Interview with Jacob Morel
Q: Tell us something about your life and yourself.
I was born in Baltimore, Maryland and grew up just south of the city. I attended the Maryland Institute College of Art from 2013-2017 receiving a BFA in Graphic Design and a concentration in photography. I started out primarily in drawing and painting but took a turn in college pushing myself more towards design and photography.
Q: When and why did you start taking pictures?
Around the time I was a junior or senior in high school I was getting more into photography as a means of aiding my drawing skills so I decided to purchase a Fuji X100, one of Fuji’s early mirrorless fixed lens camera, a glorified, overpriced, point-and-shoot if we’re honest. Around this time I began really paying more attention to photography as a serious hobby, but never considering it as something like a career. I had my photographs in numerous school, county, and state wide shows in high school and as a senior I had a few of my photographs on display at the U.S. Capitol building. at experience acted as a boost in my ideology of ‘hey, maybe this is something I can be taking more seriously.’
I take photos because it relaxes me, some people like running or playing games, I like to make photographs.
Q: Your technique is stunning. What is the advice you would give to people who approach film photography for the first time?
Just take your time and don’t overthink it. Your grandma used it, if she can, you can. I’m often asked questions about exposing for night photographs and to be honest, making an exposure at night is easier and more forgiving than a daytime photo in my opinion. You just need to pop a roll in and make some guesses, figure out what you're doing wrong, and try again.
Q: Why do you still shoot film?
I began shooting film mainly because of the large negative/positive I could obtain and the quality of the resolution produced once digitally scanned. Shooting night photos, the latitude of most color negative films aided the dynamic range I was able to obtain in a single exposure. All the digital photos I had been shooting were very dark in the shadows and very blown out in the highlights. Shooting a film like Portra 160, I was able to have the perfect amount of detail in shadows and highlights.
Q: Most of your shots are taken at night. Why do you choose this part of the day to shoot?
I first and foremost have always loved light and how it can be manipulated to illuminate a subject. I’m fascinated by Romantic landscape painting of the mid-late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Painters of the school of Luminism such as Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church, and Thomas Cole worked in how light reacted to the content of their paintings very well and the color palettes and moods created by Edward Hopper and his paintings are something I aspire to bring forth in my photography. Quite opposite to the content being created by these three Romantic painters, I enjoy capturing the stillness and silence that is Baltimore, Maryland at night. This city receives a horrid reputation in it’s portrayal in popular culture and on the news, something I’ve started noticing that I want to shed light on is how this city is quite beautiful, even in all of it’s urban decay and strange characters, I find it a wonderful place. To put it briefly, photographing at night brings out the immense stillness and silence this city holds as well it illuminates structures in ways you wouldn’t ever see had it been daytime.
Q: You make portraits too. How do you choose your subjects?
I do make portraits, when I rarely do create one, it’s almost always a super of the moment thing with no planning. It’s something I enjoy but don’t have the opportunity to do often. I don’t really choose my subjects other than if they're someone I know who is sitting in just the right light.
Q: What do you want to show in your photographs?
A bit similar to a previous answer, I want more to showcase how light reacts under certain setting and how it illuminates a situation. I also have found it important to show how still, quiet, and non-threatening Baltimore can be, especially at night.
Q: If you could know a great photographer who he/she will be?
To me, two of my favorite photographers are two of my very good friends, Hogarth Ferguson and Patrick Joust. Hogarth is someone who travels very often and he has quite the assortment in images he can make. He is someone who is very knowledgable on just about everything within the realm of photography, especially analog. Patrick is also someone who’s work is versatile and he was also a big inspiration to me as far as taking night photographs, to put it simply they're both ver good at what they do.
Q: What are your projects for the future?
For now and into the future, I’d like to continue doing what I do and perhaps shoot more with my large format camera as well as shoot more black and white like I used to.
Q: Suggest us a film or an album.
A music album thats one of my all time favorites is Queen’s A Night At The Opera, for me this is a very dynamic and well rounded selection of songs that are each painstakingly and meticulously made.
All images © Jacob Morel