American Dream: Rydell Tomas Jr’s Photographs Strangers on Film

Rydell Tomas Jr originally wanted to be a filmmaker

Hi, my name is Rydell Tomas Jr and I’m an upcoming freelance photographer from the Southside of Atlanta, Ga. I’ve been making photos for two years and I’ve been putting together conceptual projects since July of 2017. I started photographing through my love of filmmaking, and after realizing I truly enjoyed making photos, I dropped filmmaking altogether. I love people, so the majority of my work focuses on strangers, friends and family. I currently shoot with a 1957 Leica M3 w/ 50mm Serenar and 1986 Yashica Fx-3 Super 2000 w/ 50mm Yashinon. 35mm film is my favorite and i try to use as many film stocks as possible. My favorites are Kodak Gold 200 and Kodak Tri-X 400.

  • Why did you get into photography? I initially wanted to be a filmmaker, but fell in love with photography after realizing they went hand-in-hand.
  • What photographers are your biggest influences? My favorite photographers are Greg Miller, Edward Curtis and Steve McCurry.
  • How long have you been shooting? I’ve been making photos for two years.
  • Why is photography and shooting so important to you? I’m happy when I get the chance to shoot photos. Capturing moments like these gives me a sense of purpose, something attainable. You can show anyone willing to look a perspective that only you can truly understand.
  • Do you feel that you’re more of a creator or a documentor? Why? I feel that I’m more a documentor, although I enjoy shooting conceptual projects with artists; muscicians and models, I feel documentary is more important. You can capture raw emotion and unscripted moments; human error is gorgeous.
  • What’s typically going through your mind when you create images? Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically? Typically, I try not to think too hard when I see anything worth capturing, I tend to overthink and that does more harm than good. I let things happen naturally; composition is important but “rules” aren’t real. At the end of the day, it’s ultimately your vision that others get to see.
  • Want to walk us through your processing techniques? When shooting black and white, I usually push to 800 and meter for shadows. I develop at home only to practice, but my more important rolls of film are sent to a lab and scanned to an SD card. I try not to post-process most of my images, only adjusting skin tones for color, and contrast for black and white. After I feel my images are complete, I export the files and store them on my laptop/phone then store the negatives in a folder.
  • Tell us about the project that you’re pitching, or your portfolio. My 1st completed project is a zine titled ‘American Dream’ shot entirely on Fuji Superia 200/400 with my Yashica Super 2000. It documents the people of Atlanta, and nearby cities. It gives insight to anyone who isn’t from the area. Atlanta is a culturally enriched city, and I want people to enjoy it.
  • What made you want to get into your genre? Music really made me enjoy documentary photography. Artists such as Frank Ocean; creator of albums Endless and Blond, and A$ap Rocky; NY based rapper with strong ties to fashion and film. They truly enjoy creating and their influence shows in their fanbase.
  • Tell us a bit about the gear that you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision. I use a Leica M3 rangefinder with a 50mm Serenar. It has no light meter, which helps me with guessing exposures. The shutter is really quiet, so I often can make photos of subjects without them realizing. I haven’t published a conceptual project with my M3, but it helps with my shooting on my Yashica Fx-3, which is an SLR.
  • What motivates you to shoot? Listening to music really motivates me to shoot; I love the nostalgia I get from listening to Nights by Frank Ocean and making photos of people being themselves.

Be sure to aslo check out American Dream by Rydell

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.