Interview with Black and White photographer Ra Friedman

Interview with Black and White photographer Ra Friedman


RA Friedman is the son of four generations of Brooklynites and has been involved with photography since elementary school. He studied drawing at Harpur College, Binghamton NY, and earned an MFA from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge in 1994. While continuing to photograph in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, he is working on a five city book project that contrasts his medium format film work with digital captures of the same subject.

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© Ra Friedman

All Roads Lead to Brooklyn…

In these photographs I’m searching for childhood remnants, trying to connect my individual and collective past with the present. I photograph to overcome the disorientation of dwelling again in my childhood city, one that my parents abandoned in the early 1970’s. Since the 90’s I have lived and worked in Philadelphia. I am back in NYC for the best of reasons—love.

I work slowly, develop the black and white film and carefully scan each frame. I often walk long distances scouring the neighborhood and beyond for things I may have missed. Lugging around a big, heavy, medium format camera helps keep me grounded. I do not worry if I come home with few or no film captures; it’s the process that is important.

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© Ra Friedman

How and when did you become interested in photography?

My mom sent in box tops and got me a Kodak Brownie for my sixth birthday. I quickly moved up to my dad’s old medium format camera and continued doing photography through high school. I took a side-road through college studying scene design and fine arts but came back to working with the camera about eleven years after getting an MFA in painting.

Is there any artist/photographer who inspired your art?

I continue to look at a lot of fine art and photography, so it’s a bit difficult to narrow inspirations down. I once stood in a room filled with Max Beckmann paintings which was possibly the most powerful art-viewing experience I ever had.

Why do you work in black and white rather than colour?

My photographic vision seems to work that way. I’m much more drawn to the non-color structure of the world.

How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph/series of photographs?

Generally, I jump in and explore and then start to hone in on what the project should be. Then I start to refine the specifics. I don’t worry too much about the gear anymore. For the type of work I’m doing now, a medium format film camera with a sharp lens and Tri-X film is really all I need.

Where is your photography going?

I largely let the work lead me. When I direct too much, the results are not as good. I believe the key is to try things that are not easy; that the interesting photos happen when you creatively deal with difficulty.

What projects would you like to accomplish?

I think primarily in terms of photography as a way of getting to and giving form to realities that are often hidden, especially beneath a modern world that seems to be spinning out of control much of the time. It’s not so much a specific body of work that I hope to do, but continuing to find things I can work with that are meaningful.

Website: www.rafriedman.com

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