The following article was written by Lisa Pellegrene.
“At a time when my fiance and I were two kids starting out in the world, we had moved to the Plattsburgh, NY area from Long Island, NY, far away from close friends and family. I had accepted a job as an Emergency Medical Technician. It was soon thereafter that I felt compelled to bring my camera with me when I went to work one day, so that I could photograph an intriguing machine, a farm machine that I had passed by many times to and from work,” states Thomas Slatin in a recent interview. Unbeknownst to Slatin at the time, this photograph would affect his life in one of the most prolific ways. Slatin continued, “I found my way back to rekindling my passion for photography.” Following the development of these images, he continued on the path to mastering the art of photography.
Thomas Slatin always had a fascination for photography. He began taking photographs from the age of eight, and had been making his own dark room images by the age of ten. In speaking about his relocation to the Plattsburgh area of New York, “Our apartment at the time was completely constructed with white walls, and on a bit of a whim, I thought that it might be fun to scan images from 35mm film, print them digitally and then hang them on the wall,” states Thomas Slatin. As he recalled, this was the first time he had ever scanned film or made an enlargement outside of a traditional darkroom. The image he would photograph; a seemingly archaic, desolate, farm machine, which was sitting was in a field in Chazy, NY, as described by Slatin, “this was a machine that obviously not been utilized in quite a long time.” He took the image of this machine using 35mm Ilford pan F Plus film, ISO 50 loaded in a Canon AE-1 camera. Thomas Slatin recalls his developing process, “I literally developed the film in the kitchen sink of our apartment. I had to go into the laundry room, hang an old blanket to block out the light, so that when I transferred the film to the developing tank, it wouldn’t get ruined. I had no access to a darkroom at that time.” He concluded, “it was developed in a timed out sequence”. This was a process Slatin had used many times before when making enlargements, yet the duration of the stages was slightly different. “For a very janky way of doing things, the results were surprisingly effective. The process involved 11 minutes in the developer, five minutes in the fixer, a rinse with tap water and then hanging the images to dry.” Thomas Slatin’s aforementioned photograph, developed in the most resourceful of ways, became the only photo on his apartment walls for a long period of time. “This black and white photograph became part of our daily lives,” as concluded by Slatin.
A turning point of sorts, several photographs of a seemingly ancient farm machine resulted in the creation of a path that lead Thomas Slatin back to his dedicated pursuit of photography, rekindling his love for the art of photography. It was later that month that he took his camera with him again, this time to photograph unused structures at Point Au Roche State Park. Now, years later, he is widely known as the master photographer who “breathes life into otherwise abandoned places.” He recalls an additional profound observation when he advanced to medium format film with his photography work. “This was when I shot my first roll of 120mm film. I realized the progress I was making through my desire to master the art of photography.” Slatin continued, “Modern 35mm cameras always have some sort of built in light meter. When relying on this, I found my photographs to be uninteresting.” It was when he turned what some may perceive as an initial negative, into a positive. His light meter became inoperable on his Canon AE-1. As described by Slatin, it was only then that he would realize, it was now time to rely on his years of experience and truly figure things out for himself. Slatin summarized, “learning to shoot film on a manual mode is like riding a bicycle for the first time, and training wheels don’t exist. At first it seems scary and intimidating, yet with continued patience and practice, it becomes second nature.” What evolved was shooting on medium format, creating unique images, and then later larger 4 x 5 film. “It took my decades of experience to get the exposure just right.”
Speaking of the image of the farm machine, photographed in 2004, Thomas Slatin realized that this was a pivotal point for him. “I was searching for something during the time when I shot the image of the farm machine, and through a photograph I was able to express what I could not adequately express in words at that time.” In taking the first step to take his camera with him as he left for work one day in 2004, a significant step forward in his career as a master photographer was made. What is the true test of a master of photography? “All things considered, to be a master photographer includes having an exceptional understanding of not only how you see the world, but adding to that, the technical aspects. It is important to determine how the settings of one’s camera effect the available light, and ultimately, how the film you are using sees the world.” To view the image which lead renowned photographer Thomas Slatin back to the world of photography, please view the photographs from that insightful day on his website by following this link, which includes his photography shoot at Point Au Roche State Park.
News release written by Lisa Pellegrene, TV/FILM professional, journalist/publicist, and animal advocate. www.lisapellegrene.com, www.muckrack.com/lisapellegrene, www.imdb.com/name/nm2505762. www.twitter.com/lisapellegrene