Turn And Face the Strange: Will Hopkins in conversation with Andrew D. McClees

William Hopkins in Conversation with Andrew D. McClees, about Turn and Face the Strange:

Andrew D. McClees (ADM): Hi Will we’re here to talk about your upcoming zine project, Turn and Face the Strange. Before we get into it, can you tell me about yourself and your background?

William Hopkins (WH): Thanks Andrew! First I want to say thank you for interviewing me, and for your work with the community. Frozenwaste.land is doing really great work with and for film photographers.

I currently live and work in southeast Michigan. I relocated here after living my entire life in the greater Philadelphia area, and it was time for a change. By training and trade I’m an analyst and developer in the tech industry, but by vocation I’m an artist and photographer. It’s how I interpret the world around me and I try to share that perspective with others through the visual arts.

I was interested in photography as an art form starting in college, where I took photos with a Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot my parents gave me, but it wasn’t until more recently in 2014 that I started learning real photographic principles with my first DSLR. In the interim, I started shooting film with a Kodak Tele-Instamatic 608 (a 110 format camera).

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ADM: Can you explain the title of the Zine, and give me a one sentence description of what the zine is about? 

WH: I’ve been a big David Bowie fan ever since I first raided my dad’s record collection, so when I was thinking of titles for the zine Bowie came to mind. I couldn’t resist.

Turn and Face the Strange is a zine of 110 format photos, shot over a period of several years in Philadelphia, Yosemite, and Ann Arbor, for no particular reason [at the time] but that in hindsight represent my process of meaning-making.

ADM: Now that I have the basic concept/logline, can you talk about what the inspiration was for you to shoot the zine in a little more detail?

WH: When I started taking these photos, I had no intention of collecting them in a coherent fashion. I didn’t really even know that you could. 

I just took the photos because I liked photography and wanted to convey something that I was feeling to whomever might view them. I was going through a period of transition in my life, graduating from undergrad, getting my first job, and moving away from my hometown. I wanted to record fragments of that process, for myself as a diary if for no other purpose.

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Over the last year, I’ve really gone headlong into film and been inspired by all the zines I’ve collected (special shout-out to the All Through A Lens and Forte400 zines). I wanted to make something of my own without being precious about it, in the grand tradition of Xeroxed zines and punk aesthetics, so the somewhat grungy quality of 110 film jumped out at me right away.

Shooting the photos for the zine wasn’t really an intentional project, but the actual process of assembling the zine absolutely has been. I’ve learned a lot from it about how I want to express myself. Nick Mayo (@nickexposed) in particular did a great video series on creating a zine, and his example of the creative process (put on some jazz and lay out prints) really informed my own. In the end, my guiding phrase was “finding a sense of place through my photos”, and I wanted to give viewers a sense of the physical and spiritual places I’d been to in my photos.

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ADM: What do you think the core features of your Photography are that relate to or help accomplished your goal of “finding a sense of place.” Or to you, what were the defining features or feelings that led you to choose the photos you chose for the zine?

Also how did you get turned onto 110 photography? That’s a pretty niche format, even for most film shooters.

WH: Great questions! I hadn’t really framed it in this way for myself before. I’ve noticed that I often shoot abstract photos that, by themselves or in the moment, don’t make sense to those around me. My friends and family are used to me stopping to photograph “the light” or some ephemera of the scene. I think photographers reading this will know exactly what I mean.

To me, those photographs (and moments) are driven by a desire to capture a sense of place. A place is, to me, the feelings and memories connected to it as much as it is the physical location. So in my photography, I try to freeze a slice, however small, of what I’m feeling or experiencing in a given place.

As I’ve tried out other formats and cameras (I’m currently smitten with a Yashica Mat 124) I’ve kept very much the same approach. 

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Whatever the equipment, there’s a here-and-now-ness that I want to capture on film.

As for how I got into 110, mostly by happenstance! The Tele-Instamatic 608 was one of the two cameras given to me by my family when I asked for film cameras they had lying around. I’d heard film was cheaper than digital, and I was hoping for some gems. Between my grandpa’s Yashica Electro-35 GSN and the Tele-Instamatic 608, I’d say I did okay! The oddity of 110 film really drew me in, and I’ve been shooting it ever since.

ADM: I know a lot of film purists tend to reject the notion of editing, etc. Do you edit much of your photos? Is there a specific color palate you tend to shoot for?

WH: To be honest, I really hate editing on a computer. It drives me absolutely up the wall. I work with computers and am an ex-IT person, but for some reason computer-based photo editing is not my jam. So I don’t edit my photos, but I’m not opposed to it in theory.

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Until recently, I sent all my film out to be developed (and I still send my 110 film out). I’ve used The Darkroom and Fulltone Photo (where I still send my color film) and let them do some basic retouching in the scans.

In an ideal world, I’d like to start printing my work directly in the darkroom and use old-school editing techniques in the process. I have a great local-ish darkroom called Darkroom Detroit, where I’ve learned both processing and printing basics, but it can be a bit of a hike so I don’t get there as often as I’d like.

ADM: On sequencing, beyond taking inspiration in process from Nick Mayo, how did you sequence your photos, or what drove you to sequence things in the manner you did?

WH: I printed out all of the photos I thought I might want to use in the zine. I just used a handy office inkjet printer, nothing fancy. I already had an idea of the order I wanted, so I started by putting them into that order but I quickly learned that

  1. Some photos really didn’t fit, and

  2. The order in my head didn’t match the visual experience.

I used a blue and red double-ended correction pencil to make notes on all the photos as I went, suggesting page numbers and blank spaces. I generally kept them clipped together with a binder clip - spreading them out on the floor or a table just didn’t work for me.

Cover of Turn and Face the Strange

Cover of Turn and Face the Strange

At the end of the process, I shared a slide deck of the photos, in order, with some trusted confidants to give me their feedback. At this point, I’m happy with the layout and ordering, but need to actually try printing out a test run!

ADM: That sounds really great! Where can the readers pick up a copy of the zine?  Also I’m not usually one to get into tech details, but what film did you use? And where did you get it?

Is there anything you’d like to add about the zine?

WH: I used Lomography Color Tiger film, some of the only 110 film left. The Film Photography Project also has some 110 options now, and I’ve stocked up for the next iteration of the project.

Readers can pick up a copy of the zine on my Etsy shop!

ADM: Thanks for talking about the zine!

Dominick Ducote in Conversation with Brendon Holt, on "Clarity."

Dominick Ducote in Conversation with Brendon Holt, on “Clarity.”

ED. Note: You can view all of "Clarity and Fog” here on Frozenwaste.land under the “Places” section.

Brendon Holt (BH): So, Dominick, we’re here to talk about your recent project, Clarity. The title seems like as good a place to start as any. Why, “Clarity”? 

Dominick Ducote (DD): The full title is Clarity & Fog, an important distinction because the title reflects the duality in both the images, and the emotions I felt while shooting these images. For example, the images taken in the Tetons are all very clean and crisp, and this was the location where I felt mostly comfortable and content. The Yellowstone photographs however, have a radiated haze to them, much like how my mentality was at that point in the trip. 

BH: Ah, I see. What drew you to Yellowstone and Grand Teton for this project? Aside from their breathtaking beauty, that is. 

DD: My grandparents took me to tons of beautiful places as a child, Yellowstone and Grand Teton included. I plan on revisiting all the places we went to, because I still remember all the beauty I’ve seen traveling with them, it’s just that now I’m finally able to capture it the way it deserves. 

BH: That’s great. My relationship with Montana has a similar story. I spent many summers growing up hiking in Glacier National Park and other areas around Montana with my grandparents and it instilled a love of those places that has lasted. Have you devoted any work to other areas already? And do you have any future locations planned at the moment? 

DD: The only other location I’ve shot at so far is Scofield, Utah, a little ghost town where my grandparents built their house years ago. Only 20 or so people live there now, so it’s got a really quiet and forgotten atmosphere. It feels like you’re on the set of an episode of the Twilight Zone out there. 

As for future locations, I’d love to revisit Sitka, Alaska, but I haven’t made any moves towards that yet. Unfortunately, I think it’ll be a few years before I can make my way north again. 

BH: Alaska seems like an incredible place, from what I’ve seen. It’s one of those “bucket list” places for me personally. My grandma’s descriptions of it don’t quell my desire to visit either. You noted that the impetus behind the project was, in some sense, about being able to capture the beauty that you remember experiencing with your grandparents. Would you say that the work tends more toward the documentary side of things?

DD: It’s a wild place for sure, definitely one for the bucket list. And to answer your question, I think I was a lot more focused with solely capturing beauty on the Yellowstone/Teton trip, rather than taking a documentarian perspective.

That’ll probably change when I travel to Alaska though.

BH: Interesting. I generally see the project of capturing natural beauty that informs a lot of landscape photography as more documentary than art oriented, personally. I mean, what we’re doing is essentially just framing the beauty that we find already existing prior to the act of making a photograph. In your mind what distinguishes a documentary approach from a non-documentary one?

DD: A documentarian approach is meant to give information to the viewer, to present a narrative, and I don’t really care to do that with landscape photography. There may be a narrative driving me to shoot but I don’t usually present it with, or in my images because all that matters to me is that they look beautiful. And you’re right when you say we’re just framing the beauty we find already existing, but I think you need an incredibly artistic eye in order to see that beauty among the rest of the world and isolate the perfect composition.

BH: That’s fair. I will admit to using the art/documentation distinction perhaps too loosely. Looking through the galleries on your website I noticed that you have a decent amount of what we could loosely categorize as “landscape” imagery. So, what do you think it is about landscapes as a subject that draws your eye? Why landscapes, in other words. 

DD: I view landscape photography as experiencing beauty that wasn’t made by any one living creature, but a combination of time and luck. You’re just an observer at first, but once you take the image, you’re both an observer to the Earth’s beauty and the creator of your own beauty, and that’s incredibly special. It’s a shared experience with the Earth that you can’t find anywhere else. 

BH: That participatory element you talk about is an interesting take. So another thing I noticed looking through the galleries on your website (I’ve spent a bit of time in them) is that you made images for Clarity & Fog in both 6x6 and 35mm. Looking back on your experiences working in the same locations with different mediums, what are your thoughts on medium format vs 35mm?

DD: Different mediums are great for different things, which is why you can usually find me on location with 3 cameras, digital, medium format, and 35mm. To limit yourself to just one medium is to limit yourself as an artist, and that seems like a really dumb move to me. That being said, I personally like shooting medium format so much more than 35mm. I find myself slowing down and putting more effort into composing my medium format images because with only 12 shots on a roll of 120 film, you’re kinda forced to. 

BH: I mean, I’m constantly trying to distill my system down to the lowest possible number of parts, but I know what you mean. I used to shoot medium format back in the day and there is definitely a paradigm shift in workflow between MF and 35mm. Looking over your website I’ve seen that the bulk of your work is done in color. Specifically, how did you see color coming into play in the context of Clarity and Fog? And perhaps you could comment on your predilection for color in your broader body of work? 

DD: For Clarity & Fog, I knew that the locations I was going to were insanely colorful, so color negative and slide film were just the right move in my mind. I did consider bringing a few rolls of Ilford Pan F 50 but I bailed on that idea pretty quickly. As for my broader body of work, I used to shoot a lot of black and white because it was the only film we could develop in school. I got really sick of it and decided to try slide film, I was hooked from then on. 

BH: Ah, Pan F… One of my favorite black and white film stocks. I’d probably shoot it a lot more if it didn’t require a tripod. I have yet to actually develop the rolls of color film in my fridge so the whole color film world is still unexplored to me, especially slide film. 

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So we’ve covered a decent amount of ground here and to bring things full circle I’d like to close things out by asking you to talk about your favorite image from the Clarity and Fog project. Why you made it, what it means to you, that sort of thing. 

DD: Easily the image titled Irradiated [pictured right], an accidental double exposure of a small dead tree in front of a turquoise pool. When it comes to why I made it, or any of my images, I don’t really have a reason. It’s just a beautiful moment that I happened upon and captured. 

BH: Awesome, well Dominick for myself and on behalf of Frozenwaste.land I want to thank you for coming here to discuss your work as well as Clarity & Fog with us! 

DD: Thanks for having me!

You Can View All of "Clarity and Fog” here on Frozenwaste.land under the “Places” Section.

Dominick can also be found on the internet at https://dcdphotography.squarespace.com/the-artist and on Instagram as @Dominick_ducote.

Brendon Holt can be found on his website, Brendonholt.com or on Instagram as @bmholt_