Member Moment: Zack Kreines

Film Club
Zack Kreines is a student Film Club Member whose work is featured in our exhibition Emerging Perspectives: University Student Show. The photos he submitted to the show captured buildings in a creative way so this week we interviewed him to share a larger collection of his images with the community and to get to know him more. 

Photograph of the side of a skyscraper

Photograph of the top of buildings in Philadelphia

PL: What got you interested in photography?

ZK: My Grandpa lent me his little digital camera when I was only 7 years old. Although the camera came from him, the photographer in my family was his wife, my Grandma. I would always take pictures on any family outing just to try to be like her. Eventually she got too old to continue with photography and I mostly stopped as well. But last summer my interest in photography was rekindled when I found my Grandma’s old Olympus OM1 35 mm camera in the back of a closet in my house. I happened to also be looking for a fun course to take at Swarthmore in the fall, so I decided to take her camera with me and take Photo 1. This past year I’ve been working to rebuild my love for photography, and even though it’s not with my grandma anymore, her camera is still with me as inspiration to continue my photography journey every day.

Photograph of the top of a subway car

Photograph of the entrance to the subway in Philadelphia

Photograph of person waiting for subway on platform

PL: What type of camera do you shoot with and what kind of film do you usually use?

ZK: I shoot all my film with the Olympus OM1 I got from my grandma, with a 50mm 1.8 Zuiko lens she used. I love this camera, for more than just sentimental reasons. I love looking through it’s massive viewfinder; no other camera I’ve used has been nearly as wonderful to just look at the world through. I also find the fully manual nature of it therapeutic, as it forces me to slow down and really think about what I want with my shot. I’m very happy with my OM1, but I am interested in maybe picking up a medium format camera sometime in the future to experiment with a different format of film. As for my film stock of choice, I am still experimenting to see what I like the best. Last fall I shot exclusively Black and White for my photography course, but I’ve been enjoying experimenting with some different color films this year. I’m definitely a sucker for the pastels of Portra 400 and would say it’s probably my go to right now, but I’m excited to try a roll of Kodak Gold I just bought. I also just shot my first roll of Cinestill 800T and loved how it looked at night. I’m really enjoying just picking up different films and seeing what works for me. 

Photograph of ceiling in outdoor train station

Photograph of jazz sign on the side of a building in Philadelphia

Photograph of illuminated shop overhang

PL: Many of your photos capture the architecture and industrial qualities that make up Philly. What draws you to these elements and inspires you to take a photo?

ZK: I think part of the answer is that I’m obsessed with the massive scale of cities. I really get bored of the tiny suburb of Swarthmore where I go to college, and photography gives me an excuse to get off campus and explore Philly. But there’s also something unique about the buildings in Philly I like to photograph the most, they almost all are this same style of geometric concrete strutures. I quite frankly am not interested in photographing the modern glass skyscrapers, there’s just something about this particular kind of concrete building that fascinates me. I always love these kinds of geometric repeating patterns, and the scale of these buildings allows me to capture so many unique interesting images from the same building. Light is always the most important part of the image for me, and interesting lighting can completely transform a boring normal building into something special. The fun part of that for me is that I can’t control the ways the sun is going to hit various buildings, so finding cool lighting requires lots of exploration and patience. This means every day I go out to shoot, even if I’m in the same place, feels very different.

Photograph of post next to gated field

Photograph of shadow on set of stairs in entry

Photograph of shadow on stone building

PL: Within this collection of images several of them have a strong composition. When photographing, what are you thinking before you click the shutter?

ZK: It really depends on the image, but I’d say there are a few things I’m thinking about. I’m definitely always looking for leading lines in a composition, and where they draw my eyes. I also love trying to find natural framing for an image, like a gap in the branches of a tree or metal construction bars. I’ve learned through trial and error that sometimes I try to capture too much in a composition, so often simplicity is key for me. I try to limit myself to one or two clear distinct subjects, like capturing a singular flower instead of an entire bed of them. I’ve also been experimenting with getting closer than I might typically with my subjects, and what might be gained when I’m only capturing one piece of the subject. But honestly most of this thought is all subconscious (and a lot of luck). I’ll often just look around with my camera and stumble into a cool composition, and then figure out how I can make it work.

Photograph of person sitting in a park

Photograph of person reading in the sun

Photograph of park bench

PL: Some of your photos are also of people. What do you enjoy about photographing people? What is challenging about it? 

ZK: These days I definitely do less portraits than I used to, but I do really enjoy shooting photos of people. Probably my favorite part is just to be able to work with my friends. It’s often a very collaborative process, I do most of the directing about the composition, but usually most of the posing and often props is up to them. My friends always bring interesting unique ideas to the table when I am taking their pictures. I also then love being able to give my friends cool pictures of themselves. Really it’s just a way for me to connect with the people I care most about. Probably the most challenging part of it is that people move and manual film photography is slow. Sometimes someone will accidentally blink or have their facial expression change mid photo and I won’t know until whenever I get the roll developed. But the movement of people can also sometimes be fun, inspiring me to take some candid images I’d never have thought of myself. 

Photograph of pink flowers growing from a tree

Photograph of light reflection on the side of a building

Photograph of person in front of pink mural

PL: Out of all of these images, which photo is your favorite and why? 

ZK: I can never pick a favorite photo, I feel like my answer changes every day. The photo of the woman in front of the pink mural is one of my favorites, but I think that might just be because that’s my girlfriend so I’m a little biased. But I do really love how the beautiful mural transports her into a fantastical world that she fits so perfectly in. I also really love the photo of the grey building with the flowy patterned light reflected onto it. As I previously said I love the geometric angular shapes of the buildings I photograph, but this photo’s lighting is anything but angular. I love how the straight lines of the built environment contrast the irregular shape and curves of the reflected light. But I’ve also noticed that my favorite photo in any one set is never everyone else’s favorites, I’ll sometimes really not like a photo and then a friend will take a look and say it’s their favorite I’ve taken so far. So I try to keep an open mind when it comes to my photography, as I understand that just because a photo isn’t speaking to me now, that doesn’t mean I won’t love it later.

Photograph taken from behind a cat's head looking down at its reflection

Photograph of two people looking at garden in a city

Photograph of photographers reflection in a mosaic


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!


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