I know a lot of photographers. Some I’ve met in person. Some I only know through their online presence. Some are well known throughout the film photography community, but most are not. They aren’t “professional photographers” if you define a professional as someone who earns their living from the photos they produce. That’s not to say they haven’t sold photographs or haven’t been paid to photograph. It just means photography isn’t their primary source of income. If you asked them if they considered themselves professionals, many would laugh at the idea and would say they don’t even consider themselves artists or photographers at all. They’d suggest they’re merely hobbyists who enjoy taking photos.
Well, I disagree. I look at the work these photographers produce and feel like it should have a bigger audience. I feel like there’s a story as to why they photograph what they do, in the way that they do, when they do. I wanted to know what inspires them, what motivates them, and what makes them choose the cameras they use.
To do this, I thought I’d start a new project. For this project, I’d ask them to answer 30 questions about themselves and their photography, and I’d ask them to share some of their work. I’m hoping you find their answers and their photography as interesting as I do.
The first person I want to introduce you to is Shawn Augustson.
I first met Shawn in August 2018 at the Film Photography Project Walking Workshop. I had really just gotten back into shooting film myself a short time before attending the workshop and didn’t really know a lot of other film photographers. I hear quite often how many film photographers happen upon the Film Photography Project Podcast and suddenly have this eureka moment of discovering they’re not alone in their desire to shoot film. That was me. I suddenly found myself surrounded by people who had the same passion as I. Some of us even went on a photowalk one evening after the workshop had concluded for the day. I had found my tribe. I met so many people that weekend and exchanged contact information with many of them. Unfortunately, Shawn wasn’t one of them. It wasn’t until later the next month that our paths would cross again.
After returning home from the workshop, I quickly realized it wasn’t as fun going on photowalks when I was the only photogrpaher. I missed seeing what other photographers were shooting (camera and film) and missed comparing the results they got with my own on similar subjects. I decided I wanted to organize a film photowalk of my own. I posted an invitation on Instagram for an afternoon of photography in Cincinnati for the following weekend. It was short notice, but I ended up getting a few takers. One of them was Shawn.
After the Cincinnati photowalk, Shawn and I stayed in touch and became great friends. We’ve continued to meet up for additional photowalks and even some one-on-one shoots. I’m honored that Shawn accepted my invitation (badgering, really) to talk about photography with me and was willing to let me share some of his work on this blog.
Q: What is your name and where do you live?
A: Shawn Augustson. Columbus Ohio.
Q: How can people contact you?
A: The best way to contact me is through Instagram at @bestoftheroll.
Q: If we’ve met, how do we know each other?
A: FPP Walking Workshop.
Q: What is your earliest memory of taking a photography?
A: My dad taking me to Disney World when I was 12 with a disposable camera.
Q: Of the cameras you currently own, what is your favorite (you may choose one of each format if applicable?
A: Medium Format: Bronica S2, 35mm: Nikon N70, Point & Shoot: Leica Minilux Zoom.
Q: Is there a camera you’ve always lusted after and hope to acquire someday? What makes you desire this camera?
A: I finally got it with my Bronica S2. I like medium format and I also like that there are no electronics with it. It gives me good vibes when I use it and I feel creative. I have always wanted a Leica M6.
Q: Is there a camera you no longer have that you miss?
A: Leica M4-P.
Q: What type of photographs do you most enjoy taking (portraits, landscapes, street, etc) and why?
A: I like doing street photography, mostly because I like to wander around and see people. I am interested in portraits but never have anyone to pose for me.
Q: While most of us shoot both digital and film, I believe we all have a tendency to prefer one over the other. What do you prefer and why?
A: shoot film only. I don't really enjoy doing digital photography.
Q: How often/much do you shoot photographs (rolls per week, month, etc)?
A: I pretty much find a way to shoot at least a roll every day.
Q: Do you prefer to photograph with other people, or would you rather shoot alone? Please explain.
A: I wish I could photograph with others as I enjoy being out somewhere with another person. About 99% of the time I am by myself and it feels like a lonely planet. This might also be a reason why I like photographing people.
Q: What is your favorite black and white film right now and why?
A: I like HP5 400. I like to shoot it at box speed as well as it pushes and pulls nicely. If I was only allowed one film it would be this one.
Q: What is your favorite color film right now and why?
A: I haven’t really settled on a favorite as of yet. I do like Ektar 100. In 35mm format I tend to shoot a lot of Kodak ColorPlus because its so cheap.
Q: Complete the following sentence: “I am a photographer because…”. What do YOU get from photography?
A: I don’t see myself as a photographer. I am mostly documenting my existence I guess. It is more
of a form of therapy for me to help me deal with my mental health issues. My photos are just
stuff I interact with throughout the day.
Q: Best experience while taking photographs?
A: Capturing firefighters that were responding to a building fire in downtown Columbus, OH.
Q: Most emotional experience while taking photographs?
A: I photographed a little girl, her baby sister and an older man with them in Iraq using a walking around picking up spent ammo casings that they would then turn the brass in for payment. It made me cry. I pictured kids back home on an Easter egg hunt laughing and having fun while they had to do this in order to survive. The sight of me standing there in full battle rattle with a weapon had to be terrifying to her. I wanted to just hug them and keep them safe. I can hear her little voice in my head to this day saying to her sister “Soldier. Camera Click-Click” explaining that I was not going to hurt them and was taking a photo. I often wonder about them and how their lives turned out. When looking for these photos I had a certain photo in my mind and discovered it was not there. I dream about this family a lot at night and I think what I was picturing was actually just a photograph that was in my mind.
Q: Worst experience while taking photographs.
A: Accidentally photographing a drug deal and being noticed, then having my life threatened.
Q: Tell me about something related to photography you want to learn.
A: I would like to learn more about night photography. I tend to be out in the daylight more often.
Q: Tell me about something NOT related to photography you want to learn.
A: How to play the violin.
Q: What does your family/loved ones think/feel about your photography?
A: They are probably the ones who know most about why I photograph certain things and how much it helps me. They fully support me.
Q: What is the last photography related book you’ve acquired?
A: I don’t have any.
Q: Name one of your favorite accounts on Instagram and explain what draws you to this photographer.
A: I don’t have a favorite photographer but I do like to see all the various works from around the world that Ilford Photo post.
Q: Have you ever sold or have thought about selling any of your photographs? Would you do it again? Any advice for others thinking of selling their photographs?
A: I have sold photos in my various solo gallery shows at local art galleries museums here in Columbus, OH. It’s something that maybe I should pursue more but always falls to the back burner. I haven't really taken a lot of photos that I feel are worthy of selling. Most of what I photograph are things I see throughout my day and they appeal to me, not really something that someone wants to hang on their wall.
Q: Are there any photography related projects you’re working on that you’d like to tell us about?
A: I am starting a series of works called “Living After War”, it is photographs of my fellow veterans and how they are dealing with ways to continue living after experiencing the horrors of war. I want to highlight positive ways of coping with negative thoughts we have. When I returned home from serving in Iraq I attempted suicide several times. Eventually art and photography gave me a way to express my thoughts and emotions and have been one of the best forms of therapy for me. I saw first hand with other veterans that I shared with the hope that it gave them. I would like the series to be something that someone veteran or not who may be dealing with issues be able to see something positive that they can also do to help them continue their mission and live on.
Q: Are there any non-photographic related projects you’re working on that you’d like to tell us about?
A: None at the moment.
Q: Where is your favorite location to shoot (specific place or type of place)?
A: Somewhere with people. I would love someday to go to NYC and photograph on the streets.
Q: Is there a specific object you’ve found yourself photographing over and over again? If so, why?
A: I have photographed a lot of exit signs, mostly because I am always looking for the best way out of a place and I found that taking a photo of it then settled down my anxiety.
Q: Favorite thing about the photographic community?
A: Those that I have interacted with tend to share knowledge more.
Q: What do you think the photographic community is missing?
A: Someplace better to share photographs than Instagram.
Q: Biggest photography related pet peeve?
A: That all film photos should have light leaks, be under exposed and poorly focused.
Q: What do you hope your photographic legacy will be?
A: That I had fun doing it.
Q: Who is the one person (living or dead) that you’d like to photograph and why? Describe the type of portrait you’d shoot, and the message you’d want this portrait to communicate about this person.
A: I guess I would have liked to photograph my dad before he passed away. I have often thought that had I been interested in photography then that maybe doing some portraits would have helped me understand him better. I would have most likely photographed him playing guitar as well as with his Harley Davidson Motorcycle. I would have to set up some sort of moody dark shot to highlight all his tattoos and biker patches. I guess I would just convey the message that “I am your father and I loved you the best way that I knew how.”.
As you can see from the photos Shawn has shared, he’s a very talented photographer. I’m very excited to see the photos Shawn shares in the future.
Head on over @bestoftheroll on Instagram and show Shawn some love.