Andrew Tomchyshyn: Shooting Square Format Film

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All images by Andrew Tomchyshyn. Used with permission. This post is being done in collaboration with the subreddit: R/Analog.

Photographer Andrew Tomchyshyn represents part of the new generation of photographers that explore the older forms: he’s a 25-year-old photographer who has been shooting film since 2005. From 2007-2014 he has shot almost exclusively 6×6 using a dear Bronica SQ-A. “I mainly shoot landscapes but like dabbling in other areas as well. I would describe my photographs as lonely and containing a sense of adventure,” says Andrew about his work.

Andrew lives in Japan now and is hoping to develop new styles since access to nature is a bit tougher for him, but his work clearly demonstrates that the square format wasn’t just for Instagram.

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

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Andrew: My dad was always interested in photography and around the age of 15 I started taking photos of my friends skateboarding and snowboarding. I slowly started getting more into it and started taking my dad’s cameras out with me. I first started with my dad’s Canon AE-1. I think I was always interested in art, but never developed any drawing or painting skills. By picking up a camera I unlocked a way of using creativity that I had never experienced before.

Phoblographer: What got you into shooting landscapes?

Andrew: Back when I was shooting lots of skateboarding I was always drawn to the images in skateboard magazines that were about more than just the skater and trick. The photos that showed the whole context and were well-composed stuck out to me most. They took the documentation of skateboarding and turned it into art, where even without the action the image would still hold up on its own.

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Phoblographer: What attracts you to shooting with the Bronica SQ-A and square format?

Andrew: At the time when I first started to shoot square, I was invigorated by the challenge of composing in the square format. With rectangles, relying on the rule of thirds becomes almost automatic and shooting in square forced me to rethink composition. Squares don’t like things being too off-balanced, so the rule of thirds isn’t necessarily going to work too well depending on the scene in front of you. I picked up a Bronica SQ-A because it seemed like a quality camera and it’s a tough camera to beat for the price. I had a Mamiya 6 for a while but sold it because shooting with the SQ-A and waist level finder is so much more enjoyable for me.

Phoblographer: What about a scene makes you look at a scene and actually motivate you to shoot it?

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Andrew: I think there needs to be a certain serenity to catch my attention. Whether that’s due to the subject, the forms, the potential composition, or a combination of those. I love scenes that make me feel small and conveying that feeling to the viewer is often a goal of mine. I don’t know how well I achieve it, but I like leaving a bit of mystery to my photos. I don’t like to use photography to show things as they are. I like distorting and omitting just enough information to create an air of mystery around an otherwise realistic and straightforward scene.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about the films that you use and why you choose them.

Andrew: I’m in a strange limbo with regards to that right now. I bought hundreds upon hundreds of rolls in bulk for next to nothing when photo studios were switching to digital back in 2007-2008. I’m talking auctions where I bought 200 rolls of Portra NC in 220 for $180. I bought a few massive auctions like that of primarily Portra NC/VC films and Kodak E100VS and I finally depleted that stash recently. I’ve never actually bought new film for the most part so I’m giving the new Portra a try but have only developed a few rolls of it. I’m a fan of Portra because of how versatile it is. It works in all light from cloudy days, to harsh sunlight, to night-time long exposures. For black and white I love using Fuji Acros and the Arista EDU films are nice too!

Phoblographer: Landscapes are typically known for being rectangular. How do you feel the square format lends itself to creating compelling landscape images?

Andrew: I think it relates back to my comment on seeking serenity within a scene. The square is a much calmer format in that it doesn’t like everything pulling to one corner of the frame. Everything needs to have a balance. If there is something on the bottom right of the frame, you probably need something in the top left to make the composition feel right. Landscapes are powerful things, they dwarf mankind and a rectangular format capitalizes on that immensity and exaggerates it. The nature of the square does the opposite as it forces a composition that organizes landscapes in a way that downplays their power. I love the square format for that reason. It’s challenging for sure though. Sometimes I get a roll back and all of the shots are worthless because I just couldn’t get the composition right. The scene was great, the light fantastic, my exposure spot on, but I just couldn’t work out a pleasing composition. That’s the nature of photography in general though, each format has its challenges.

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