This week on Conversing cameras we chat with Bert Celeridad, a street photographer and avid film photographer from Coronado California. Bert always seems to be trying something new, and we have come well acquainted through many photographic gear exchanges! I've said this before, and I'll repeat it in these conversations; it is always fascinating what photographers do when they walk into your store and out with a piece of gear. Bert is a prime example of that! From Leica M, Hasselblad X-pan's to the Leica Q2, he takes the tools and puts them to work! So, without further ado.
Q: Your Camera Bag: What kind of gear can be found in your Camera bag today?
A: I've condensed my street kit to carrying one of three cameras on a given day: Leica black paint MP, Leica Q2 or a Hasselblad XPAN. A Fujifilm X-Pro 1 hangs out in my car, just in-case... After years of Kodak Tri-X, I've switched to color neg. film. I've stocked up on Lomography 800 and Kodak Portra 800 for the speed needed on the streets. I bring 8 rolls and a flash. A 28mm Elmarit on the MP and a 35 or 50 comes along in my bag. I've been recently using a 50mm Collapsible Elmar and slower film to train myself not to be limited to just wide and zone shooting. A Billingham Hadley Small Pro keeps everything tidy and weather safe but lately I've been using a $10 army surplus ammo shoulder bag with a camera wrap to keep an extra lens. It conforms to my body better and looks super low-key.
Q: Tell us about yourself: Who are you, what is your background?
A: I was a Tennis Professional and recently retired from a 10 year partnership in an online tennis/racquet sport business. I'm fortunate to devote everyday to shooting street these days but often take work as a business consultant for tennis industry companies and start-ups.
Q: The Begining: What first sparked your interest in photography and Cameras?
A: I started shooting professional tennis matches for fun whenever I was out at a tennis tournament for business. I shot Canon with long lenses back then. The big boy telephotos and zooms used by Sports Illustrated and ESPN. I got hooked on photography when I found out I could anticipate and capture a player's reaction on big points. I don't have many racquets or tennis gear anymore. Cameras took over. I did the whole wedding and fashion thing for a bit. But fell in love with street photography so much so, you'd have to twist my arm to pack my kit with a 75mm or 85mm and then edit.
Q: Tell us about your work. What kind of photography do you do and enjoy?
A: I shoot street photography full-time now. Although my kit is a complete 180 from when I started, I get the same thrill from capturing a candid moment on the street as when I did capturing Rafael Nadal roaring after a decisive tennis point. As far as the photography I enjoy...sure there's Winogrand, Meyerowitz and all the street photography greats. Their books I do collect. But I love old record album photography and classic concert photography the most. I think that was my first exposure to photography: the albums for Simon & Garfunkle's 'Bridge Over Trouble Water' and Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours'. Some great portraiture and graphic designs can be seen on classic albums.
I've even started a project on the local Karaoke scene. Probably because I just love to belt out a tune myself. I recently went to a screening of the Jim Marshall bio-pic at Leica Store LA. Been saving a rainy day to look through his book I picked up at the Leica gallery. I mean, Hendrix, Joplin, c'mon!
Q: What's the most fascinating thing to you about photography?
A: Hmmmmm...probably the unknown of what I will come across on my walks when I'm out having a day. I still get as excited packing my bag to head out and shoot as I did years ago. It's truly a love-affair with photography for me.
I'm also fascinated by the resurgance of film photography. And seeing darkrooms popping up across the world. I friend of mine went that route. Opened a business with his wife. Went all-in. Now that's real passion for photography and belief in the film community. Film prices and shortages notwithstanding...film is not dead!
Q: Do you like to shoot film or digital?
A: Color film is more challenging for me at the moment. So I've been gravitating toward that. I've shot long enough, where I like to challenge myself. It's added a layer of thoughtfulness and composition recently that I've slacked on by shooting 100% black & white in the past.
Adding a Hasselblad XPAN to my kit has added to the enjoyment too by limiting the usual Dutch angles I've been known to shoot often on the street. The XPAN is damn amazing. So cinematic. I'm making the effort to shoot that more. This is the longest I've been without a digital Leica M. 2 years now. The Q2 I mainly keep out of necessity when a fast paced event comes up and I have no film in the bag. So, I shoot both film and digital.
Q: Who is your favorite photographer?
A: I have two. First, Anton Corbijn. His work with U2 and Depeche Mode in still photographs and in video is burned into my subconscious from growing up in the 80s-90s. I'm 50 years old this year! Lots of grainy, gritty, contrasty b&w. And then he went to splashes of reds, blues and purples. Often using blurred focus for mood. Love it. He's an Icon in my book. 2nd, Harry Gruyaert. There is a serenity in his color work. I have color and sound synesthesia. When I see a color, I can taste, hear and smell it. Blue to me can taste like metal or smell like rain. I see tangerine waves when I hear my mom's voice. Perhaps that's why I used to only shoot in B&W. My senses tend to overwhelm me in post production. I find Gruyaert work too be the most pleasing visually and to my other senses. I hope to see a gallery show of his one day soon. And see his colors to how he wanted them in print. I'm currently collecting his photobooks. They are a feast for the eyes and other senses!
Q: Do you have any favorite quotes about photography?
A: I've heard many a quote from many a famous photographer. None have really stuck with me. Not yet, at least. How about, "Shoot what you love. Love what you shoot." Let's go with that. Simple. Honest.
Q: Who are some of your favorite Instagram photographers?
A: @ponchorama Whenever I see Alfonso's posts, I say to myself that I wish I woulda taken that shot. We're casual friends on IG. I admire his work. Consistent, precise, colorful, whimsical without being absurd. There's just more my eye hungers for on IG. Alfonso has that extra "stuff". And he often uses a TLR! @zairrewrightZairre is not only a friend, but also the guy I talk to and bounce off ideas about photography with on a daily basis. I was fortunate to BTS shoot on a project he was doing for a music artist. I love his inclusion of different film stocks and focal lengths in his work. There is also a genuine love of photography and his subjects that comes across in his shots. @gratuity_includedChris Suspect's stuff blows me away. Big fan of his. There is a gritty and graphic nature to his work that gets me everytime. He can shoot an intimate and filthy underground event as well as a high profile one. All with the same intensity. He is also an approachable fellow and a good mentor to other photographers.
Q: What’s your favorite camera? Why?
A: The Leica M8/M8.2 for digital. The Pentax 6x7 for film. The M8 was my first street camera. I know the M8 is a dinosaur by today's standards but the monochrome is sublime. Not to mention the Kodak CCD color science. The Pentax 6x7 glass combined with the 120 film is simply gorgeous. But the XPAN is quickly becoming a favorite film camera. Glad I got my copy from Camera West before someone else snatched it up!
Q: You’re heading on an adventure for a week and can only take one camera & one lens. What is it? Tell us about your most minimal setup.
A: My trusty Black Paint Leica MP with a 35 LUX. ...And 40 rolls of film, LOL. If it's in sketchy weather, just the Q2 and 2 batteries. If it's an adventure not in the city, then perhaps the XPAN. For me an "adventure" is a busy city with loads of people. Washington Square Park, NYC, in the summer, is my idea of an adventure.
Q: What next: If you could add anything to your camera bag what would it be?
A: I've thought about this often. Lenses. I don't really need fast lenses for the street. But...I would like to add a 24mm Summilux. My 28mm may have run its course for the time being. I had a 21mm Elmarit I enjoyed. A 24mm Lux would make me a happy camper.
I often felt that the Q2 and my old QP are closer to 24 than 28mm in actually shooting use. But that M11 and any Leica Monochrom looks so damn tasty though...