He considers analogue photography a very natural way of seeing and making pictures: Joe Greer documents daily life – when he is at work, travelling, watching his nephew’s high school football game, on holiday or simply driving through Nashville at night. His images are a reflection of his being and of the things he stumbles across. He hopes that the viewer will feel a touch of nostalgia when looking at them.
What makes analogue photography special for you compared to digital photography?
Analogue photography has become a very natural way for me to see and make photographs. Like a lot of other things in life, analogue seems to always find its way back to a new generation. That is exactly what has happened to me. The physical and tactile nature of the entire film process is a very satisfying way of picture-making. Which is why I’ll always gravitate towards analogue over digital. Film just feels like magic.
What are the challenges in analogue photography?
I would have to say, and this is a typical film cliché, digital has hardwired a lot of younger photographers (myself included) to want that gratification of seeing your pictures immediately. So the challenge is to be patient and trust your gut and skill set that you made the correct exposure. Even after all these years, I still struggle with this impulse from time to time. It’s challenging, but also very rewarding unlearning the tendencies digital has taught me.
How would you describe the “look and feel” of analogue photography?
So much of the “look and feel” for me is simply embedded into the chemistry itself. Film sings in a way digital does not.
You shoot with the Leica M6, which was first launched in 1984. Why this camera?
There was a person in my life, Mike McDonald, who introduced me to Leica in 2014. I’m pretty sure he shot with a typ 240. Around that time I was very interested in shooting film. And as he was educating me on all things and the history of Leica, one day he mentioned, “if you’re going to start getting into film, I think you’d really like the Leica M6”. The rest is history.
Now a new M6 is coming onto the market…. Is analogue photography experiencing a revival?
I really hope so and believe that it is happening. I started to notice the spike in early 2020 and throughout the pandemic. I could not be more thrilled to have the M6 classic back into production. This is going to be so huge for the current and next generation of photographers who love shooting film.
Your pictures look very natural, is that what you want from photography?
I would say that is one aim, but not something I’m thinking about when I’m out making pictures. I find so much pleasure in documenting daily life and these photographs often end up being a reflection of my life and the things I stumble across.
What do you look for in your pictures?
I like to photograph pretty much anything and everything. Daily life. In the form of work, travel, my nephew’s high school football game, holidays with the family, or just on a summers night drive with Madison here in Nashville. I want to be confident that in any situation life throws at me I’m able to make a photograph that is somewhat interesting or compelling to look at. The majority of it is that gut impulse I get when the light hits a scene just right. The little spike of excitement I get when everything I’m looking at feels balanced and ready for me to make an exposure.
We can speak of a “charm” in your pictures that also allows for “natural flaws” that come with life. Do you edit your pictures?
That is interesting. Charm. I’ve never heard that word used to describe my work before. Very refreshing. Thank you! But yes, I absolutely edit my pictures. Mostly colour-based edits, contrast, whites/blacks, shadows, etc. No photoshop or removing anything in post though. I try to get it as close to what I saw originally, but just a slightly better version.
Does “waiting for the right moment” have a different meaning for analogue photography compared to digital?
I mean yes and no. One can “wait for the right moment” with digital absolutely; but for the most part you have large amounts of space on your SD cards, so that impulse can fade. That’s how it has felt for me personally when shooting digital. With film we only have those select 36 frames. Every click of that shutter is costing us money. I also try not to think that much about it, but try to trust my gut when those moments present themselves, and not think “Wait! How many frames do I have left on this roll? Is this worthy of my 36 frames?” I feel like I have missed too many moments when I thought that way.
What is your aim in photography and what do you expect from the new M6?
This is something that I feel has changed over the years, and as I enter different stages of life. But the pulse remains the same, to photograph life as I experience it. Making pictures brings me so much joy. The simple act of hearing that shutter release and advancing that film. I want others to feel that. I hope my work can spark some sense of belonging to the viewer or trigger a note of nostalgia. Even if it’s just for a moment. What do I expect? I expect and hope we see a rise in new film photographers. There are so many talented photographers out there doing beautiful work. And I would love to see what they can do with the new M6. Bringing back a film classic in the digital age is a bold move. But I believe it’s the right move.
Born in Flint, Michigan and raised in Florida, Joe Greer has been making photographs ever since he moved to Spokane, Washington in 2010. It is Joe Greer’s sole purpose to document life as he experiences it. That can be in the form of his commercial work with clients such as Apple, adidas, Ralph Lauren, Cadillac, and Mont Blanc; or it can be in the form of his portrait work collaborating with artists like Leon Bridges, Karlie Kloss, Greta Van Fleet. For Greer, photography has become his way of communicating. Find out more about his photography on his website and Instagram page.
The Leica. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.