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“I find myself often taking both film & digital camera to jobs and projects, because I want to capture the images on both mediums, purely because I want to have both at my disposal at a later stage.”


INTERVIEW: RICK DE LA RAY

PHOTOGRAPHY: IAN ENGELBRECHT


After school you studied at the ruth prowse school of art. Were you initially considering being an artist and what made you decide to study photography?

At school i didn’t take any art classes, but in my matric year i started a part time b/w photography printing course at frank joubert art centre. During my time there my lecturer mentioned to me the idea of doing a full 3 year course after school. Before this course i had never seen photography as a career, due to the fact that the school environment i was in saw art as a luxury.

In 2013 during your final year at art school you started a project called ‘seed of memory’ based on old family photographs which were taken during apartheid. Do you still feel connected to the project ?

The project was started in 2008 (my final year at art school). I still feel very much connected to it; the whole idea was to take old photos which had been forgotten and make them relevant again. They worked as a fractured timeline of both my parents and me growing up in south africa. In my work one of the main themes is nostalgia. Therefore i will always feel connected to the work.

What draws you to shooting on film and what are the biggest frustrations around it?

The uniqueness of each shot has always been what draws me to it, the fact that you are never quite sure how the image will look when it’s developed. Now in this age of digital photography so many photographers rely on the grade they put on their images in order to make them stand out from the rest, with film you don’t have to worry about altering the final images. The beautiful grade you get from film is all naturally there. But the biggest frustration has always been the costs of developing and printing – i do have sleepless nights about the day when they announce that 35mm film is being discontinued.

What camera are you shooting on at the moment and how did you go about choosing that particular model?

Currently i switch between a minolta xd5 and a canon a-1. The minolta was my father’s old camera that he gave to me about 13 years ago. The canon was just a special deal i found at the eye on loop st.

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Canon – AE-1 Program

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 Minolta – XD-5

How long have you been shooting in this format and where did the interest in it come from?

I’d say i have been shooting film for the past 15 years, i think the interest stems from a time before digital cameras became commercially affordable and the fact that it was all i could use back then. Also when i started shooting i shot mostly on b/w films because i had the access to develop and print the images myself, there was something quite magical about being in control of the entire process.

Is there a particular brand of film that you have found works best for you or does it depend on the type of shoot you will be doing ?

Almost all my shots are taken on fujifilm superia/proplus 2, for no other reason than that it’s super affordable and very reliable.

Do you work fulltime as a photographer now or do you still do assisting work on the side?

I’m currently pushing to do less assisting work, but with trying to establish myself as a full time photographer i don’t always have constant work coming in, but assisting has always been a good income for me when i’m not shooting. Specifically working on international jobs with foreign photographers, there is always a huge amount you can learn from the guys coming over, and the money is always pretty good. What’s great is with the money i earn off those bigger assisting jobs i can take time to work on more personal projects.

A lot of young and up and coming photographers seem to try and sidestep working as assistants these days – how much relevance do you feel there still is working as an assistant ?

I do feel if you plan on working as a commercial photographer it is still very relevant, there are so many elements to make it as a successful photographer both on the technical and business side of things and i feel if you do work closely with someone experienced it can only work in your favour

What appeals the most to you about your personal work when you look at it?

What i love about my personal work is the fact that all that separated me from my subject is my camera and the image is a reflection of what i see.

What would you say personally makes a subject or environment beautiful – what motivates you to capture a certain environment?

Simplicity. I like shooting a subject that is not over-styled within an environment that is not cluttered.

Have you found that certain professional clients are keen for jobs to be shot on film again or is it mostly a format that is used for personal and artistic value these days?

It’s very rare nowadays to find professional clients that will commission jobs to be shot on film; sadly it’s now a case of clients who have become too used to quick turnaround times. Shoot the job and they want the low res the same or next day. Nowadays art directors on set usually sit at the computer watching the files come tethered in, editing the shoot as you go; also it’s just the fact that many clients don’t trust film and fear that they don’t have control over the final product.

Film and the development process is quite a pricey exercise these days. Do you find that it makes you think more about the subject matter that you choose to document?

I do find that my images/shoots are a lot more curated, coming down to such things as the perfect location and the correct model.

Whose work locally and abroad would you say has influenced your growth as a photographer the most?

With regard to international photographers one of my biggest influences growing up was definitely ryan mcginley. His images are just beyond incredible; his early work which was a more candid documentation of subjects was a big influence.   With regard to local, the list is long, almost all the upcoming photographers in cape town are constantly influencing my growth. People like kent andreasen, adriaan louw, and ane’ strydom are all producing some incredible work which in such a small town, constantly inspires one’s growth.

What elements do you consider when choosing to decide to shoot digital or film when you approach a certain project or job?

I find myself often taking both film & digital camera to jobs and projects, because i want to capture the images on both mediums, purely because i want to have both at my disposal at a later stage.


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