I found Richard Auxilio on Tumblr and was instantly captivated by the deeply emotional reaction I had to his images. They are intense and intimate in a way that you feel you catch a glimpse of him and his relationship with his world, from inside him. He is less an observer, or commentator, as trying to understand, he is trying to expand into his images rather than trying to capture them. Richard lives in Los Angeles, thank you for agreeing to this interview Richard.
I was instantly captivated by the fact that you still use Illford 35mm film, you don’t clean the plate when you scan images, you process in your kitchen and you produce dark and intense pictures, how long have you been taking pictures, and what does photography mean to you?
I began photography in high school at senior year then later dropped it in college. I recently bought a Canon Rebel and somehow got thrown back into it. And that was less than a year ago. So I suppose that’s how long I’ve been shooting. Everything else was just academic and theory. Quite honestly, photography means everything to me at this moment.
I’m marking on 11 months of re-learning photography once again. It wasn’t ’till recently that I decided to transfer ideas and concepts into photography from other art forms that I’ve been preoccupied with in the past years. So I’ve been utilizing the Illford Delta 35mm and the 120’s extensively because I am familiar with their handle in push-processing and can always depend on the grain from the 3200’s.
However, I have found another brand, Arista, manufactured in Czech that is the equivalent to the some of the lower ISO Illfords and have been experimenting with them more so now. They are one third cheaper than the Illfords and just as easy to process in your kitchen. I only hope that I can keep experimenting with the Arista while they are still being manufactured independently.
Experimentation is basically the root of everything behind the dark and sometimes intense photos. And in this compound of experimentation there are some tricks that I have picked up from my obsessiveness with old classic LA film noir cinematographers, combined with some other more cryptic art forms that I still borrow to see if it will work.
I’ve been leaning more towards symbolism and it’s associations within photography like the style that Sergei Paradjanov was able to realize in film. So please wish this silly amateur some luck in that.
The uncleaning of the plate… I often receive negative messages from some photogs telling me to clean the negatives before scanning. I still chuckle to myself about that. I’m still re-learning some photography techniques but my background is wet with art and abstract art. I’ve been scratching, thumb smudging, adding animal shedding, even drops of isopropyl alcohol on some of my negatives, just in the hope that it will offer extra cryptic bits of information, and help reveal a more detailed sentiment.
Stan Brahkage mutilated the negatives beautifully, why can’t I learn from that.
Now, it wasn’t till recently that I began this; what one person referred to as “very dark and murky, bad bad” type of concept. I guess some folks aren’t receptive to certain styles and prefer something closer to an Ansel Adams and cringe away from a Nobuyoshi Araki photo. In any case, it’s been done before just like everything else. Just, the reason I am on Tumblr, specifically, is because of the abstract allure it has on expression. Now that means everything to me, even more than basic and traditional photography.
You often use long strips of film beyond the usual frame, how do you work with film, how does this influence what you take?
Using the film beyond its intended frame screams expression to me. I’ve always seen photography students do the exposed sprocket thing before. I guess I just wanted to try it. And, of course… It’s easier loading a 35mm into a plastic Holga 120 to achieve that effect than rather say a Kodak Brownie 120 camera or an Ansco Shur-flash where it just becomes a headache figuring out then creating a makeshift adapter. So, I just bite off the ends of a wine cork and wedge them within the Holga’s loading compartment. I believe I made an instructional post of it somewhere on Tumblr. And thank you for noticing those photos.
Since I’m still within the process of learning expression, it just seemed natural to make use of these sprockets. Because I may be going way over my head and possibly creating something that might be considered highly pretentious by overlapping too much a load of information and reference.
Consists of an image with a ground view of electrical and power transistors on a street poll. With power cables branching out like a tree exposing the image outside the usual frame and unto the sprockets. Visually adding a broader feeling of space that exposed sprockets are known for.
This is one of the few that worked very well in conveying, what i consider could be a substantial sentiment. I remember receiving the best compliment from a fellow photog on this one where she remarked “Right there, but out of reach” in reaction to the image and caption. I mean she got it. It worked…
The exposed sprocket also worked well with “the arts of existence” (the featured image at the top of the article) which is basically an art-school type thing to do I guess… quoting a 20th century French Philosopher and making it part of a piece.
The quoted text of Michel Foucault’s “the arts of existence” went perfectly well with the aesthetics of an old film theater’s lobby chandelier while shooting it with multiple exposures.. Then multiple exposures, along with the exposed sprockets, helped create this sort of galaxy of stars. It worked again.
What draws your eye, or what is it you notice that makes you want to take a picture?
Meditation, consciousness, and creativity.
For the most part, it seems to come from the subconscious. I say this because whenever I’ve tried to plan a capture it always comes out unsatisfactory. The best captures have all been taken when I have been traveling about in some unknown place.
I was in Seattle when I realized this. I had spent an entire week combing the streets and lofts. I met artists there that were beyond me, in a whole entire different realm. I kept having these sorts of hinting dreams that week revealing the element of background noise and how the mind picks up so much. Later that week, we were invited to an artist type of community loft party near the pier. I walked up the stair case to every floor and room going thru these peoples art. I felt depressed. Everything there was crummy and lousy to me. I went thru the photography section and began feeling jaded.
Then there was this one corner at the top highest floor. Some of the most amazing abstract art I had seen in a while. Brutally haunting and intelligent. Acrylic on canvas. I stood there analyzing that person’s work and found myself intoxicated. There it was; calculated thought and art compressed into expression. So, I try my hardest to take photos of what makes me want to cry with thought.
people are always interested in what cameras are being used, I note you often use a Holga, what do you use? Do you use the scanner as part of your creative process?
Oh, wow. I can’t stick to one camera at all. Although, the Holga is fun, I use it on certain occasions now. Like all the cameras and techniques I use, I drop them and return back to them later. I’m still learning, and the more one shoots with any particular analogue camera the better of course. It takes 2 rolls to fully understand how a particular camera will help you or not. Because I hardly consider myself as a photographer, all my concentration is set on concept then equipment and last presentation. The older the camera is the better in my case. Regardless of lens or sharpness of lens.
I adore this Ansco Shur-flash (1930’s) that was purchased for $15. It shoots at an F8 and the speed is something close to 1/60. So the film you buy for it better be accurate depending on what you are going to shoot. A temperamental camera it is, especially for someone like me that is trying to learn it. The Fuji Fujica is exactly what I’ve been looking for and that fits my needs. It has a peculiar mutated quality that you can see on every frame. It isn’t till I stare at the negative that the Fujica produces that I can see this bizarre defect.
I’m under the impression that it was made for corporate heads and executives by the company itself as a promotional tool and gift. A quick “efficient self-automated camera” that snaps with style on the go. This is what I imagine.
I do certainly use the scanner as part of the process. I’ve tried interlaying particles and tiny things in-between the negative and the glass but it’s too much and didn’t feel right. However, I have become dependent on this thing that scanners do when you lay a warped piece of film without a plate or something to hold it in place. It scans the negative along with a shadow of the sprockets unto itself. It’s the most annoying and lousiest scan of a negative. But I love it. It adds this interesting effect to the image.
At first, I was scanning everything like that for no specific reason but for the pure strange effect only. Dropped it after realizing that there was no thought behind it and the expression was then lost. Anyways, I did learn something new that might be able to use in the future. I have this Beseler Photo enlarger in the living room just sitting there but I won’t use for prints because the scanner has become so integrated with the process that I can’t let go of it. It would mean having to venture into some different process now. That can wait till next month maybe.
I am drawn to the fact that you seem to have a personal relationship with each of your images, you still process at home, why is this important to you? What photograph are you most proud of?
It’s absolutely a personal relationship going on there. The reason I began this venture was to let out information that I was not able to convey in words. The information, of course, being emotions and sentiments on particular issues or subjects. Rather than be labeled as a nut, it felt better finding a specific cryptic medium as the outlet. I couldn’t write a song about it. Nor could I write about it, I’d go completely insane. I work in a specific field professionally and the information I receive is by far intense. It’s all research.
It’s been a vital hobby for me to take this avenue of art. Otherwise, I’d probably just lay in bed and stare out my window in dream all day.
The only reason I process at home is because all of my idols and artists that I look up to lived in a different era than mine. I search the past for techniques and theories and incorporate them to the relevance of today. I am able to manipulate developing time accordingly and make excellent use of the push processing. I can walk over to a neighborhood photo lab and buy all the chemicals under $20 that will last me a good month and develop more than several dozen rolls of 35 mm, 120 or 220’s within minutes from shooting them. And it all just takes 15-19 minutes to develop 2 rolls of 35 or 1 roll of the medium format.
It’s almost as the instant gratification that you get from digital cameras but more honest and somehow much more spiritual. I once received an anonymous message reading “there’s nothing you can do that you can’t do better with a digital camera.” If that is true, then everything I have been doing can be done with less soul. At least, that’s what I figured.
I can’t stand the synthetic use of Photoshop with the lack of emotion and truth. There are artists manipulating Photoshop in the most wonderful sorts and it’s fantastic when I see various sorts of mixed media. But it isn’t what I want. I have an excellent copy of G.I.M.P. that is just as good as Photoshop but free. I use it to crop the negatives from the sprockets. I am very familiar with them both have no use for them other than that. I have no interest in commercial graphic design.
I’m not really certain which photograph I am most proud of. All this stuff being produced is just a learning process to do something I originally had in mind. It takes time to get my hands wet in all this ’til I reach the right time to say that I am ready to finally start producing what I had originally set out to do.
I have so much still to learn for me to go on. I hope that sometime soon, I can begin on it. But I think I have gained a lot of clues already to say where I’m headed with all this.
It will be the best spent time for I am gaining a therapeutic insight and hopefully a sense of understanding of what it means to live and experience being alive.
Find more about Richard Auxilio here: auxiliofaux.tumblr.com