Harry D. Fuertes is a student Film Club Member whose work is featured in our exhibition Emerging Perspectives: University Student Show. We were impressed by the images he submitted to the show so we decided to interview him this week and share a larger group of his images with the community. Scroll down to see!
PL: What got you interested in photography?
HF: Growing up, I had a fascination with family photos. I latched onto their ephemeral potency in capturing a specific moment in time. As I grew older and the luster of the image came to signify meaning for me, I realized that I was forgetting the contexts behind the photos and needed clarification from relatives in order to pull together a muddled vision of that moment. These attempts quickly proved futile as I received conflicting narratives of certain photos because ultimately they were taken so we no longer had to remember the stories behind them. The image provides a flash of objective truth for the person behind the camera and from there the memory of that moment increasingly dims. With that, eventually it was hard to believe what was real and what was fabrication in the stories behind the images for I was not the boy behind the lens. The beauty of photography for me is how with that realization the image inevitably told a story on its own. Truth ceased to matter and even beyond that instant objectivity there are the various possibilities of meanings that can be gleaned off of a solitary image for the one who clicks the shutter button all the way to the near stranger that swipes past it on their Instagram story.
PL: What type of camera do you shoot with and what kind of film do you usually use?
HF: Right now I carry a Canon AE-1 with a 35mm lens as my starting camera with film photography and have been using a Canon EOS M50 Mark II with varying lens sizes (favorites being 35 and 50) for my digital work. For film, I’ve been getting adjusted to utilizing 400 and 200 ISO to gain experience as I find what works best with my style.
PL: What are some qualities that you like about film photography vs. digital photography?
HF: For me, it’s the challenge and the spontaneity that comes with shooting on film. It gets easy to be spoiled with how versatile and error-proof digital photography is. Having just started about three months ago with film, the immediate appeal was just how naturally the developed image can subvert your original intention and become something else entirely- usually due to user error. For better and worse, this identifying quality invites an almost frustrating desperation in getting a swift rhythm down for achieving that choice image as soon as possible before the key moment is gone. After that visceral rush of excitement that comes with the adjusting of the camera’s levels, along with the actual taking of the picture, arrives the anticipation of waiting to see the result. You simply cannot replicate that same creative process with digital photography. However, with that weight comes the inevitability of constant experimentation and commitment to artistic humility. The key moment came and went and as an amateur in this medium I accept the equal chance of success and “failure” with open arms. With time, seeing my growth will be gratifying. As I wait, witnessing the possibilities of film through the work of others has been especially inspiring.
PL: Some of your photos are of people. What do you enjoy about photographing people? What is challenging about it?
HF: What I love about photographing people is the unpredictable nature of how they act in public settings. In my work where I photograph strangers, I usually attempt to capture them from behind (a quasi reference to one of my favorite films Yi Yi) or at least obscured by shadows or a mask. I do this not only for the discretion of my subjects but also because it creates an interesting challenge in people-watching for myself. Waiting for the key moment to capture them is a test of patience that most times doesn’t pay off because of said unpredictability but when the stars align it can tell an interesting narrative of who this person might be. From the perspective of a storyteller, it’s times like these that I get some of my most potent inspiration. Otherwise, in my portraits of close friends I like to add layers of mystique; sort of craft a newly artificial, differing idea of who they are to me through uncomplicated means. They are slightly changed through the lens and I find that transformation to be a beautiful thing. We can be anything to anyone in a photograph.
PL: There are a mix of black and white and color photos within this collection. What are some qualities that you like about both black and white and color film?
HF: While color film effectively paves a vibrant space in which the viewer of the photograph can wander and get lost in, black and white almost exists purely on abstract and binary terms for me. We live in a world of color and for the most part where we are now, it is depicted as such. To see the world in black and white creates an inevitably flatter canvas that calls immediate attention to that divide and that dynamic gives the form a haunted edge. You don’t quite get as lost within its minutiae as one would with color but instead are cordially invited into a unique way of parsing our collective existence and the parts that make up our everyday reality. A carnival in black and white is simply not the same as one in color. When I showcase a photograph in that format it is because I am calling to attention the subject’s mere presence on a surface level; the instinctual elemental matter that makes up their very being.
PL: Out of all of these images, which photo is your favorite and why?
HF: Tough! Considering how the conversation underlined the distinction between the two methods of photography, I’m inclined to pick a favorite in color and a favorite in black and white. In which case, for the former I choose Museum for how perfectly that “key moment” came together. Non-scripted, spontaneous bliss. I live for times like those and that one fits the bill in that regard. For the latter, I choose Me. I choose it not so much for its complexity or any sort of flashiness but for how it just works. A self-portrait taken on my lunch break where I bleed into the reflection of the office windows and become one with that environment. A slight haze over the image, beautifully communicating just how tired I was at that moment. I take a lot of inspiration from the legendary Vivian Maier, so seeing that photo when it developed made me so happy that it came out as intended. Anyways, there are many personal highlights I could’ve interchanged in place of those two but as it stands at 11:58 PM on a Wednesday night, that’s where I lean.
Every day, Club Members take exceptional pictures. If you are not a Film Club Member yet what are you waiting for? Join today to support the photo community in Philly and to start saving money on film processing!