Interview: Jeff Luker

Feature, Interview, Pictures, Spotlight, Travel

Empty Stretch: Age, Location, 3 favorite things in life?

Jeff Luker: 27. New York. Beauty, truth, adventures.

ES: How did you start photographing/ What keeps you photographing?

JL: I started just as a kid messing around taking snapshots and just always loved it. I keep photographing because the feeling of getting a roll of film back from the lab and not knowing what will be on it and the surprise of what you find is still one of my favorite feelings in the world.

ES: You capture intimacy between your subjects & often them with you, do you see your photographs as mementos for yourself or the one’s around you?

JL:  I have always had a real obsession with nostalgia and trying to remember certain people and points in time. A lot of my photos have a significance to me for personal reasons, to me they serve as snapshots and reminders from my life and travels.

ES: What is your working method? Film/ digital?

JL:  I still shoot 35mm film all the time. Pretty much all commercial work these days is digital, so I shoot that for jobs but I always try to shoot film as well if I can.

ES: What is the biggest difference between shooting for yourself & a company, which do you prefer?

JL:  I think it depends on who you are shooting for. On some jobs they let you go wild and that is tons of fun because you have a large budget to use to make all these amazing images. But there are time constraints and parameters to be met. When you make your own work, it is just for you and it is at your own pace and whatever you want. They are so different I can’t really compare the two, both have their pros and cons.

ES: What photographers have had a the biggest influence on you?

JL:  There are so many greats, its hard to narrow it down, but I really love William Gedney’s work. His photos are so raw and visceral but so beautiful and intimate. Really amazing stuff.

ES: Your zine “Not Many Kingdoms Left” thru POGO is a nice cross section of your current work, how did that come about?

JL:  I can’t quite remember how it all came about, I just remember talking with Claudio at POGO and we were both really excited about making it happen, sending edits back and forth, I was really happy with how it all came out. They make such nice zines over there.

ES: Are there any plans or a larger book in the future?

JL: Yes, definitely. I want to make a larger hard bound book soon. I just keep putting it off because there is always more stuff I want to shoot for it, so my date to do it keeps getting pushed along.

ES: How do you like your photographs to be viewed? Gallery, Zine, 40 foot billboards?

JL: You know I really think my work works best in book or zine form, but seeing it on a billboard in Times Square is probably one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

ES: What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?

JL: Oh man, so many places its hard to say, off the top of my head one that comes to mind is Big Sur in northern California, such a great energy to that place.

ES: What’s one place you want to go?

JL:  Alaska. That’s next on the list.

ES:  Any projects in the works?

JL:  Just going to keep shooting for the book. And hopefully put together a show soon.

Please find more of Jeff Luker’s work on his website & tumblr.

Interview: Jani Zubkovs

Feature, Interview, Pictures, Spotlight, Travel

It seems more & more these days, people are referring me people to feature & interview, & I love it. Otherwise, I may never have been introduced to Jani Zubkovs. His work is crisp & structured, yet often made under drastically different circumstances. There’s a voice to his photos that I still have yet to identify, & I like that wondering, because it makes me keep coming back. Thus, I present Jani.

fts Occurences
fts Occurences

Empty Stretch: Age/ Location/ 3 favorite things in life?

Jani Zubkovs: 27 Years/ Brooklyn, NY 1. A strong cup of coffee. 2. Vintage t-shirts. 3. Some crackling vinyl.

Empty Stretch: How did you get into photography? What photographer’s were important to your early work?
Jani Zubkovs: My parents are not exactly “artistic types”, but my father did have a decent eye for composition and an older Minolta 35mm. I was fortunate enough to have photography classes available to me in high school, and I enrolled in as many as I could. In the beginning, I mostly shot images of friends and loved ones, but the images I took while traveling always resonated the most with me.

Early on, a photographer that was important to me was Chris Strong. He’s an artist based in Chicago, IL, and his work very much revolved around the bands of the late 90’s. He did the album art for a couple of seminal records for me, including American Football’s “American Football” & Hey Mercedes’ “Everynight Fire Works.” Those types of images really inspired me to continue creating work that could possibly inspire someone else in the same way.

Another huge influence for me was photographer Richard Renaldi, whose  work inspired me to explore the portrait. When I first picked up his book, “Figure & Ground,” I was blown away by the sincerity and aesthetic of his images and spent much of my formative years trying to capture that same magic. Later on I was photographed by him for a project he was working on, and I got to experience his method firsthand.

fts This Is Not A Dark Ride
fts This Is Not A Dark Ride

Empty Stretch: The photographs in your series “This Is Not A Dark Ride” are of generic landscapes & places, yet have titles. At first this didn’t strike me as anything out of the ordinary, but then I learned you are in a band & it changed my perspective. From doing a lot of travel with bands myself, everything becomes a blur. Are the city titles for yourself or the viewer & how important is that to be known?

Jani Zubkovs: You know, I try not to do things solely with myself in mind, but at the end of the day, I am the person who needs to live with the work. For me, giving these nondescript places an abstract title didn’t seem to make much sense, but giving them geographical recognition did; not only does it help me remember where I’ve been, but it also puts a name to something that’s otherwise nameless.

Many people who tour are solely interested in getting from Point A to Point B, but there is so much more to it than that. All of these in-between spots are what I’m really interested in… the points that are skipped over by tour routings and travelers in general. Now, I’m not saying that I’d ever live in one of these places, but in taking a photograph and recognizing it’s place, I get to take a piece with me.

fts Stiles Drive
fts Stiles Drive

Empty Stretch: For the photos of your father, where there images you have pre visualized or specific things you want to convey, or did you more see a moment & want it?

Jani Zubkovs: The series on my father was a rather consuming process; I honestly concentrated solely on photographing him and the things that somehow revolved around him for well over a year. Hundreds of photos were taken in this time period in an attempt to create a character study on his past and present, as well as my own present, and perhaps even my future. Many of the ideas for images I had during my initial brainstorming were fulfilled, but some of my favorite images were created spontaneously and in instances where I tried to push his comfort level a bit.

fts Stiles Drive
fts Stiles Drive

Empty Stretch: The photos from your series “Occurrences” are mostly semi-formal portraits & straight forward still lives. Is that the direction your work is moving in?

Jani Zubkovs: “Occurrences” is a collection of photographs from numerous projects I’ve worked on in the past or continue to work on to this day. I don’t want to say these images are orphans per say, but if I did, they are some of my favorite orphans! There is some new work in “Occurrences”, but the majority of it is older projects that have either been put on hiatus, or are still in the works.

fts This Is Not A Dark Ride
fts This Is Not A Dark Ride

Empty Stretch: How do you like your work to be viewed? Any projects on the horizon?
Jani Zubkovs: I try not to overbear the viewer with too many images at the same time, so the work that I keep on my website is a curated version of the larger project. I try to limit the number of images included, and by doing this hope to create a continuity from image to image. Eventually, I’d love to create a book or ‘zine for “This Is Not A Dark Ride” of many more images, but I’m just not sure if I’ll ever be done creating for it!

At the moment, that is my only current project, but I have some other interesting ideas in the works. I’ve been enjoying the process of discovering new places to photograph, and have plenty of places left to visit.

fts This Is Not A Dark Ride
fts This Is Not A Dark Ride

Empty Stretch: What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?

Jani Zubkovs: I can’t pick an absolute favorite, but I love Seattle, any sort of mountainous area, and Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville, TN.

Please find more of Jani’s work at his website & tumblr.


Interview: Jon Stars

Feature, Interview, Pictures

I don’t know Jon Stars, but I like him. I met him through a mutual friend. He took some fashions photos of a friend, who was one of my first models when I started taking pictures. Jon is a bmx kid just trying to make it in the world. Before this interview, I knew as much about him as you do, & after the interview, I know he is sincere, thoughtful, passionate, & seems like he’d be a ton of fun to go on a trip with, & in my book, that’s all that matters.

Empty Stretch: Age/ Location/ Favorite things in life?

Jon Stars: I’m a 23 year old photographer from Bridgeton, NJ, just off the Delaware bay.  Travel, music, seafood, friends, my girlfriend, and my dog Brutus make up my favorite things.

ES: How did you get in to photography? Any schooling or formal training?

JS: I fell into photography after I broke my hand riding bmx when I was 17.  I never owned a camera, or ever really thought about photography until that point, but all of a sudden photographing bmx and local bands was all I cared about.  The technical side is what I really connected with, and I became addicted to learning everything I could.  At the time, I thought I could do that and basically have the coolest life ever.  Eventually reality hit and I enrolled to Hallmark Institute of Photography in 08-09.

ES: You have mostly fashion on your website, how did you get into that realm of photography?

JS: I started thinking about fashion photography while at Hallmark.  You can basically shoot whatever you want with fashion, which was really cool to me.  You can have polished studio work right next to gritty on-location looks.  It’s been a way for me to experiment with a wide range of styles, and figure out what I like shooting.  I also enjoy the editorial nature of fashion photography. I like the challenge of creating a story through a photo set.

ES: I think it is also interesting, you have a large bmx portfolio as well, which may seem drastically different from the rest of your work, but for me it fits really well. How did you get into photographing bmx?
JS: BMX was my creative outlet growing up; it’s always been my escape from reality.  I guess with that, you start filming/taking photos of you riding to show your friends, and anybody else who will look.  That’s basically how I got into photography. It just kind of happened, and snowballed into me being a photographer.

My bmx portfolio is something that people either love or hate.  A lot of people are confused when they go through my musician and fashion portfolios, then drop off into a full on action sports book.  Other people can look at the bmx work and see how it’s influenced everything else.

ES: What venue do you best like your work to be seen in? Magazine, gallery, internet, etc.

JS: I think of the internet as junk food, haha.  Your work instantly gets chewed up and spit out online.  It’s so easy to be forgotten and lost in a sea of 1’s and 0’s.  Having my work printed in magazines has always been my end goal.  It just seems to be the most tangible way for the rest of the world to accept photography.  My portfolio is commercial in nature, so I don’t feel like I relate to art galleries.  I still have trouble calling myself an artist.

ES: Your work is nice because you have such a wide range, studio portraits, location portraits, action, as well as spur of the moment. Where is your work heading, any projects on the horizon?

JS: I have a really hard time settling on a specific style, so I just shoot what feels right on that day.  Some of the images on my site are over 3 years old, and aren’t relevant.  I need to change that, haha.  Overall I’m drifting to a less refined look.  I’ve always been very technical and precise, so now I’m trying to throw a wrench in everything and create a body of work that I can emotionally connect with.

ES: What would your last meal be?

JS: I don’t eat meat, but a Checkers double chili cheeseburger with cheese fries, haha

Please find more of Jon’s work at his website & tumblr.

Interview: Alex McTigue

Books, Feature, Interview, Spotlight, Travel

Alex McTigue had this way of just popping up. Scrolling through page after pages of photos & one catches my eye, Alex’s. A link from from someone’s website, Alex’s. A small brown covered zine on the bookshelf of one of my best friend’s, Alex’s series Anywhere But Here. Every time I saw some of these photos or held his zine, I found something new. In Empty Stretch style I forced some questions upon & thankfully, he pleasantly answered them. Do enjoy.

Empty Stretch: Age/ Location/ Favorite things in life?

Alex McTigue: I live in Brooklyn NY, and my favorite things in life are reading and throwing fireworks at people.

ES: How did you get into photography?

AM: I think at some point every hardcore kid or skateboarder tries photography. Some just make it out a little sooner.

ES: Your portraits come across as informal but not stolen moment, while also using the space to inform the viewer of the subject’s personality. How much of your work is set up, so to speak, or directed?

AM: They are all set up in terms of the person is aware that I am photographing them. But otherwise they’re pretty much your usual youth exploitation photographs. Especially with these photographs, not much is directed, not by me at least.

ES: Your series/ zine “Anywhere But Here” if not only by the title, seems to very much be about anonymity, yet the photos are very intimate. Were these planned situations & people or just photos that seemed to work together & convey a sense of nowhere?

AM: All of these pictures were taken on a trip a few years ago between NYC, Chicago, and Austin. I think this was the easiest collection of pictures to think of as finished because there was a very finite amount of time to choose from, and didn’t leave the option to keep going. The trip was planned, more or less, but the situations… who knows. When you spend that much time with a few people, intimate situations are bound to happen. At the time a lot of friends started traveling or running from/for whatever reason, and listening to prodigy I finally realized you can run but you can’t hide forever.

ES: Most of your work is black & white, but there are a few color images through out, do you prefer one over the other?

AM: I think black and white photographs are truly beautiful. But as with everything, certain times dictate certain decisions. If I had my choice I would just be able to write and call it a day.

ES: Do you photograph & then group them & form a series that way, or do you plan ahead what you are looking to photograph?

AM: I guess when I take pictures, they just pile up until something gets done with them. There is no real order, except like I was talking about earlier with a clear beginning and end of something.

ES: I have seen your zine all over the place, friends bookshelves & stores all over the country, is that the way you like your work to be viewed & if so, why? If not, do you prefer galleries or web viewing, etc.

AM: I would much rather a lot of like minded people be able to see and relate to the things I make than a few art world people. I have always been interested in zines and DIY outside of art, I don’t see why it should be any different when relating to art. Thats the beauty of self-publishing, you can do whatever you want whenever you want. Make as many as possible and give them away. Nobody is worried about cost effectiveness when nobody is making money. Plus, looking at something tangible like a book or zine is much more intimate and physical than looking at someone’s tumblr or flickr. I get so much more out of the experience that way, so I assume the same goes for others as well.

ES: Finals words?

AM: These are some great photographers to check out.

Chris BernstenAndrew KenneyGeorge Underwood, Reggie McCafferty, Nelson Offley, Vinnie Smith, BSVIV books

Please find more of Alex’s work on his website & tumblr & if you find a copy of Anywhere But Here, do yourself a favor & pick it up.

Interview: Alana Paterson

Feature, Interview
fts I Remember Everything

Empty Stretch: Age/ Location/ Favorite things in life?

Alana Paterson: I’m 28 I’m currently living on Gabriola Island off the coast of British Columbia. My favourite things in life are too many to number but some are: big dogs, big cities, small town charm, country roads, nice light, a steady headed man, a well planned skate park, a frosty brew…I’m going to stop there… Swell times with friends and family, natural phenomena, moving to new cities, leaving, goodbyes, showing up unannounced, surprising people. Ok now I’m done.

fts One Young Summer

ES: How did you get into photography?

AP: I got into photography shooting skate photos of my friends. That was the physical manifestation. Why it stuck with me and I never got bored of it or put it aside is a lot more complicated I’m sure.

fts Clear Water

ES: All of your photos have an undertone of transience & a sense of something being left. Is this something that comes naturally or are you actively seeking that feeling?

AP: That’s great. You’re pretty observant. Yeah I move a lot, half a year here, half a year there. I don’t really stay in one place and I love the romance of leaving. I don’t think I seek it actively in my images making though. It must just come through on its own. That’s nice though, I like that.

fts I Broke Horses

ES: Do you differentiate between commercial & personal work? There is a consistency in your work that makes it seems like you treat all your subjects the same, which is nice.

AP: I’ve heard people noticing that. Yeah I guess I have a system of working with people whether my friends and family or models and it comes through in my work. I mean sometimes friends and family are even harder to shoot. People never think about that but sometimes when you know someone so well it makes it tougher in a way because you can’t see the surface anymore. And there’s all these politics between you also. My cousin is 7 months pregnant and she asked me to shoot photos of her and her belly and I’m more nervous about that then any of my big shoots coming up. Cause if I fuck this one up its family that’s mad and thinks I’m a bummer photographer and not just some kids on the internet.

fts One Young Summer

ES: How important is people & place to your work? Do you photograph the
same in places/ with people that are new?

AP: Well we try to never use the same location twice for commercial stuff if that’s what you mean. But if it is just my personal stuff I’m just shooting as  I go. Not really thinking too hard about it. Climb a mountain take a photo, I don’t know.

All Is Quiet On The Western Front

ES: How do you like your work to be viewed? Galleries, books, magazines?

AP: I’m more of a magazine girl I think. Catalogs. stuff like that. I don’t really enjoy the gallery atmosphere. Or maybe I don’t think my images are well enough developed to be in galleries yet. I think that’s something you really have to earn. That’s the sunset shit if you ask me.

fts Filthmode MC

Please find more of Alana Paterson’s work on her website & tumblr.

Interview: Trevor Powers

Feature, Interview
Days Inn, Pensacola, Florida fts See America Right

Empty Stretch: Age/ location/ favorite things in life?

Trevor Powers: I am 26 years old and I currently live in Boston, Massachusetts.  I don’t know if I can name my favorite things in life without over thinking it or making obvious choices like pizza, sleep, coffee, and pictures – but I guess its as simple as exploring a new place and warm weather.

fts Sleep The Clock Around

ES: How did you get into photography?

TP: Photo albums were always as big thing in my family growing up.  Most of the pictures were not technically good, but it wasn’t about their quality as much as it was about remembering and owning a document of someone’s birthday, or our new kitten, regardless if my dad was in background drinking a Budweiser and smoking a cigarette while holding a baby.  I started taking it seriously in high school when I realized I wasn’t very good at drawing or painting, but still had an overwhelming desire to create.  Photography was easy, almost immediately rewarding, and a provided a tangible memory.  This was a format that I was familiar with, and started to see it in a new light when I learned how to make my own prints in the darkroom.

ES: You are a curator as well as photographer, how do you keep a distance between the two? Do you find yourself most drawn to work you would make?

TP: The shows I have curated, events I have organized, and zines I have made are all things that I would want to see and participate in.  Naturally, I am most drawn to work that I wish I made, or work that makes me feel something I wish I could make people feel with my art.  I believe that it’s important to make things happen for yourself because very rarely are opportunities just handed to you.  When I first started proposing shows, it was because I wanted to show my work somewhere and I knew other, very talented people who were not getting the recognition they deserved, and thought: hey, why don’t we just show together, wherever we can?  The act of installing and working together with other artists and likeminded people on a show was sort of the art itself.  As things progressed, and I started to meet more and more artists, I began to want to give a venue for these people to show and share their work.  It is hard to keep a distance, because I want to show my work just as badly as everyone else, but I am trying.  I am not entirely sure I am even a “curator” as much as I am a patron of the arts who organizes shows and events.

Fence fts Fort Hill

ES: What for you is your favorite way for work to be viewed; ie zine, wall, public, etc?

TP: I think it truly depends on the kind of work being viewed.  I am in love with the zine and book formats and I think they are an imperative way of looking at and preserving art, and are very much their own art form.  For the most part, though, I think my favorite art experiences and viewing interactions have been in apartment or alternative gallery spaces where the work isn’t so precious, and the feeling or urgency for the act of creating, showing and sharing are earnest and present.

ES: What is your working method?

TP: I mostly shoot large format, but am drawn to image making whatever way possible be it 35mm or cell phone camera, I really enjoy the act of taking pictures.  What I like about 4×5 is what most people who shoot large format will say: it slows you down and forces you to look more carefully and edit more carefully before taking a picture.  That being said, I have worked a few different ways.  In the project SLEEP THE CLOCK AROUNDI was looking to create a document of a time and make images that resonated with the experiences I has having and life I was living at the time.  This mode of working was atypical for me, so I would say that all of those images are definitely scripted.

SEE AMERICA RIGHT is wholeheartedly about movement and exploration for the sake of understanding the country in which I live.  When I travel to make these photographs, I have very loose ideas of the kinds of images I want to make.  I give myself limitations, like location and distance, but that’s usually it.  Given those basic limitations, it’s a lot about finding out what interests me once I get there and letting the images come fluidly.

These two projects are good examples of movement versus monotony in my work, but at the same time I feel as if they balance each other nicely.  While I am in Boston, I tend to make autobiographical work that includes portraits and more personal glimpse into my daily life.  While on the road I don’t ever make portraits – I am more interested in documenting the land, the light and the visual vernacular of a place.

Crank and Elbo fts Fort Hill

ES: What is your favorite city to photograph?

TP: Though I have only been there once and that was for three days, there was something about Los Angeles that really intrigued me.  It was the light and the weather, I think.  There is a lot of visual history there, in addition to this feeling of layers and layers of dirt, grime and smog.  At the same time, there is also this sense of intense beauty and the unknown, the romanticism of the West.  Then again, my time there was so extremely limited that I could very well be making up this feeling. And if that were the case, I would change my answer to New York City because that place is so dense and chaotic that you can get away with photographing anything and anyone without having to worry about a thing.

Psychic, Los Angeles, California fts See America Right

ES: What would be your death row last meal?

TP: I have to say I would want something that reminds me of a better time and place.  Probably some meal we used to have as a family when I was kid that I don’t remember now and it would take me being on death row to remember again.

Please find more of Trevor Power’s work on his website, tumblr, & flickr.

Interview: Sean Litchfield

Interview, Pictures
Kudzu. Lyman, SC, 2011

I had been familiar with Sean Litchfield’s work for a little while. It was when I saw the above image, I became enamored with his pictures and began to discover more of what his mind’s eye was saying. Sean’s strengths lie in photographing the suburban landscape, as well as the cities in which they’re a part. His work regarding the suburbs has been solidified in a body of work called The Tragic and Picturesque American Suburb. He’s been working on it for a while and after having time to live in one of those suburbs, I really began to understand his intentions. He depicts an overstuffed and overflowing American dream strictly for the 21st century that appears cautionary and bit humorous. Sean’s humor is also seen in the every day with thought to classical composition and drama in color in mind. I was glad to have had a talk with Sean about all this.

Empty Stretch: Age/current location/Three favorite activities:

Sean Litchfield: 24/Boston. I like riding my bike, thrifting and eating at diners.

fts "The Tragic and Picturesque American Suburb"
fts "The Tragic and Picturesque American Suburb"


ES: In your series, The Tragic and Picturesque American Suburb, your images are taken a lot in South Carolina. Do you see the American South as a face of a larger, changing America? Is this a theme you’re particularly drawn to?

SL: With that project, Zachary Violette, who, I might add is also my boyfriend of almost 3 years and a brilliant architectural historian, and I knew we wanted to work on a project together in the South. It’s an area we knew about but never really had a chance to explore. I had visited my parents several times a year since 2007 after they moved there and never thought too deeply about it. It was a huge unfamiliar place with very good barbecue. So we gave ourselves a week at first to just drive around and take it all in. It wasn’t until the 2nd trip down there where the idea came to him. I was just making pictures of things I saw interesting at that point, which was quite hard to do not because there was nothing interesting to photograph, but because I didn’t have any slightest idea of a concept but Zach assured me that it would come after the pictures were made, and it did. I was seeing things almost subconsciously. I was looking for something that I was unaware of. And back to your original question, I do see it as a face of changing America. It’s always changing down there. Nearly everything is new and none of it is built to last very long. It’s a type of place that’s completely new to this country and likely the entire world.

ES: How is your book project regarding your series The Tragic and Picturesque American Suburb progressing?

SL: Well, I’m pretty happy with the edit I have for the project. Zach has a lot on his plate right now. He’s working on his dissertation for his PhD and may be writing another book, too. It will happen soon. I’m not sure when but we don’t want to rush anything. There will be a big announcement when it’s nearing completion!

fts "The Tragic and Picturesque American Suburb"
fts "The Tragic and Picturesque American Suburb"

ES: As someone who balances their time between New England and the Southeastern United States, which part of the country is your favorite to take pictures? Do you feel living in each area influences how you approach the other?

SL: That’s tough. My heart is in New England because I’ve lived here for my entire life. The South is new to me which makes it a very exciting place to photograph. Since I’ve learned everything I know about photography up here, it strongly influences how I make pictures down there. I work on my feet up here. All of my projects, with the exception of TPAS, were made by walking around. It was incredibly difficult to be in a place where you need a car to get around. It completely changed how I think about composition and I’m sure I’ve missed dozens of opportunities for great pictures by driving but there’s simply no way around it. I kept thinking, “Is this worth stopping, putting the car in park, unbuckling my seatbelt, retrieving my camera from the back seat, opening the door, getting out and trying to remember what it was exactly I stopped for in the first place.” Rather than when I’m on my feet and my camera is slung on my shoulder and I can very easily make the picture I want. Working in both places has taught me how to make pictures in near complete opposite situations and I can start to see them blend together now.

fts "Off-Season"

ES: Do you find any common ground between commercial and personal work? Or, do you see these as separate entities?

SL: I think of everything as personal work, even if it’s something I’m not super excited to be doing. I always want to be making the pictures that I want to make and sometimes that means doing something different than what the client wants while still making sure I get what they want, too.

ES: Are you influenced more by painting rather than photography? How so?

SL: With TPAS, I didn’t have much to go off. I didn’t want to clutter my brain too much with photographer’s work who shot a lot in the suburbs. I wanted to make pictures that were my own. So I turned to Hudson River School paintings for inspiration. Breaking them down in to different elements helped me see the landscape down South in a similar way. It’s all there, you really just need to dig for it. With my other work, I keep a constant flow of new/old/iconic/camera phone work coming in for inspiration. There’s so much great work being made right now and you can’t stay in your own bubble too much.

fts "Thanksgiving"
South Beach, 2012

ES: How do you feel color is important in your photography?

SL: Color is just as important as light and composition. A good composition means nothing without strong color to go along with it. It’s often the color in a scene that triggers something in my brain to reach for the camera and that becomes the predominant part of the image.

ES: I’ve noticed you’re blogging a lot of interesting portraiture you’ve taken. Do you feel a series of these pictures evolving or another body of work in progress?

SL: Portraiture is something that has always been, I’ll say, a “side dish” in my work. I’ve always been much more drawn to the place rather than the people in it (one says a lot about the other). I’ve gained much more confidence in approaching strangers and asking to photograph them. It’s becoming a lot like how I approach landscape work. I see something interesting and I photograph it. Now, I’ll see an interesting person and photograph them. It’s something I was never looking for and now that I am, it makes photographing that much more exciting.

ES: If you could change careers, what would you be?

SL: That’s hard. I can’t even picture myself doing anything else. It would have to be art related. I often think, “If I were to become blind what would I be doing?” Sculpture seems like a good option. I like making things with my hands and sculpting would allow me to still make art that I can feel.

Thanks, Sean! Connect with more of his work on his website, blog, and Flickr. Make sure also to support his and Zach’s book project, The Tragic and Picturesque American Suburb, by buying prints and joining his mailing list.

Interview: Andrew Marino

Interview, Pictures
Queens, NY

I’ve been fortunate enough to keep tabs on Andrew Marino through his Flickr site for quite sometime. His pictures not only bring back some fond memories and scenes of my home state of North Carolina, but show me a side of the state I don’t get to see too much. But he doesn’t stop there. There’s something beautifully hidden about what Andrew is showing us, moments caught in time that’s not specifically reliant on a place like NC, but in his own aesthetic wherever he travels, back to his native New York or anywhere in between. Andrew and I have struck up a dialogue regarding his work.

Empty Stretch:  Tell us a bit about yourself.

Andrew Marino: My name is Andrew, 23 years old, born and raised on Long Island, New York. Currently residing and working between Raleigh and Greensboro, North Carolina. A few things I enjoy are good beer, web design, beekeeping, and entrepreneurship in the arts. You could call me more of a collaborator than anything. Nothing is better than making something awesome with your friends

ES:  How did you get in to photography?

AM: I feel like it was significantly rooted in moving to North Carolina from New York in the summer of 2004. I got my first 35mm shortly after I arrived here, and I found it to be a positive way to cope and adjust with my new surroundings. Since then I had dabbled between shooting with both film and digital cameras, photographing the house shows my friends hardcore and noise bands played, and messing around with some abstract shooting. This was on and off though. I hit a lot of dry spells.

I purchased my friend’s Hasselblad a year ago, and I started taking things more seriously. Medium format was a refreshing change of pace at the time and having to learn everything manually, how to meter, how to scan negatives – all those challenges became really engaging. I don’t have a formal background in photography, but Flickr has been a really great community to share your work and get feedback. The past year or so I’ve been making an effort to connect with others and forming friendships from it.

Chatham County, NC
Brooklyn, NY
Durham, NC

ES:  Why do we keep using film?

AM: Good question. For many of us, it’s a preference of aesthetics. It’s a process that requires patience, something that’s quickly fading away in today’s high-speed digital world. I’m glad to see people still taking the time to shoot film. Perhaps it’s similar to the renaissance happening with vinyl records, where you appreciate a tangible object instead of the same thing in digital form. There’s no right or wrong really.

ES: I noticed on your Flickr stream, your photos float in and out of North Carolina and New York. What are the biggest challenges and successes about shooting in each setting?

AM: North Carolina is a lot more spread out than New York, and that was kind of hard to get used to after the denser areas I grew up with. Despite this, there is so much in between the cracks to explore. Lately I’ve been checking out the rural landscapes of Chatham and Alamance counties, getting lost on the old state highways and stumbling upon the remnants of the older traditional life. It’s just damn beautiful out there and it took me long enough to finally appreciate it.

Funny story… when I was taking that shot of the foggy home in Chatham County, I misjudged the shoulder I had parked my car on and ended up getting stuck in the mud all alone in the middle of no where. There must have been at least 10 people passing through in the span of a couple of hours that stopped and asked if I needed any help. A gentleman in his pickup was generous enough to haul me out and wouldn’t accept a donation as a thank you. I didn’t think to snap a portrait of him at the time because I was absolutely stunned at the hospitality Southern folks have for complete strangers. If this had happened on the side of the Long Island Expressway, no one would even think twice to stop.

Each visit to New York puts a small dent in the amount of things and areas I want to photograph. It’s important to really keep tabs on your equipment at all times. Things can get lost or stolen if you aren’t careful. On the upside, there’s so many great people to meet and work with. There’s really a great variety of places to shoot at. Outside of the city, I really enjoy going back to the coastal life of eastern LI, and upstate holds a lot of natural beauty.

Burlington, NC
Durham, NC

ES: In what ways have you noticed the changing social landscape of the South, specifically in North Carolina?

AM:  I haven’t spent hardly enough time with the rest of the American South, so it would be difficult to answer for it as a whole. Something I have noticed are great strides in the arts community around North Carolina. My friend Tristin Miller has curated a wonderful annual gathering called the Hand-to-Hand Market out in Greensboro, NC. Beyond local artists showcasing their work, it has a nice variety of workshops and educational talks. The philosophy behind the whole thing really reaches out by connecting on a deeper level with one another and I’d love to see this sort of thing spread to more places. This year it’s on May 20th at The Blind Tiger in Greensboro, NC – go check it out!

ES: Does it take a special eye to see the square format image?

AM: The square format image not take a special eye necessarily, but it sure does require a different approach than other formats in order to be used effectively. The confines of 6×6 medium format photography makes you slow down and compose your shot more carefully. It also makes you pick and choose your shots differently. The thing I appreciate most is the symmetry and balance that the square image can offer.

ES: Do you feel as though music fuels your photography or vice versa?

AM: Absolutely, photography and music (sound in general), go hand in hand in both ways with my experiences. While each can stand its own ground just fine, they can compliment each other by filling in the gaps with other senses. My collaborative work with Andrew Weathers, and the record label Full Spectrum that we run together, are my main outlets that merge sound and image. We generate a lot of creative energy and there’s a great deal of inspiration through the artists we work with and feature.

The minimalist and ambient nature of some of the music I enjoy listening to influences my work to a significant degree. Albums such as ‘October Language’ by Belong, or ‘And Their Refinement Of The Decline’ by Stars of the Lid are two good examples. While they are beatless, have no lyrics, and are sparse at times, they can create vivid imagery and rich atmospheres. It’s kind of hard to describe it in words. I never really provide much more than a title, if at all, or a caption with a location. These songs, like the images, are really meant to speak for themselves and for the audience to interpret their messages.

ES:  Where is your photography going this year?

AM: This year I have a few trips and projects in the works. I’m heading out to San Francisco & Oakland in May. I’ll also be spending some time in New York, and of course more Carolina explorations. Wherever I end up this year, I’ll be sure to bring my cameras along for the ride. Andrew Weathers and I are currently working on a book titled We Don’t Get Sun Like This. It consists of Andrew’s music, and some photograph pairs of ours. It should be ready sometime this summer.

Thank you for spending a few minutes with me.

— And thank you, Andrew. Don’t miss his Flickr for more amazing pictures, his record label, and Tumblr.

Interview: Michael McCraw


Michael McCraw is one of those photographers who just seems to know what’s going on. I have probably spent a little too much time looking through his Flickr and webpage throughout the years then I’d like to admit but to be honest, it’s been time well spent.

Empty Stretch: Let’s start this out easy, Age/Current Location/Things you enjoy?

Michael McCraw: 27 year olds, I currently live in Atlanta, GA. Born outside of Pensacola, FL. This is the tenth house I’ve lived in 9 years and the fourth state. Never out of the south. Florida, then Alabama, then Georgia, then back to Alabama, then Tennessee, now Georgia again. I enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our daughter, making work, traveling, and music. Whiskey & apple juice.

ES: What got you into photography? Who/What would you say influences your work?

MM: I got into photography when I was younger. I’d take photos at shows with disposable and Polaroid cameras. I turned from taking pictures of bands to pictures of my friends. Nothing interesting, nothing special. I took the only photography class my high school offered. It was basically just learning the process, not the history. I knew I liked photography, but nothing about it. The first time I saw photos that made me change the way I thought about photography as an art was when my friend from high school started dating Mike Brodie.

His work is the first thing that made me realize what I wanted to do. Not that my work is anything like his, just that I wanted to do this. It became my obsession. So Brodie was my first influence. When I first moved to Atlanta in 2007, I went with a friend to see an artist lecture. It turned out to be Alec Soth. I remember only having one contact lens in because I was poor, didn’t have insurance, and had broken my glasses climbing a tree. Even though I could only half see the work, it was an awakening for me. He was talking about his work and showed a tiny glimpse to what would eventually become “Broken Manual.” I think after that I really started trying to figure myself out. Trying to find what I was interested in shooting.

ES: What motivates you to take pictures? Does all your traveling and moving around play an influence in that?

MM: I’ve been in bands since I was about 13. Music and photography are all I’ve been into for most of my life. They go hand in hand together. I need both of them. I don’t play music much anymore, so I use photography. This is my punk rock. I need this in my life. I make work because I have to. Because it’s a part of who I am. Some of my traveling has definitely been influenced by wanting to make work and feeling like I’ve exhausted what was around me at the time. But moving has just been out of necessity. I can only live in a certain place for a period of time before I start feeling uneasy. I need change. I need freshness. I’ll probably be in Atlanta for a while though. Having a new daughter, we want to be close enough for our parents to visit, and my parents refuse to fly. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ll probably spend most of my life in the south.

ES: How do you view your work? Is it more of a personal diary and timeline of events or a larger body of work that is continually growing?

MM: I think it’s a mix of both. A diary in the way I generally just shoot what is around me, or just drive around looking for things that interest me. Usually I find a body of water and drive towards it. Stopping if something looks interesting. I’ve never really set out with the intention of taking a photograph of a certain subject. Just looking up a place I want to go and driving there.

But it’s all over a period of time. A body of work usually feels complete when I can move on and leave the place I was living behind. I have three complete bodies of work. One from touring in 2003/2004, one from the time I lived/spent in Alabama, and another for the year I lived in Chattanooga, TN. The first two I’m still piecing together with words and some video, but the Chattanooga one is nearly finished. The working title for it is “Chattanooga/Fuckt in Appalachia/You’ll Never Be Well No More.” Even though that’s the most recent, I feel like it needs to be finished first. It feels like the most complete story. It has a definite beginning and ending. There’s always room for them to grow though. I still want to make more work in Alabama. I don’t think I’m anywhere near done with that yet. Though, I never want to go back to Chattanooga.

ES: What do you look for in a place to go exploring?

MM: In the past I’d usually look for a body of water on a map, and just drive towards it. Or just take back roads and hope to find my way back home eventually. You drive enough back roads and you realize they all lead to the same places. Most of my process has been finding a destination driving towards it, and then turning off before I ever get there. It’s been the best way. For me at least. Some days you find things, others you drive around for hours and get nothing. I always drive towards water though. Maybe it’s a comfort. I grew up near water. Close enough to the beach. Close enough to rivers. It makes me feel at ease.

ES: The text that accompanies your images is always a real treat. It creates a nice personal perspective and narrative which for me was what brought me to your work in the first place. What’s your process behind applying text? When you’re photographing do you already have the text in your head or do you apply it after you have photographed?

MM: I never take a photograph with text in mind. Ever. It always comes much later after I initially take it.It’s something I have to live with and have time to think about. I enjoy writing. I think it gives much more to my work than if I just had the pictures arranged. It gives more depth to them. Makes them more cohesive. I can make a better narrative if the words guide you through them. It’s something I feel makes the work more interesting. More personable. My work is about my place in the world, and I want it to be more than just some pictures that are nice to look at. I want it to be more of an experience. Something that makes you think. I usually do all the writing as a one take kind of thing. I look at
the picture. Remember the context I took it in, where I was, the weather, what I was listening to, if i was alone. It’s stream of thought. Just written and it’s done. I rarely ever go back and change something. Very rarely.

ES: You also seem to shoot in various mediums. Does the subject matter of your work change the format that you chose to work in? What have you lately been shooting with and working on?

MM: I use different mediums because I don’t want to be stuck doing one thing. I don’t like when things get static or feel stale. I like to constantly be moving. I prefer shooting 6×7, but I always have something else on hand. It keeps me from making the same pictures over and over. Different cameras have different limitations. I love shooting instant film. It’s very finite. It’s the single object. I can always look at it and think this 3.25 x 4.25 piece of paper was with me when I took this photo. It’s part of the relationship. It’s just as real as the subject. Right now I am shooting 6×7, a 35mm SLR, and a rangefinder Polaroid camera with a handheld flash I have to manually set off. This is my usual set up.

ES: Do you consider your self a ‘southern’ photographer? The work you produced during the 50 State Project for Alabama was really interesting, I felt it showed Alabama in a very different light then I expected but still drew heavily on southern roots. Being from the ‘north,’ I’m probably not at liberty to speak that much about southern culture but I feel I get a sense of it through your work whether you intend for that to happen or not.

MM: I don’t consider myself a southern photographer more than the fact that I happen to live in the south. I’m from Florida, which I’ve been told time and time again is not a part of the south. I think living here has shaped a lot of the ways I see things. There’s something about the light here. The summers. The weather. Growing up with hurricanes and now dealing with tornadoes. It all shapes the way I see the world, which reflects in my work. But I’m not going out trying to make work about the south. Just my place in it. Maybe the work on 50 States Project was different because I’m not actually from Alabama?  I don’t know. I guess it’s funny though, because the last picture, the portrait, was taken in Florida. It’s a picture of my uncle. I sent text with it, but it was never posted. He lives about 10 miles away from the state line, so I figured I could bend the truth a little.

ES: Have you ever found a certain place that keeps providing inspiration for you?

MM: I rarely go back to places more than once. The two exceptions are Lands End on the Black Warrior River and Section, AL. Lands End isn’t really a city. Just a group of houses at the end of a road near the river. There’s a bar on the end. I found it driving around once. Walked around a bit. Then came back another day. We were walking around and a man came out of the bar and invited us in. We had been hesitant because there was a sign that said “Members Only” hanging above the door. His name was Don. We sat with him while people came in and out. Drank cheap beer. Watched people play cards. Talk about politics. Watch a man drink Schlitz with salt in it. Watch a man drink a “Red Beer,” which was a Bud Light mixed with tomato juice. Be accused of being affiliated with A.C.O.R.N by one man. As the night went on, Don and I talked about taking trips to document the “hill people” that lived in the Appalachians. At the end of the night, he got in a gold cart and drove home. We left and drove the hour back to Birmingham. I couldn’t tell you how to get there. I’d have to show you. It’s mostly trial and error until you get back.

ES: Favorite album for driving all night to?

MM: I usually make mixes for when I drive around. The last one I made is about 4 hours long, so it wouldn’t really work sharing it. These are albums I have specific memories of long night drives listening to though:

Frodus – And We Washed Our Weapons in the Sea
Isis – Panopticon,
Earth – HEX: Or Printing In The Infernal Method
Townes Van Zandt – My Mother the Mountain
City Of Caterpillar – S/T
Ampere – All Our Tomorrow’s End Today
Tulsa Drone – Songs for a Mean Season
Stop It!! – Self Made Maps
Envy – A Dead Sinking Story
Grails – Doomsdayers Holiday
Thou – Summit
Pygmy Lush – Mount Hope
Grouper – A I A
Slowdive – Souvlaki

I could go on and on, but I think I’ll stop there…

Check out more of Michael McCraw’s work at his Website, Flickr & Tumblr.

Interview: Sam Clifford Harding


Empty Stretch: Age/ Where you are from/ Favorite things in life?

Sam Clifford-Harding: 23. Devon UK. Natural open spaces on warm days, with plenty of friends and plenty of fluids.

ES: How did you get into photography & what makes you keep making images?

SCH: My Grandfather has dealt in antiques almost all my life, concentrating on traditional cameras of most sorts, both stills and moving. So from a very young age I was introduced to analogue photography and was immediately attracted to the idea of taking pictures.

My friends keep me taking pictures, when I was younger I never thought of photography professionally, I just wanted to document my friends and the things we did socially. I still have this mentality to some extent, I think anyone who picks up a camera with the intention of being a photographer has got it all wrong, people need to have fun with it and if you like it enough then pursue it.

ES: Can you explain your series Lore, a lot of your work seems off the cusp & impromptu but the photos in Lore obviously take some time, can you elaborate on the shooting methods of both?

SCH: The Lore series was very short lived, it was eventually combined with another series and made into a personal book exploring the juxtaposition of natural space and industrial space. It was essentially me in the woods by myself, shooting frame after frame of 30 minute exposures.  I wanted it to be completely different to the work I usually produce which is very snapshot influenced. I like to keep experimenting with different formats and techniques so that I can continue to learn.

ES: It seems photographically speaking you are very drawn to portraiture, was there a road that led you there or just a natural occurrence?

SCH: I like to work with people over anything else, I guess it stemmed from the social imagery that originally interested me and also the subject matter I enjoyed capturing the most. People make for great imagery and I feel it’s the best way to tell a story.


ES: Contemporary photography is taking on an interesting role in that it is highly technology based now with websites & tumblrs & blogs, but also has stayed lo fi in the production of zines, what are your thoughts on this discourse & where do you see your place in the photo world?

SCH: Although I myself am a guilty consumer of social networking and blog orientated websites, I think that it shouldn’t be the root of where your work can be seen. As I am sure all photographers would, I want to see my work printed, even if it’s only myself seeing it, then if you want others to see it publish it and make it accessible. Zines are a great way to do this, although aware, I became attracted to the idea when Blood Of The Young published my work, since, I have produced and printed two zines of personal imagery and am immensely thankful that people want to own them.

I still have a real open mind with photography as a career, I don’t think I should take it somewhere specific, I think it should take me.


ES: What would your last meal be?

SCH: Red Thai curry with plenty of spice, accompanied with a traditional Thatchers and black.


ES: Last words?

SCH: As in when I’m dying? Depends how I go, if by freak accident, a combination of frantic words I would imagine.

Please see more of Sam Clifford-Harding’s work at his website & tumblr.