Last fall, on Twitter, we came across Stephanie Bassos and Timothy Burkhart collaborators on People vs Places. In this double exposure project, Stephanie exposes a full roll of 35mm film of only “people,” and Timothy reloads the film again into the same camera, to imprint only “places” and locations to the same roll. These images are all the end result of their ongoing series and are unedited negatives straight from the camera. After seeing their project on Tumblr, we wanted to know more.
What prompted your project?
Stephanie Bassos: We both meet at our full time job, where we both work on various photographic projects at an online-based startup. We do a range of things from basic photo editing to smaller studio shoots. Our friendship sparked from casual conversation about our love for photography and the projects we were both currently working on outside of work, as well as other artists we were into at the moment. Our styles seemed to come from opposite ends of the photographic spectrum, and we had an admiration for what the other was doing.
I prefer working with people and shooting portraits, while Tim shoots mostly landscapes and places that don’t directly include people. We had entertained the idea of collaborating on a photo shoot or project, but we couldn’t really nail down how to make it happen. Tim had been shooting with some older film cameras at the time and had an instance where he unknowingly double exposed a roll of film resulting in double exposures. He then realized that his camera wasn’t rewinding film all the way and allowed the same roll to be loaded again fairly easily. This occurrence seemed to be the perfect vehicle for us to bring our two styles together into one image as well as series. We have been shooting for around nine months now and sticking to the formula of me shooting only people and Tim shooting only places, although we each don’t know the specifics outside of that.
How do you choose your subjects and the order in which you shoot?
SB: The order we shoot is completely random. We don’t have a specific way (people first, or places first.) We were originally passing the same camera back and forth after we finished shooting our respective subject, but that slowed the process significantly. If we both had a trip planned at the same time and only one had the camera, it seemed counter productive. To solve the issue we bought another one of the cameras we were using and tested it to find that it had the same rewind issue as the original. This allowed us both to shoot simultaneously. Now we both have a roll in our cameras at all times, and whoever finishes first gives it to the other to re-load.
Timothy Burkhart: We choose our subjects by observing our surroundings and just going about our daily lives. The people Stephanie shoots are mostly her friends, or candid strangers. The places shoot are in transit or traveling. The project definitely has a point and shoot aesthetic and vibe to it. It’s rare that we go out to a specific place or find a specific person to shoot with-shoots aren’t premeditated. The camera is always on us, so we just constantly have it in the back of our minds and we shoot our life as it happens.
Why did you choose Kodak film for this project?
TB: When we first started shooting we used what was most available. Lots of camera shops have been closing up around us in Chicago, so we were picking up Kodak Gold 200 at the local pharmacy or corner store, which fit our needs of availability. Kodak films in general always have a bit more saturation and warmer color tones than other manufacturers and this was something we both liked aesthetically. After we shot on Kodak Gold for a bit to get a feel for the project we switched to Portra 400, which gave us a little less grain and even better tones. Now we go back and forth between those two and shoot whatever we have available.
How does this fit in with your overall photography work/style?
SB: It’s a pretty perfect project for both of us to do outside of our own freelance. It gives us a chance to focus on what we love shooting most, and also comes with an element of surprise when the film is finally developed. It keeps us constantly creating and observing and thinking about photography in a different way. Rather than focusing on composition and style to create the photo we want constantly, we surrender some of those decisions and leave it up to fate and cross our fingers hoping the great “people” shot was overlaid by a perfect “places” shot.
TB: It throws us both out of our comfort zones a little because we are not able control the frame in it’s entirety… but that’s good for us because it forces us to not think too much about one specific shot. The project looks a lot different than anything we both do. We both shoot in our own ways and have a cleaner shooting style, so doing this project is a way to break away from our own personal process and have some fun with an old camera and some film.