BW Cary has been many different things in his life: "a cheesemonger, a television stylist, a prop master, a special education teacher, but always a photographer throughout," he emphasizes. But his favorite task so far has been to raise his three-year-old daughter. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, BW Cary was surrounded by instant shots, disposable cameras, and film. Working with large format, he already tried different instant backs on his camera, before we asked him to try out the LomoGraflok 4×5 Instant Back. His minimalist shots, intimate portraits, and urban landscapes are full of colors, sharp details, and beautiful tones that only he can pull off!
Hello BW Cary! It’s great to have you here at Lomography. How did you get into photography?
As a child of the 80s and 90s, I grew up with Polaroids and 35 mm. My early life was documented by instant photos, disposable cameras, and a parade of plastic point-and-shoots.
Then, in high school, I learned how to develop my own film and use a darkroom. That was my gateway - I was hooked. My mom gave me the Pentax Spotmatic SLR she had learned within her high school days. I was lucky to grow up in a time when chemical darkrooms were still normally found in public schools and college art departments, and I took full advantage of the access. I mean- we had 1-Hour Photo options when pharmacies and even Costco still developed film. (It’s nice to see some of this coming back in NYC!) With an SLR and a love for TriX- I never looked back. So, essentially, I’ve been shooting photographs and film my whole life.
What do you like about Instant Photography, and in such a digital age, why do you still shoot it?
A large portion of the appeal for instant photography is in the name, right? Nothing beats seeing your photo instantly. But- the best part is that it’s not actually instant- you have the chance of watching the magic of it all developing right in front of you. Those few seconds are gold. Especially reflected in the eyes of someone else; particularly for their first time.
There’s so much to love about instant photography - the joy of experimentation, the joy of sharing your work instantly, the tangible artifact, the simplicity of the process. Edwin Land left a truly beautiful legacy and it’s so wonderful to see it thriving in the digital world.
I’ve shot a lot of digital photography, practically working my way up the EOS lineup, but nothing compares to integral, chemical photographs. Each one is a truly unique piece that cannot be replicated.
How was your experience shooting the LomoGraflok?
Shooting with the LomoGraflok was great. It was satisfying. It was simple. It was exciting. I’ve waited a while to shoot with something like this. I’ve tried many ways to use Instax Films in large format cameras but nothing compares to the LomoGraflok. It’s a real, professional solution to using Instax film in large format cameras.
Was it hard to use it?
I didn’t find using the Graflok to be difficult at all. If you’re used to shooting large format film it’s a very simple addition to the process - to slide in the spacer behind the ground glass when composing and focusing. It’s not a burden, and the accuracy it allows is worth it.
What did you like about using the LomoGraflok?
I loved seeing my large format shots and compositions coming to life without a darkroom or a color lab. Instant results are obviously a large part of the appeal for this accessory.
But, most importantly, I’ve long been searching for a system that could let Fuji Instax Film truly shine. No offense, but there isn’t a camera on the market that does this film stock justice. The crisp, sharp, beautiful colors found using large format lenses prove Fuji produces a film that is worth keeping around and one that far exceeds expectations. It’s not FP-100c, but it definitely helps fill that hole.
Did you face any challenges while using it?
The only challenge I faced, and I honestly wouldn’t call it that, was to ensure I carefully metered properly for the scene. Instax film is ISO 800 and therefore, fairly precise and unforgiving in darker situations - the chance of under or overexposing is fairly high - it’s definitely not as forgiving as a negative in its tonal range. However, it is beautiful when it’s a success.
How would you incorporate it in your workflow?
I can see using this as a new medium unto itself. I don’t really foresee using this to check composition or exposure, I see myself creating individual pieces of artwork, the film lends itself to it. I can definitely see myself using it in portrait sessions.
From the pictures you sent us do you have a favorite? Can you tell us the story behind it?
One of my favorite pictures, and of course I’m biased, is one of my wife. She very rarely lets me take film portraits of her; she hates waiting for me to develop the film and waiting to see if she likes how she looks. Being able to show her the photograph immediately eliminated all of that and made the process more relaxed and collaborative. It’s instant feedback for a model which can change the feel of a shoot drastically.
What would you like to shoot with it?
I think I enjoyed shooting most with this film at night or in my small studio to shoot still life. Instax film is capable of far more detail and sharpness than the cameras built for it would suggest. Paired with a glass lens the film shines!