I enjoy these events. You get a chance to talk to people of all different stripes. I was speaking with a friendly fellow about the usual photo topics when the conversation turned to printing. The photographer I was speaking with knew of my company and said that he printed his own photos, but he liked to print on newsprint.
“Okay…why newsprint,” I asked.
This was my introduction to Mitchell Hartman, a talented photographer who’s images tell a hundred stories of New York and the New Yorkers that ride the subway.
Elliot Erwitt said it best, “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
Every Mitchell Hartman photograph tells a story, a story about the banality of our existence, the joy of an unexpected smile, beauty, and alienation. The narrative that unfolds maybe all the viewers creation but all are compelling.
Here is what Mitchell had to say about his photographs:
Q: Your series “Passengers” is all shot in and around the New York City Subway. The light in those images is so emotive, so dramatic, the exact opposite of what the actual “in-color” visual experience is like. Can you tell us what goes on in “the mind’s eye” of Mitchell Hartman when you are in the subway?
MH: That’s actually an amusing question as I have no control over the light source as it’s mostly provided by the subway system. What I do add in “post” is control contrast (micro-contrast) and do “burn and dodge” to add drama to the image. This is done with Silver Efex Pro mostly, where I can control where I place lights and darks with their “Upoint” system.
Q: Your website is http://www.embrace-the-grain.com/, I think that’s a tip off. Your images are so wonderfully grainy, what is it about grain that is important to your vision and your images?
MH: I am shooting NYC, to me, and in this instance people in the subway, is about monochromatics, line and tone. The grain, is sometimes created by the high ISO, I am shooting at ( mostly around 6400-12800), creates the gritty feeling I think emphasis NYC. Some of the “grain” is generated by a software that a friend custom made for me that puts different grain values in different light levels. I can actually put small amounts of grain in the highlight for instance, over what I put into the midtones. I can also adjust the size and quality of that grain, making it look like it was shot with film developed in Acufine or D76 or even Tetnal developers. This takes the image way from the “digital” feel you get when shooting with Digital Cameras.
Q: Shooting on a subway car has got to be difficult. How do you go about photographing people in such close quarters?
MH: After 9-11 some people were more guarded about being photographed for obvious reasons. But as more and more tourist came to NYC to visit, the people that live here got more used to being in photographs. It’s not as difficult as one thinks to photograph people in NYC. What makes shooting in the subway difficult is making the picture interesting, it has to be more than just people sitting in the train.
Q: Let’s talk cameras, what do you carry with you?
MH: Right now I carry a Leica M246, Monochrom. BTW this series was shot with a lot of different cameras, starting with an M9 to a small Sony RX100 as I explored what would work best with the limitations I have to deal with, like lighting. I try and work at f5.6 -f8 to get some depth of field, and at a shutter speed of at least 1/125-1/160th to help stop the action. So my ISO is usually in the 6400 range. Of course that all changes with the train come out of the tunnel into the sunlight.
Q: You made three “zines,” of some of your images printed on newsprint, what was your motivation for creating the “zines”?
MH: The zines were a way for people that wanted to collect my work at an affordable price and unique way. They were created and printed by hand to store-bought picture sized (4×6) and were signed and editioned to only 30 editions. I printed them on Newsprint as I originally wanted the entire series printed on Newsprint as a conceptual idea of being in the subway and reading a newspaper. I eventually went to print my larger prints on a more archival Japanese paper that emulated newsprint with tone and thickness.
To see more of Mitchell Hartman’s work, or to purchase a photograph, follow this link.
All images in this post © Mitchell Hartman