Scott Meivogel: Shooting 4×5 Polaroid Portraits

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All images by Scott Meivogel. Used with permission.

Scott Meivogel is a professional photographer living near Lake Michigan in Holland, Michigan. He is a photographer who is all about developing an interpersonal connection with people through the images he makes. Scott told us that even though he loves going out and shooting sunsets, what’s always excited him is photographing people.

More importantly, he enjoys instant film–the large stuff. “To own that image immediately after shooting – it’s perfect. Plus, when you’re talking about connecting with your subject, shooting instant film helps to tie that bond,” said Scott. “You both get to share in that awesome experience of peeling the image off the negative, looking at it together for the first time.”

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

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Scott: ‘Photography was something I had an interest in back in high school. Like many photographers my age, I took a few darkroom classes in high school, then went off to the craziness that was college. I still shot images, but photography wasn’t in my life full-time until later. I moved back to Cleveland after college, lived downtown, and worked at a weekly alternative paper. Not in the photography or design department, but advertising sales.

It was terribly boring, but a fun atmosphere.

Again, I was shooting a bit, but nothing serious. Not at all. So I quit and went back to school, this time on my dime. I was studying graphic design when I decided to give photography a real try. I took a few more darkroom classes, won a photography competition, and used my photography for my design projects.

I earned that design degree and now use both photography and design in my daily life. I’ll be paying those student loans for the next 10 years, but at least I’m doing my thing, working for myself and helping to support a family.

Phoblographer: What attracts you to portraiture?

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Scott: Portrait photography has always interested me more than most genres. Trust me, I love loading the cooler and heading out to the shore to wait for an epic sunset. It’s so peaceful, your mind wanders, and then it’s go time. Time to get that shot. Street photography is a great time because you often have the opportunity to talk to the people, which leads me to why I love portrait photography.

I love shooting people, whether it’s my family, a bride, a model, a corporate client, someone you just met, or a friend. It’s a real intimate moment in time with that person, and connecting with people is what it’s all about. What’s best is that it’s a moment for both the subject and photographer. I’ve had my photo taken a few times, and it’s tough to let yourself just be. When that happens it’s a real calming and intimate moment.

Phoblographer: What made you love large format instant photography vs negative?

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Scott: I don’t necessarily love large format more or less than shooting negatives. However, going back to my previous talk about that moment, shooting large format often gives you a chance to talk with your subject. It takes time to set up the camera, load the film, focus, focus again, etc… It gives the subject time to relax, and us a chance to talk about some random shit. By the time I’m ready to actually shoot, they’re more than ready.

Phoblographer: Walk us through the process of taking an image: to loading the camera up, posing the model, etc. What’s it like?

Scott: When it comes to 4×5, I’d rather shoot instant film. Actually, I’d rather shoot instant film than anything, and I’m specifically referring to pack film, or peel apart. To own that image immediately after shooting – it’s perfect. Plus, when you’re talking about connecting with your subject, shooting instant film helps to tie that bond. You both get to share in that awesome experience of peeling the image off the negative, looking at it together for the first time. A good portrait is a team effort – both parties need to be on the same level, at least for that moment. It’s nice to be able to share the initial look at the image.

Phoblographer: What kind of cameras and films do you use for this type stuff?

My large format gear consists of one Calumet Monorail, with a Polaroid back. It’s big and heavy, carried in an even larger steel case, and works with smooth precision. I used to own an analog camera store in Cleveland, so I had it set up with a backdrop, one soft box, plus some window light. That’s how most of these were shot. Simple and easy.

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