paid barely $1,000 per month for a beautiful apartment in a building practically exploding with charm. I don’t imagine that many such places still exist—at least not at such a price point—and yet I continue paying whatever absurd rent increases are asked of me, thus pricing out all of the people who formed the neighborhood milieu that originally attracted me to it.
I have a number of ideas about how to tackle this project, which range from the somewhat mundane (photographic prints hanging on a wall) to the more extravagant yet accessible (a crowdsourced, augmented reality app for your iPhone). I hope to land nearer to the ‘extravagant’ end of this project given that I feel like my skill set seems to point in this direction. More soon on this topic, I hope.
What (or who) inspires your work? What photographers do you really admire who we should know about?
There are many photographers who inspire my work. Probably the best-known influences for my upcoming work are Larry Sultan and Alec Soth, but there are dozens of other people who inspire, challenge, and provoke me on a daily basis. You can find all of these folks in the darkroom or digital labs, and taking classes at Photographic Center Northwest, or PCNW, up on 12th and Marion. I cannot recommend highly enough the value of taking just one class at this institution. You might cringe at the idea of paying $700 for an adult education photography class, but I can assure you that the positive impact to your work will be far greater than the lens or new camera you might have purchased instead.
If you’re not ready to sign up for a class, no worries, I totally understand. Swing by, check out the gallery, and maybe register for a weekend crash course in film photography instead. A capable, friendly instructor will help you walk through the process of shooting a roll of film, developing it, and even making a black-and-white gelatin silver print in the darkroom.
And now for the really tough, deep question. What is your camera of choice?
It depends! When I want to be ‘practical’ (ugh), and need to quickly turn around work, I use a Fuji X-Pro2 digital rangefinder. But I love film and have as many cameras as there are days of the week. I have tried to limit myself to one film camera per category, but this has been proving difficult as of late. Here’s my current lineup:
35mm Rangefinder: Leica M6
35mm SLR: Canon 3
Medium Format Rangefinder: Bronica RF645
Medium Format SLR: Hasselblad 501CM
Large Format Field Camera: Shen Hao HZX-45 4×5″
Large Format Technical Camera: Linhof Technika III 4×5″
What is my favorite film is possibly a more interesting question! I love shooting with different film stocks depending on the format. With 35mm, I love working with a cinema film stock called Eastman Kodak 5222 Double-X, which has been used to shoot literally thousands of movies over the past fifty years. Here’s one example of a photograph that I’ve made with 5222.
When I’m shooting my Bronica, I will normally use Kodak’s Tri-X 400 black and white film, which has been a mainstay of the black and white film world for decades. Here’s an example of the pair.
With my Hasselblad, I used to shoot Fujifilm’s Acros 100 black and white film, but it was recently announced that Acros has been discontinued. Fuji seems intent on destroying their film legacy to focus on their X-series digital cameras (yay, I guess), and their InstaX instant film cameras. Acros was a beautiful film, and I will be sad to see it go. This is a scan I made of an 8×10″ wet print with Acros in the darkroom.
Our deepest thanks to Aaron for taking the time to share his photography and his thoughts with us! Come on by to check out Aaron’s work at our Spring Open House on Wednesday, May 16th from 5-8pm. Details and RSVP here.