Interview
Leave a Comment

Interview: Nevin Johnson

“I want to make photographs that inspire people. I want to be an inspiration for those who have 9-5 jobs and can’t be travel photographers.”

Nevin’s work is an exceptional example of just how beautiful the east coast can be. His work includes film photography, digital photography, as well as some drone work. If you didn’t know he was just recently get into film, you would never know. His instagram account can be found here.

JM – Why do you shoot film? 

NJ – This is a tough question to answer. Like most people my age, I learned the basics of photography on digital cameras. It wasn’t until later on that I picked up my first film camera. By that time, I had seen a lot of really good film work. The tones, the colors, and the variation between film stocks is what really got me interested in film. The added challenge of shooting a finite number of shots mixed with the style that one can achieve using film is what attracted me to shooting analog myself.

JM – I know you started out your serious photography endeavor shooting digital and have been increasingly moving into film.  Is there a particular reason why?  How much of the time are you shooting film vs digital? 

NJ – This is exactly right. From the moment I shot my first roll, I knew there was something special about film. Set aside the fact you basically don’t need to edit your photos (minus highlight adjustments, tone curve, and minor details), film has a lot of attractive qualities to it. I find it helps me be a more intentional photographer. Given there are a finite amount of shots you can take makes me really think about a specific composition. I also really enjoy trying new film out…its kind of like trying out a new “preset”…each film stock has its own unique characteristics. Those characteristics can play into a given composition if you plan it right. This adds another challenge to the mix, but I look at it as an opportunity to learn which film stocks work well for which situations. As for how much I’m shooting film vs digital, most of the time I’m going out to shoot I have at least one form of film. That is my primary camera, I’m only using digital now as a backup… God forbid something goes wrong with the film, I don’t want to totally lose the composition. My preference is certainly film. I feel the results I get from shooting film achieve a level that my digital simply cannot replicate. 

“Given there are a finite amount of shots you can take makes me really think about a specific composition.”

JM – What is your favorite film?  Camera?

NJ – I’d say my favorite film stock is Portra 800. I gravitate towards the higher speed films because I like the grain. There’s something about Portra 800 that really speaks to my style of photography. Portras 400 and 160 are great as well (the whole portra lineup is wonderful), but 800 really hits it home for me. I like to shoot both 35mm and 120, but recently I’ve been gravitating towards shooting more 120. My camera of choice for this is my Hasselblad 500c.

JM – Would you say that your style has changed since you’ve started shooting film? What was the catalyst for this change?

NJ – Absolutely. Its pretty cliché at this point, but I find it to be true- film makes you think much more about your compositions. You have a finite amount of shots and there aren’t any do-overs. It makes me think twice about my composition and settings. I find this really benefits my photography as a whole. 

JM – What is a personal goal you have for your photography? 

“Composition aside, I feel that a great photo invokes emotion. For me that is through nature, but I know this can be done several ways. I find that most compelling photos tell a story.”

NJ – To be honest, photography is a hobby of mine. I don’t have any aspirations of quitting my day job to do this full time. I do however want to make photographs that inspire people. I want to be an inspiration for those who have 9-5 jobs and can’t be travel photographers. I recently started describing what i do on the weekends as “weekend wandering”…9-5 normal job during the week, and adventuring on the weekend. I live on the east coast so it isn’t quite as glamorous as living in the PNW or the rockies, but I try to find the interesting spots that are within a day’s drive. Inspiring those to find joy in shooting local to where one is, that is my goal.

JM – What do you look for in a photograph?  Is what you find compelling in a photograph different when it’s one of your photographs compared with one from someone else?

NJ – I’ll say that I’m not a trained artist. I’ve never had any formal training in art or photography. My mom is a painter though and I have picked up some tips and tricks from her regarding composition. I try to follow most of the basic motifs- rule of thirds, foreground/middleground/background, etc….But recently I’ve been trying to focus on minimalism and minimalistic photos. If you can make a photo compelling without a whole lot going on in frame, then that is a pretty great photo in my opinion. I enjoy shooting and viewing this style of photography. I don’t feel that I judge my photos any differently than I would critique another’s. I believe it is pretty evident (for the most part) if a photo is compelling or not. Composition aside, I feel that a great photo invokes emotion. For me that is through nature, but I know this can be done several ways. I find that most compelling photos tell a story. So the final note i’ll say about what I look for in a photograph is the story it tells.

JM – What is your favorite shot you’ve ever taken?  What’s the story behind it?

NJ – To be honest this is an extremely tough call.I’ll break it up into digital and film.

NJ – Digital: sunrise at East Point Lighthouse. I got up at 4am and booked it to the lighthouse. It looked like the sunrise would be a bust, but the sun poked through the clouds and lit up the lighthouse in such an incredible way. I was the only one there at the time so I had the moment all to myself. This one sticks out to me as my favorite.

NJ – Film: After a long exciting day of shooting with my wife in Newport, RI, we were on a sailboat for sunset. The wind died down and we enjoyed just floating in the bay, watching the sun go down. This was also my first roll of Portra 800. I snagged this one and it was instantly my favorite. The colors, grain texture, and composition speak to me. It brings me right back on that boat, watching the sunset with my wife.

JM – If someone told you they were thinking of getting into film, what would your response/advice be?  

NJ – Dive head first! Shoot as many rolls as possible and experiment. Be deliberate about what you are shooting, you only have 36 exposure (or less if you shoot 120). Film has changed the way I shoot and continues to inspire me to improve as a photographer. I would hope that film could effect other photographers like it has with me.

More of Nevin’s work can be seen below:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s