Every week I’ve been introducing you to another member of Cork Analogue Photographers. This week its Rory O’Toole, the group secretary and the editor of this blog. Rory loves his Holga & has just launched a new website for his wonderful wedding photography.
Name: Rory O’Toole
Where are you from? Born in Montreal, moved to Dublin after a year. Parents went out for a couple of years and came home with a bundle of … me
And how did you end up in Cork? Not really sure. Lived in Ranelagh, nice part of the city. Lots of nights out. No kids. Plenty of time. Must be something to do with the girlfriend at the time. Wanted to get back to the country (being from Limerick) (not the city). Next thing you know, bam, ten years, three kids, married. Jesus. How’d that happen?
What cameras do you use? Holga (love it). Nikon F90x (fallen out of love with it). Pentax P30t (lent it to a student for 6 months, two years ago. Starting to want it back). Mamiya RB67 (heavy, bit scared of it). Lomo fisheye (silly, but good at parties). Polaroid SX70 (no film left). Couple of DSLR’s for some part time work. And a digicam.
What was your very first camera? I remember being given some kind of Instamatic thing when I was 9 or 10 years old, but really my first camera that I saved up for ages for and loved for years was a Pentax ME Super, when I was 19 or 20.
Tell me a little about how you got into photography? A girl friend had a Pentax K1000. I was smitten.
Why choose analogue photography? All those unprinted negs! I guess I started off in the pre digital days, and when digital came along it was too damn expensive – the cameras that is, obviously. I did buy a digicam eventually – a good little Canon in 2005, but the following year I enrolled in the night course in the Crawford. This is a photography class, but really it is a darkroom b+w printing class. I had first printed b+w back in the early 90’s in a college darkroom (Maynooth), and loved it. Then my siblings bought me an enlarger for a birthday a few years ago, and I started printing again, at home in the utility room. This was a bit frustrating and the results weren’t great. So the Crawford class was great, and I learnt how to print.
Part of the reason I still shoot film is because I love the whole process. I love the smell of 35mm film when you pop the canister open. I like loading film into a camera. Working ‘blind’, without a screen on the back of the camera can be liberating, and you learn to trust yourself. No need to keep checking that damn lcd. Surprising how much you can get right just by thinking!
Then there’s the darkroom. I like the dark. I like the peacefulness in there. Sometimes it can be frustrating and nothing goes right. But when things go well in the dark, and you walk out with a dripping print that really worked for you, it’s a great feeling. To go from an unprocessed film, to fully processed neg, to making contact sheets and examining the shots with a loupe, to test printing the selected neg, to finally making a decent print, all your own work, just vision and chemicals and paper and no damned computers, is great!
And I hate that printer that sits on the desk beside my laptop. The photos it prints are shite. It’s good for printing receipts when I pay my utility bills. And that’s about it.
What are your influences and who are some of your favourite photographers? I probably read far too much about photography and photographers – I spend a lot more time thinking about photography than actually taking photographs. So it’s hard to say who my influences are. In some ways my influences are a few books in particular, and a couple of teachers. The Time Life books – The Camera, The Art of Photography, and The Great Themes were my earliest teachers – I bought the three of them before I bought my first camera from the Rathmines bookshop. They were about 20 years old and three quid each, and from them I grappled with the relationship between aperture and shutter speed, composition, exposure, and so on. And I had my first exposure to the Time Life world of photography, and most of the important photographers leading up to the early 70’s.
An early favourite photographer was Man Ray, mostly for his solarisation techniques in the darkroom. I liked Bill Brandt a lot. And Robert Mapplethorpe. And Gary Winogrand. Diane Arbus. Robert Frank. Some of those old greats. Pretty predictable I suppose. More modern photographers haven’t, I dunno, “settled” yet for me. Greg Crewdson is interesting. But are they really photographs? I couldn’t see myself doing them. Too many people involved. Too set up. I like Alexey Titarenko. Tommy Oshima in Japan does beautiful work. I’m probably old fashioned. And not very arty.
What would your dream photography day be like? Who/what/where would you shoot? I don’t think I could have a dream “day”. A day isn’t long enough. I’d like to get to the end of my life and have some famous photographs. Famous because they’re just so damned good. Just an ego trip really I guess. Hope I live long, cos I ain’t nowhere near having a photograph that’s even vaguely famous. None. Nada. De rien.