Jaroslaw Studencki

Where are you from/based now?

I was born and spent my childhood in Poland, in the mountains near the southern border. I then spent some years in Chicago, and currently, albeit temporarily, live and work in Tampa, Florida.

What is your background in Photography? What keeps you interested?
I picked up a camera seriously when I was urged to do so by a friend who was a kind of mentor to me. This was when I was about 18 or 19, and unsure of what to do next after high school. I found a Minolta rangefinder in a thrift store and began shooting a couple rolls of film per day, which changed the way I look at the world, both in an immediate compositional way as well as helping me digest personal and societal concerns through compulsive editing of images. I taught myself the basics, but working with a camera was pivotal for me, and I soon became a degree seeking fine art student. So my background is a mix of highly personal and academic influences, which I think may be the case for many photographers.

Many things keep me is an immense world that has within the last decade or two shifted pretty dramatically. I like the tension between the instantaneous sharing of thoughts through images via social networking and the highly considered single image. Even though I use mainly large format analog systems for my own work, it is really exciting to see the way photography is being used, say with cellphone images, webcams, instagram filters and the like. For me personally developing a project and framing the scene on the ground glass is an act of pretty intense consideration, and a way of working within the real world that I have not experienced through anything else. It also makes for situations that I would have no other reason to find myself in, so for better or worse, at the very least photography has expanded my own understanding of fringe society and the world.

What equipment do you use?
My most used camera is a Busch Pressman Model D 4x5 camera. It, along with a Manfrotto tripod is the equipment which my work depends on, and most of the work that I show was shot with it using slide film. The camera itself actually was owned by a reputable photographer named Doc Helm, who was based out of Springfield Illinois and documented during the Civil Rights movement from the '40s-60's. He photographed, among others, Dr MLK and Rosa Parks. After his passing I came to own a couple of his cameras, so I particularly treasure this Pressman.
I always carry an Olympus XA2 with a side flash with me, for the spontaneous situations. It is a very quick camera with an excellent lens. Makes me feel like a gunslinger compared to using the Large Format.
For the in between situations, I use a Moskva 120 Rangefinder. It is a folding camera which has the capability to switch between 6x6 and 6x9 formats.

Do you take one shot of a subject then move on or will you take several and decide on the best in editing?
This really depends on the situation. Some situations don't allow for multiple shots, say because of time or comfort restrictions, but of course having a couple sheets of film to choose from is usually preferred. Having said that, I like the restriction that using film and particularly large format film has. If I am on a photo trip and know I only have 20 sheets of film left, this changes the seriousness of deciding on how to frame something, and I like this added stress. In a lot of my work, I find the act of getting access to my subject as much part of the work as the photograph itself, so in most cases, just one well considered shot is enough to satisfy me. I've actually considered not showing the image at all, or making a project where I go through the motions of taking portraits but intentionally not loading the camera.

What do you look for when you are out shooting?
At any given moment, I am working on two projects, one held specifically by some parameters, and one more spontaneous, which usually achieves its own meaning through the accumulation of images. Certain things that I drive past definitely have the capacity to influence me, and lately that has been the weather in Florida. 

How often do you go out shooting?

Sometimes I don't go out shooting specifically for weeks, although I always have the 35mm camera on me. The 35mm work rarely sees the light of day, but it reminds me to look at the world through that viewfinder and keeps the eye trained. Even though I advocate the readiness to respond to a situation when one presents itself, my process depends on some serious consideration followed by a few weeks dedicated to just shooting. For me the act of repetition and meditation is just as important as going out shooting.

Is there a particular photographer, site, set of images or a photo book that you keep coming back to for inspiration?
At the moment, I find work that treads the line between documentary and fine art photography very inspiring. There is so much fresh stuff out there, but I often come back to Alec Soth's work, particularly Sleeping by the Mississippi. Other inspirations include Jan Cieslikiewicz, Katy Grannan, Malerie Marder, Ji Yeo, Joel Sternfeld. When I'm feeling frisky I look at Araki's Gold.

Are you working on a project at the moment?

There are a couple potential seedlings in the works. I will be in Florida for another year or so and want to work on projects based on the location. One of the projects I will be working on will be about the culture of Greyhound Racing, which is still very much active here in Florida and the Tampa Bay area where I live. Another project I want to do will be vaguely about the penal system and particularly the idea of house arrest as a kind of limbo between freedom and detention. I try not to get too political in my work though, and my concepts always change through execution, so it remains to be seen what I am actually working on.

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