Never Still

I’d wanted a good camera for years, but couldn’t afford one. After studying Film and TV Production at NYU, I made a tough decision to leave New York and move back to Chicago so that I could be with my boyfriend at the time. Unfortunately, that also meant putting my personal goals on hold (one of them being to buy a good camera and continue working on film and photography projects) and most of my money went towards school loans and survival. I already knew I’d chosen an extremely expensive field, but without the network I’d built in New York or being a student, the lack of discounts and school-owned gear to borrow left me without the ability to easily continue creating projects.  

While in Chicago, I was completely distracted from what I really wanted to do and I quickly become bored and impatient. My personality is one that thrives from frequent change and challenges, so I basically started doing everything I could to stay busy and entertained. I worked several jobs, wrote a few business plans for concepts I had in mind, had a list of inventions I didn’t know how to create (and I STILL need a self-rotating curling iron), learned how to brew beer and write a little front-end code, became briefly obsessed with learning how to DJ and moved to and from New York three more times. But at the end of the day, what I always came back to are the same things I’ve loved since I was a kid: New York, filmmaking, editing and photography. And a few months ago I finally purchased a friend’s 4k Blackmagic Cinema Camera (BMCC) and started shooting. 

My boyfriend, who I partner with on film production projects at Emulsion Pictures, recommended the Blackmagic because I couldn’t decide between a video or still photography camera and, fitting for my personality, I wanted to shoot both. The BMCC allows me to do that and I’m really happy with the image quality so far. 

The camera is a bit heavy to lug around Bushwick for photography, but at the moment, I’m happy enough with it that it’s worth the inconvenience. The trick is that the BMCC doesn’t have a still camera mode, so my process as a photographer is a little different than most. I shoot video and extract the best frames of my subjects, which tends to work out well since, at the moment, none of them are models. Shooting video makes it easier for me to catch their best and most genuine moments while providing video content for photo shoot vignettes, like this one of Tsugumi.

As I learn more about my camera and get a better idea of my lens preferences, I’m starting to get the hang of what I need in order to produce the types of images I want. It’s also led to my learning how to properly retouch images (mostly using Photoshop), for which the Blackmagic allows a lot of leeway. The images tend to start out relatively flat, but this gives me more room to make adjustments in post.

And one of the most important points I’m learning so far is the value of a photographer being a good director. I suspect that a lot of photographers rely on the beauty and/or experience of their models, but I’m always more impressed by photographers who are able to capture genuine emotion or the personality of their subjects, as opposed to just a pretty face or a strong lighting / technical skill set. And it’s another reason I appreciate the process of extracting stills from video – I think is just a more efficient way of catching those moments. 

I’m still getting the hang of it! But it’s something I hope to always improve upon. In the meantime, all my subjects have to do is keep moving.