Caught Up With Film: Local photographers band together for film-only zine
“A great film photographer doesn’t waste a frame if they don’t think it’s worth the resources.” – Brendon Hertz, Eau Claire Analog
In a world that’s lush with digital photography and some of the most incredible image-making technology fathomable, it’s easy to get used to vivid colors, pristine editing capabilities, and endless ways to tinker with a photo. But for all the bells and whistles of modern photography, there’s still nothing quite like the process of working on analog film. Without the freedoms of contemporary technology, you’re left focusing on your own framing, your own eye, and most importantly, your own patience. It’s that love of the process that has willed a new film photography zine Eau Claire Analog into existence. A group of likeminded friends who have a connection to Eau Claire have been using film photography to stay connected even if some of them are across the country. The zine is fabulous and showcases tons of film photographers from the region and beyond. We recently caught up with one of the zine’s masterminds, former Eau Clairian Brendon Hertz (who’s now based in Seattle), to chat about the zine, the film process, and the dark room magic that makes this project special.
Volume One: First off, how did this whole thing start? You and Jon Edmonds and some other photographers started sharing your stuff online first right?
Brendon Hertz: Yeah, that was the official start of everything. If I go back a bit, I’d been shooting street photography out in Seattle since I moved. My job allowed me to drive around the city a lot, and I started seeing things and people here that I wanted to document. At that point, I was shooting digital. Then Jon visited me in the spring of 2016, and I asked him to bring my dad’s old camera out to me. I didn’t realize film photography would hook me so fast, but it did. Coincidentally, Jon found his dad’s camera, and it turned out to be the same film camera that I had in Seattle. We started sharing photos on a blog, which later became Eau Claire Analog.
In your mind, what makes film photography special? What is it about that physical process?
I’m laughing right now because a good friend of mine, Doug Johnson, an attorney in Eau Claire and photographer himself, told me I was born in the wrong decade this past summer. I’ve learned from collecting records that trying to make the “analog-is-better” argument is impossible to someone who doesn’t appreciate the aesthetic. In fact, I would say that film photography is definitely not better in quality than digital. So, what makes it special to me, and I think others in this group, is that film photography is a medium that seems new to many of us, so it becomes this fresh experiment even though it’s been done before. Art is a cycle, you know? The film photographers I love are diverging from the technical playbook: using technology to manipulate their film, shooting film at extreme underexposure to evoke certain textures and colors, or exposing their film to light leaks and lens flares. They aren’t purists. I also believe there’s a real argument for patience. You can’t shoot away like you can with digital. Film is expensive, and it takes time to get film processed. A great film photographer doesn’t waste a frame if they don’t think it’s worth the resources.
What are some of the main things you’ve learned working on this project?
Surround yourself with as many good people as you can find if you want to make something happen. Jon and I could not have put this together without the strong ties to the Eau Claire community. Also, without local businesses’ support, this would never be happening. Sharp Photo reached out at the 11th hour and agreed to do the prints for the show. Super generous. Aaron, Clayton, and all the folks at Ambient Inks are graciously helping to host the show. Meghann Ney, a graphic designer and friend of mine out here in Seattle, volunteered her time to help do layout, logo, and cover designs. Shout out to my brother as well for building our website. It’s astonishing to me how generous people have been with their time.
All the photographers included in the zine have some kind of connection to Eau Claire, even if, like yourself, they’re spread out across the country. What sort of panache does that bring to the publication? Why Eau Claire?
I think it’s less about panache and more about necessity. Eau Claire’s never really been about the former for me. It’s been more about surrounding yourself with people out of necessity. Its greatness lies in what some people perceive as its weakness: it’s small. The cold winters help too. What you’ve all created in Eau Claire is something almost every huge metropolis envies: common identity. That’s what Eau Claire Analog has going for it.
The first zine looks really cool. I’m hoping there are plans to do more … where do you go from here?
Part of what we want to do is bring more people into the fold. We know there are more film photographers in the area. We want them to know that we are looking for them and that we want to publish their stuff. This began as a passion project for us. Like any zine maker, no one’s looking to make a profit. I hope we can get enough copies out there to print future issues and have more events. So come check out the show on Jan. 13. If you like what’s happening there, go find a film camera. Heck, I’ll give you one of mine. Start shooting. Make pictures of things you love. Experiment. Wait. Get it processed at the local lab. See what comes out on the other side. I’d bet odds are good that at least one of the photos on the roll will speak to you in some way.
To see the zine and some of the photos close up, check out the Eau Claire Analog zine release party at Ambient Inks on Saturday, Jan. 13, at 7pm.