Anthony Gerace lives and works in London, though the past ten years were spent in Toronto. Besides photography he writes, makes collages, and works as a graphic designer, and he recently graduated with his bachelor’s of design from the Ontario College of Art and Design. If you’d told him a year ago that he would become a portraitist, he would not have believed you.
KALTBLUT: What does a person’s portrait mean to you?
Anthony: It’s evidence that some kind of understanding was reached between us. Portraiture has always been a way for me to connect or reconnect with people I didn’t know or rarely see, and so to have a record of that connection and to be able to show that something existed where there could have been nothing is really important to me. The image is secondary to what I get out of the session itself: a moment between the subject and I that’s shared and unguarded. The portrait is proof of that moment.
KALTBLUT: Why do you use black and white so much? Does it have a special effect that you like?
Anthony: I like the dated yet timeless qualities of black and white, where you’re never sure when what you’re seeing is from; especially in portraiture, if a certain hairstyle or way of dressing is particularly of a time, black and white blurs the actual era of the photograph and makes it more about the person than the surrounding style or fashion. That said, the reason I work primarily in black and white is because I’ve only recently rediscovered it: my last few years of taking pictures have been strictly colour, specifically slide film shot with small cameras. I’ve now switched almost totally to medium format and black and white, and the scope of possibility, especially in the darkroom, is so much greater. The thing I like most about black and white is the huge multitude of choices that a single negative can offer: once it’s been brought into the darkroom it can be printed using different papers, developers, developing times, contrasts… the possibilities are almost endless. Recently I’ve gotten back into shooting in colour, especially outside, and I think they both have their uses, but for me black and white will always be the preferred medium.
KALTBLUT How did you start photography?
Anthony: I began taking pictures in high school, but gave it up for almost ten years in pursuit of a career in writing and an inability to afford film. Photography always appealed to me, but for a long time taking pictures was something that, for whatever reason, felt unattainable. Even just the act itself; it never occurred to me I could buy a film camera. It wasn’t until I went back to school for my second degree, in graphic design, and discovered small cameras (rangefinders specifically), the work of Stephen Shore, and the relative cheapness of film since I’d stopped shooting that I really began taking pictures. That was when I was twenty-six. I don’t think I started taking my own photography seriously until I saw Shore’s work, and how he made the mundane into something sublime. He was seeing the world and showing people what he saw, and what he saw was full of wonder and specialness and strangeness; I wanted to show people what I was seeing, and connect with them in that way. The portraits seemed like the logical extension of that need.
Anthony: Aside from the necessary psyching myself up to engage with a stranger, nothing particularly. I have the bad habit of repeating myself and getting stuck in ruts, so I guess my process is telling myself over and over, “I’m going to try something different this time” and trying to think about how to make each shoot a little different than the last, or at least how to push myself places I haven’t gone yet. A good example of this is my recent attempts to photograph couples: I’m terrible at it, but I can feel myself getting more comfortable working with more than one person. I think my process is a really iterative one: not within the span of a single shoot but rather with an overall series of sessions. Also, a lot is predicated on the model: I really see the session itself as a collaboration between myself and the subject, so I never specify how to dress, how to style hair, makeup, or anything like that. In that respect I’m always a bit surprised, especially when someone comes in wearing something crazy, and now that I’ve moved on to primarily shooting outside, I’ve come to really enjoy the uncertainty of the session and what that uncertainty can yield.
Interview by Emma E. K. Jones