Still Life: Chami’s Experimental Photography

Life gets pretty boring if you do the same thing over and over again. Our senior photographer Dave Chami is constantly experimenting within the art of photography to come up with new perspectives (check his 4×5 article in the May issue). Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails, but you'll never know unless you try. Here's his five favorite experiments he's shot for TWS.

Geoff Campbell, switch lipslide, Still Life, Dave Chami

01. Geoff Campbell, switch lipslide, 2007
35 mm film shot in a medium format Hasselblad
I don't remember where I came up with this idea, but I hand-made spools that fit the 35 mm film and loaded them in a dark bag. This was the first photo I shot like this, and I got so lucky with Geoff's head being perfectly between the sprocket holes. It took me a year to shoot enough images to publish an article of these photos because the film would sometimes buckle in the camera making the images slightly out of focus, which was devastating.

02. Ben Barretto, crook transfer, 2006
Hand-colored black-and-white print
I had a whole group of black-and-white prints that I'd shot with no home, so I decided to try to hand color them. I'd picked up a book on hand coloring from a camera store in LA, so with a few pointers from that went to work. I quickly realized that I completely suck at drawing and had to enlist my wife Sam to help me. She literally spent days meticulously coloring five images that became a TransWorld article.


03. Jon Nguyen, portrait, 2012
Polaroid emulsion transfer onto watercolor paper
I was trying to make emulsion transfers by shooting Polaroids and sandwiching the chemical side onto a piece of watercolor paper, but they were all coming out really dark. I finally realized the light I had on in our garage was solarizing the transfers and turning them black. Once I turned the light out, the transfers worked perfectly, and I managed to do some controlled solarized ones by flashing the Polaroid with a camera flash before making the transfers.


04. Taylor Bingaman, back Smith, 2009
Digital print on Xeroxed paper
I made a big glossy print and took it down to the copy shop by my house, found the worst machine, made copies, and then copied the copies, over and over 'til they looked like total crap. When I got home I cut a rough square shape around Taylor from the print and taped that over top of the worst-looking photocopy. I did this to six photos for an article, but I don't think they reproduced too well in print. I guess you can't win 'em all.

05. David Gravette, portrait, 2012
Digital photo through water tray
I got inspired by a book of photographs by Brian Oglesbee and wanted to shoot something similar of David Gravette. I bought a perspex tray and put water and dishwashing liquid in it plus a little green food coloring. My wife, Sam, wrangled the bubbles while Gravette lay on the floor beneath the tray. I used a macro lens to focus on his reflected images in the bubbles.