Patrick J. Clarke is a film photographer based-in Temecula, California. He has already shared his passion for film photography with us before, and today we are happy to bring back Clarke to the interview to know more about him and his work on film photography...
Hi Patrick, can you introduce yourself?
My name is Patrick J. Clarke, 42 years old from Temecula, California. I am married to my beautiful wife, Stacey, who is also my photographic muse (and puts up with all the cameras in the house as well as the laundry room that got turned into a darkroom) and have two kids, 4 dogs and a cat who thinks she is a dog.
How long have you been into film photography and how did you discover it?
I grew up on film. My Dad was into photography and had a Rolleicord TLR that is still a thing of beauty, and a Canon AE-1. We always had cameras around. My Mom shot Polaroids, and I thought they were the coolest thing around. I remember wanting to take photos of my Hot Wheels with it and her telling me how expensive the film was. My grandma used to take lots of slides on her trips and I remember watching slide shows of all these places and how beautiful it was on the big screen.
Are you a full time photographer or is it just a hobby?
It’s a hobby for the most part. I’ve been a bit hesitant to do anything professional, honestly, as I don’t want to burn out on photography. I love the idea of just doing it for the love of doing it. But recently I did a 2 day photo shoot for Levi’s on IMPOSSIBLE Project film, and although it was a bit nerve wracking, especially shooting with vintage cameras, iit was a blast, the client loved it and I connected with and photographed a lot of cool people.
Talk to us about your background in photography?
When I was in High School, I wanted to take a Photography class, so my Dad and I went out and we looked at cameras and I got a brand new Olympus OM-F with a few lenses. I really loved that camera, and still have it today. I learned all the basics in High School, but I didn’t really dive into it then. I took some more classes in college, but only 35mm, and I never really connected with it as an art form at that point. It just didn’t really stick back then. I was into 3D modeling and animation, and so I gravitated to that and got my BFA in Computer Art.
So, I knew my way around a camera, and even when doing 3D animation, the most fun I had was setting up the shot, the Depth of Field, what focal length to use, so I should have known photography was still in my blood.
I did 3D animation for long while as a career and as art, but after awhile, I just got burnt out. I didn’t do anything visual for a couple of years, and instead decided to learn to play guitar as my personal creative outlet. But in 2008 I came across my son’s Polaroid One600 that he had gotten for Christmas and it had 4 packs of Polaroid 600 film with it. For some reason I picked it up and put film into it and started shooting again. And for some reason, I went back to film. I had one of the first Kodak Digital cameras to do product shots of my wife’s pottery for her website, but I didn’t care much for digital. I got a Holga and started shooting medium format, and then a Polaroid Land Camera with Fuji Peel-Apart, and then learned about the demise of Polaroid and how The IMPOSSIBLE Project was trying to resurrect it. I was hooked at that point.
After that, I’ve just done photography, no matter where I go. Even when I was working as a UX Designer at RED Digital Cinema I gravitated to it. I did a lot of their product photography for the RED.com website and was one of the first people to photograph the RED Scarlet camera. It was a lot of fun, even though it was all digital work.
What made you want to pick up a camera, and what makes you want to keep shooting?
I actually don’t know why I picked up a camera for the first time. Probably because my Mom and Dad took pictures, so it was just natural to want to take snapshots. When I picked up the camera again in 2008, I just needed to do something visually creative, and I noticed how beautiful the world around me was. I started noticing things and people in a different way and wanted to try to capture that.
The IMPOSSIBLE Project also was a big part of my dive back into photography. I was fascinated and shocked by the demise of Polaroid, and then the passion of the IMPOSSIBLE team to bring back something that was a big part of my childhood and I had taken for granted. I looked back at those 4 packs of Polaroid 600 that had gotten me back into photography and missed them even more. So, part of why I was shooting back then was to support this new film’s life. It was difficult to shoot, and for some reason I loved trying to coax an image out of this new film. That physical challenge of using basic photography skills to get an image, trying to figure out that puzzle, that was fascinating to me. I love solving problems, and shooting with these early films, and giving feedback to IMPOSSIBLE was a big part of me picking up a camera day after day.
At the same time I was figuring out that I liked taking photo’s of people, but I wanted to make a personal connection with them. I don’t know when the exact time was that I discovered this, but taking a great portrait that affected the person started meaning more and more to me. I think this story sums it up well:
I was at the Levi’s shoot and my job was to take a modified Polaroid Big Shot camera with IMPOSSIBLE PX100 Silver Shade film and play “Andy Warhol” and take Polaroids of the guests that night. I would shoot one for the guest and shoot another for Levi’s. One of the guests that night had an amazing look. His hair was windswept back, and his grizzled beard defined his character. I thought he looked great and knew the black and white IMPOSSIBLE film would be a perfect choice for his look. I went up to him and asked to take his portrait. He was a bit hesitant, asking why would I want to take HIS picture? I told him that I thought he had a great look and that I would shoot two and then let him pick which one he liked best. We did a serious one and a smiling one. After they developed he picked one and the people around him were giving him compliments on it. I thought that was pretty cool, but then the next day at the shoot, he found me and had his fiance with him. He had a huge smile on his face. He went on to tell me that he had gotten home late and dropped off the portrait on the counter and went straight to bed. The next morning, his fiance had gotten up and came across the photo and was amazed by it. She told him it was such a great picture and captured everything she loved about him.
That smile, and that confidence that was on his face that next day is why I keep shooting. I love affecting people in a positive way, and if I can capture the beauty of someone and make them feel better about themselves, it just makes my day.
Any message for other film photographers? Or maybe a tip you would like to share?
I think if you are shooting film, don’t worry so much about shooting film. You may have to explain yourself sometimes as why you still shoot film, so be knowledgeable about your medium, but don’t worry so much about digital vs. film, just shoot the shots you want and find the workflow that’s right for you.
And if you are shooting IMPOSSIBLE Project film, my biggest tip is to know your camera. A lot of these old SX-70’s aren’t in the best shape and the electronic eye that does the exposure may have deteriorated. Stick with one of the SX-70 types of IMPOSSIBLE film and figure out how to get a great exposure from that camera. It’s not as bad as the early days of IMPOSSIBLE film, but the film and camera combo are sometimes tricky to figure out. After 4 SX-70’s I finally came across one that the exposure meter is dead on, and it helps a lot. But I can pick up any of them and remember how it exposes and then not let it get in the way of shooting. And get a frog-tongue for your Polaroid camera too. They may be a pain sometimes, but they make shooting in the daytime SO much easier.
Thank you Patrick for the interview.