SFUK: Tell us a little about yourself and your background in photography.
RTS:I’m Rob T Stanier, originally from the West Midlands but now living in Northamptonshire via the Isle Of Wight with my wife and 2 sons. My interest in photography started around 40 years ago when I was around 5. My late grandmother was very into taking photographs and used to let me use her Kodak Brownie 44a. My Father recently found it again and I have it on display in my collection of cameras. Every holiday I can remember that camera would be there. Thinking about it there was never a time when I was growing up when there wasn’t a camera around. I also used to love sitting there whilst she went through the old photo albums that she had, telling me stories about the people in the pictures, it seemed like a different world. A time gone by but captured for a second, the time it takes for the shutter to click. I’m always amazed by the things that different people view as precious and worthy of capturing.
SFUK: Why do you shoot film, have you always shot film & do you switch between digital and film?
RTS: I had lots of point and shoots growing up but it wasn’t till I was around 30 that I bought my first film SLR, an old Minolta. I was living on the Isle of Wight at the time and I had the space in our house there to set up a darkroom and taught myself how to process and develop and produce prints the proper way. I can still remember the buzz I got seeing the first image coming through on the paper. I need to get into it again, soon. My first Son was around a year old at the time and though I was enjoying the Minolta I did the new Dad thing and bought my first digital camera so I could capture every burp and smile, it was a Canon Ixus as I recall. I embraced digital and a few years later bought a Canon EOS 350D digital SLR. I have never really been interested in the technical side of photography but the digital gave me the freedom (without wasting valuable film) to experiment and it taught me a lot. I got back into film photography around 5 years ago. At the time everybody seemed to have a digital camera and smartphone cameras were getting better and better, it all seemed a little throwaway, the talent had gone, and I felt like I wasn’t challenging myself anymore. I went back through all the photographers that had inspired me and I can remember reading a piece on Eggleston where he mentioned not taking more than one shot of a subject and it was that and the need to get back to basics that made me purchase an old Nikon L35 AF2. I’ve never looked back . I have around 20 film cameras now, mostly rangefinders, point and shoots and a lovely old Yashicamat Medium Format. People say it’s expensive but if you do a bit of scouring around the charity shops you can get yourself a decent point and shoot for a few quid, couple that with a roll of film from poundland (for, obviously a £1!) and you’ve got a great afternoon in my book… I remember taking my youngest out with his first film camera, he took a shot and was looking for the display to see what he had got. I told him there wasn’t one, he said ‘how do you know if it came out all right then Dad’ I said ‘That’s the point, you don’t.’
SFUK: Who inspires you, any favourite people or places you frequently go to for inspiration?
RTS: Initially I was always inspired by directors/cinematographers, film having always been a massive part of my life. Kubrick, Lynch and more recently Nicolas Winding Refn are amongst my favourites and I’m a sucker for any Paul Thomas Anderson stuff. I love horror also, in particular anything from the 70s which I think had a big influence on my Night Moves series. From a photographer's point of view Eggleston is at the top of my list along with Larry Clark, (his Tulsa book blew my mind when I got it many years ago), others include Robert Frank, Nan Goldin, Weegee, Ed Templeton, Diane Arbus, Robert Capa, Garry Winogrand, Sally Mann, Dennis Stock, Ernst Haas, Stephen Shore, Todd Hido, Martin Parr, Don McCullin, Walker Evans the list goes on and I have to mention a UK photographer called Richard Billingham. Richard grew up not far from me, where I lived in the West Midlands and his Ray’s A Laugh series is heartbreakingly grim but wonderful in its own way. In terms of places that inspire I’m lucky enough to have some wonderful countryside around me at present which provides the setting for most of my landscapes. I’m a sucker for any vast wide open space and both the very early morning and the middle of night fuel me the most, times when there’s hardly anyone else around. Photography for me is mostly a solitary thing, a time when I can relax, the one thing I have that’s truly my own. For day to day inspiration I have to say Instagram is the place, there’s a great film community there that are very supportive and always amaze me. I stripped back all my social media earlier this year but Instagram has been a great platform to get my stuff out there and I’m very grateful. I have to tip my hat to Filmphotographic and also to Ray Potes, his Hamburger Eyes collections always blow my mind.
SFUK: How would you describe your style of shooting?
RTS: It depends what camera I’m using. With a point and shoot I’m a bit slap dash, I recently got an Olympus XA2 which is great stealth camera. I’m trying to work on shooting people, street style, something which I’ve never been great at. I’m never without a point and shoot, either the XA2 at the moment or a £1.00 charity shop Konica ZUP 70VP which is sharp as hell. For the night stuff and the landscapes I’m a bit more composed, though most of the night stuff is shot with the camera (Yashica Minister III) rested on whatever’s there at the time that can double as a tripod, a bin, street sign etc. As its longer exposures I need to brace against something but the occasional bit of shake can create an interesting effect. With the Yashicamat I am very careful about what I take a picture of as it’s too expensive both from a film and a processing point of view to shoot willy nilly. I also have a half-frame, Olympus Pen EES2 which I need to use more as it definitely makes you re – evaluate how you shoot.
SFUK: If you could have any camera in the world, which would you choose and why?
RTS: I tried to steer clear for so long but I have to say it would have to be a Leica M6 (black), so many of my heroes in photography have used Leica’s and they are amazing both from a design and quality point of view. I’m on the look -out at the moment. Other notables would be the Canon 7s, Bessa R3, Rollei 35 and Fuji Klasse W. All the above said, in my opinion the humble Olympus Trip 35 is hard to beat in terms of style, ease of use and great results and I’m grateful to own a very nice one.
SFUK: Do you have any plans for your next project?
RTS:I’m still trying to release my first volume of Night Moves in photo book form, also working on a deserted funfair series, a half-frame series and the next volume of Night Moves (yep even though I’ve not done the first one yet?!?!). Digital wise I have an old collection (The Loneliness Of The Average English Holiday Home) which I want to put out at some point which was shot on the coast in West Norfolk. I also really need to get back into the darkroom thing and get my own set up again. In the last few months I’ve also started buying bulk lots of old slides from the 40s to the 80s and am currently scanning these in and putting them on my website. Its great as you never know what you’re going to get but these are collections that usually come from a house clearance etc so you have someone’s whole life there in picture form. Maybe a book of these as well? I don’t know, I’m not getting any younger…. My dream is that in 30 odd years’ time they find me buried under a pile of vintage cameras, slides, negatives etc… it will have been a life worthwhile.