Q: Hi Daniel, welcome to Pellicola! Tell us something about your life and yourself.
Hi, thanks for having me! I’m a cinematographer and photographer currently living north of Baltimore, MD. I enjoy traveling, working, and spending time with my girlfriend Heather and my dog Charlie. The best days for me are when I’m creating something.
Q: Tell us about how you discovered photography. Do you remember when and why did you start taking pictures?
Photos always fascinated me, the idea of freezing moments and keeping them with you, it felt like a way to cheat time. My parents always had cameras growing up. My dad with his camcorder on holidays and family vacations, my mom with an old 35mm Minolta, sporting that awesome auto-rewind and 6x optical zoom. I wanted to use their cameras, but somehow I had a tendency to destroy most things I touched at 11 years old. Out of self-preservation, my dad bought me a cheap digital camera to hold me over. It was revolutionary with its 1.9MP sensor, and the thrill of capturing my exciting 6th grade social life couldn’t be understated. Before I broke it a couple days later, I discovered I really enjoyed being behind the camera.
In college many years later, I took a photography class where we shot and developed 35mm, and printed photos in the darkroom. For me there was a new sense of magic with film, the analog nature of B&W processing with chemicals, sinks and timers, along with the slow reveal of an image on photo paper steeped in developer. It felt like an intricate process of creation. It was fun, hands-on, and extremely rewarding. While my current photo process is a bit different now, that feeling of magic is still there, and that keeps me going.
Q: What are your subjects and how do you choose them?
I can’t say that I have a defined process to what subjects I photograph. I’m still working on finding my voice and what my passion is when it comes to photography, which I think is an exciting journey. What I can say, is that I try to look for character of content and character of light in my photos. I think an ordinary bank drive-through looks much different in fog at night than it does during the day. I think vintage cars and old houses retain more of a story and history in their appearance than say a new house or new car would. I think aesthetically those things work because they take viewers out of ordinary life and put them in a bit of a different world, somewhat familiar, somewhat dreamy, a mix of time periods and tones, and that makes them something worth trying to capture.
I would say my current goal is to focus more on portraiture and human moments. I enjoy street photography but I want to start connecting closer with people, telling stories with emotion through a frame, and I think intimate portraits have that power. That’s exciting to me, and I hope I can move further in that direction in the future.
Q: There has been an increasing interest in cars and night shots in your area, why so? Any possible explanation?
I think the Baltimore area is an amazing place to be an artist and to connect with other talented creatives. The word Smaltimore is often used to describe how everyone knows everyone one way or another around here. With such a melting pot of talented people that know each other, I think trends and styles can merge and mimic each other frequently. I got into night photography from a circle of enthusiastic friends who influenced and inspired me to contribute. I spent many days and nights over the years photographing with other incredibly talented artists on the streets of Baltimore and beyond, seeing their styles and tastes, and working on developing my own voice from those collaborations. I think we all have been inspired and influenced by each other, and I think it’s grown from there for a lot
of people in their own ways. I think cars and night shots are definitely a trend in this area shared by many, but I also think they add a level of intrigue to photographs, and that’s why they’re popular.
Q: Your shots are perfectly curated in each detail. Are you more instinctive or you think a lot
before press the button?
I’m not sure if that’s how I would describe them exactly, but I do like to find a compositional balance in my photos. The only curation I can agree with is my dust removal process, which will sadly take years off my life at about 45 minutes per frame.
I often struggle with a traditionalist feeling in my framing, I notice I skew very rule of thirds etc., and that’s something I like and dislike at the same time. I think with 6×6 medium format, subjects just work best for my preference when balanced like that. As for when I’m taking a photo, I would say it’s a mix. Specifically with night photography, I know immediately upon coming to a scene, the angle that I want to capture for my preference on the light. Once I’m there I’ll fine tune for a bit as well until I convince myself it’s balanced enough to take the shot.
Q: You are also an adventurer and you spend time in natural environments. Don’t you think that a photographer who shoots in beautiful natural places like the ones you have visited has also an ethical role or aim?
Absolutely. I love nature, and in many ways consider myself an environmentalist. I think foremost as a human and also as a photographer, I think leaving the lightest footprint possible is always the way to go. When I hear stories of people climbing on hoodoos or leaving footprints around the sailing stones at Racetrack Playa, I just get disheartened. I don’t think “getting the shot” outweighs any negative impacts on the environment. I was in Canyonlands a couple years ago at Mesa Arch and saw a man trying to walk across the top of the Arch, and I just shook my head. Thankfully I think most people are respectful of the parks and nature, it’s always just a few bad apples that cause a stir.
Q: Why do you still shoot film? What is your favorite set up film/camera/lens?
I shoot film and digital frequently, but film still is my preference. Even with the current film emulations and digital grain, digital still has a different feel for me. I think it’s also a bit of a mindset switch for me between the formats. Digital I can fire off twenty frames and pick the one I want, with film I have to focus more intently on my shots because of a shorter amount of shots and the post process time commitment per frame. I think that limitation enhances my film work. I’ll also be honest, I can’t afford medium format digital, so at this point film is the way to go. My favorite camera of all time is the Mamiya C330. I have the Mamiya-Sekor 55mm, 80mm, and 105mm lenses for it, and that system covers pretty much everything for me. I’m also currently using a Mamiya 645 Pro TL with a 45mm, 80mm, and 150mm for portrait and street photography work. (Special shout out to the Fujica GW690 as well…)
As for film, my favorite is Kodak Ektar…very boring I know. The flexibility it has in night photos, and the colors it produces are beautiful to me, and my workflow with it has just become my baseline. I also really enjoy Portra and Provia, and have been experimenting a bit more with Cinestill 50D and 800T lately to change things up.
Q: Would you like to share with us a memory of your trip to Iceland?
Iceland was amazing from start to finish. It had everything.
It was my first time in a place where the sun is up for 22 hours a day in the summer, followed by a couple hours of dusk. We landed at the airport at about 5AM local time, and it looked like midday outside. We drove from the airport along the west coast, through a bunch of fishing villages, and were wondering why it all looked so condemned and empty, not realizing that everyone was probably still asleep. Then we all passed out for the worst hour of sleep I’ve ever had, inside our tiny rental car in the Blue Lagoon parking lot.
Q: What is the aim of your work? What do you want to communicate?
Honestly, I really just love to capture things I find beautiful in this short window of life that I have. I haven’t decided my exact intentions behind that just yet, but I only know I want to keep doing it. I really want to progress my photography and filmmaking into positive social change somehow, working with people and for the betterment of society. There’s so much negativity, anger, and inequality out there in our world, and if I can be a part of shining a light on that with photography and working to remove it, I’ll feel fulfilled.
Q: What keeps you inspired?
I’m inspired everyday by the fellow creatives and friends I have in Baltimore, alongside the various other people I’m connected with online. I think finding inspiration and keeping motivated are frequent hurdles to overcome, and I often struggle with that. When I see a friend post something cool, a photo, a video, or life experience, I get happy and excited. Those moments where I see others creating and being vulnerable with their work inspires me to do the same. I hope at some point my work can inspire someone out there too.
Q: Suggest us a movie or an album.
My favorite film without a doubt is Into the Wild. It deeply resonated with me when I saw it in theaters in 2007, and I find myself thinking about it to this day. The story, soundtrack, and cinematography speak to me in so many ways, and I often find myself relating to the main character, for better or worse. If I had to play an album on loop for the rest of my life, it would be Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation.