It seemed fitting with this month’s theme to interview one of the first photographers that made me interested in photography: Rodney Smith. His balance of realism and romanticism is always perfectly composed in black and white. In a world of digital photography he stands nearly alone in his passion for film; in fact he only shoots film and has an enthusiasm for the technical side of photography. Still, in his own words he’s “old school with a twist;” his photographs are neither modern or retro, but rather timeless.
ATOMY: What was the subject on your first roll of film?
SMITH: It depends on whether you mean the first roll when I decided to be a professional, or the first roll I took when I decided I would be interested in photography. The first roll I took with the thoughts of being a professional was in my Photography 1 class at Yale University. There is still a picture in that roll that I still like to this day 45 years later. When I was 16 I took some film in Mexico, and those pictures were probably my first introduction to photography.
ATOMY: What was your first camera?
SMITH: It was a Kodak Retna Reflex with a Schneider 50mm lens.
ATOMY: Your pictures, particularly the black & white ones, often have a vintage feel to them—would you consider yourself nostalgic?
SMITH: I think anyone who has reached my age has to be somewhat nostalgic for an earlier time.
ATOMY: Your photographs often have a surrealistic or even humorous touch to them—what’s something that makes you laugh?
SMITH: Our place, our standing, which is quite small, in a very large world is quite humorous. Over and over again, we try to be large, grandiose and full of ourselves when in fact for the most part we are quite humbled by the world. This relationship is full of humor.