Time / Date:
22:45 / March 6, 2014
Camera Body: Graflex Speed Graphic
Lens: Kodak Ektar 127mm f/4.7
Film: Fuji FP-100C Instant Color Film
Other: Polaroid 405 Film Back
Lighting: Yongnuo YN560-II Speedlite (2x)
Flash Triggers: Phottix Atlas II Wireless Trigger (3x)
Modifiers: Westcott 43” White Satin Collapsible Umbrella w/ Black Cover
Modifiers: Opteka OSG18 1/8” Honeycomb Grid
Shutter Speed: 1/400
Focal Length: 127mm
My involvement in Iceland’s music scene began around when I shot my first Iceland Airwaves Music Festival in 2011. I was attracted by the surprising amount of local talent and diversity—especially given how small the scene is. In the time since Airwaves ’11, my connection to Iceland has grown considerably and I’ve continued to photograph local musicians. This portrait is part of personal project I shot at Reykjavík Folk Festival 2014. The idea was to challenge myself to shoot a series of performers and attendees using a vintage camera format mixed with modern flashes.
This is Andrea Jónsdóttir. She’s a DJ and radio personality, and well-respected in Iceland’s music community. Sometimes she’s affectionally referred to as the “Godmother of Rock ‘N’ Roll”. We first met through a mutual friend in 2011 and we’ve kept in touch since then. She happened to be attending the festival so I asked her to be a part of my project.
The camera used was a 1940s Graflex Speed Graphic 4×5. The lens used was a stock Kodak Ektar 127mm f/4.7 that came with the body. I shot on Fuji FP-100C instant color film, which was held in a Polaroid 405 film back. It turns out that this combination works seamlessly with the Speed Graphic. I connected the Speed Graphic with a Phottix Atlas II wireless trigger by patching together a couple odd sync cables. This made it possible to wirelessly trigger a pair of Yongnuo YN560-II speedlites.
Making the Shot:
My vision was to create a dramatic and moody look. I shot in a small room on-site at the venue. For my key light, I used a Yongnuo YN560-II speedlite with a Westcott 43” umbrella. It was placed in a reflective position with the black cover on. I closed it down somewhat to help to keep light from bouncing around. This also produced a quality of light more like a softbox than an umbrella. My rim light was another Yongnuo speedlite with an Opteka 1/8” grid. I also placed my subject far away from a white background wall to make it go near black, and set my camera’s leaf shutter to 1/400 to help knock down the ambient light.
Editing & Processing:
Fuji FP-100C creates an instant positive print same as Polaroid film. It was great to peel the film apart with my subject and share that moment together. I saved the negative side of the film in order to reclaim a negative through a simple bleaching process. After I cleared and dried the negatives, I made scans at a local photography store. I imported the files into Lightroom where I did very minor adjustments. The processing was more tedious than my normal digital workflow but it was an interesting experience.
This was the first time I’d tried this setup all together. I’m happy that it worked at all! Every mechanism of the Speed Graphic is manual. It forces you to slow things down, consider every aspect of your shot and be more selective in general. It definitely gave me a greater appreciation for past photographers that relied on this format. Instant film is also a lot of fun. You never quite know exactly what you’re going to get. This image isn’t perfect and that’s cool. I love the grungy edges and inconsistencies. It’s one-of-a-kind.
My advice to anyone that’s interested in working in a new community is you should strive to build and develop connections. Many of the opportunities I’ve gotten in Iceland stem from my very first assignment at Airwaves 2011, which isn’t a coincidence. I was mindful to shoot lots of local bands, pushed to get them featured in publications abroad and personally followed-up afterwards with links to my coverage. My effort and enthusiasm gained me trust, credibility and built the foundation for future opportunities. A similar strategy could be effective anywhere.
Take yourself out of your comfort zone. Make mistakes and learn from them. Be excited about your work because enthusiasm is contagious.
Other amazing Speed Graphic shooters like jazz photographer Herman Leonard, New York street-photographer Louis Mendes and photojournalist David Burnett.
About the Photographer
Matt Eisman is an internationally published photographer specializing in live music, portrait and lifestyle photography. He splits his time between Reykjavík and New York. His work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Rolling Stone, SPIN and many more.
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