In an age dominated by electronics and split second moments, someone like Lawrence Tellez steps back and smells the flowers (…or the film). I met Lawrence in a small comic/donut shop where I found him sitting on a couch waiting for me. With children running around and parents chasing them, it was a pretty chaotic, noisy scene. Yet Lawrence sat calmly taking it all in and enjoying the moment. After joining him on the couch (and grabbing myself a pre-interview donut, of course) he told me his backstory and why he does it the way he does.
Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself:
I’m a film photographer from Lake Station, Indiana. I basically just take a lot of Polaroids (laughs). Reading comics and taking photos is what I do. Other than that, I’m a pretty simple man.
Are Polaroids ALL you do?
No, I shoot 35 mm film as well. I used to do digital photography but I felt like I was just clicking away. I wanted to slow things down, so I started getting into film. Polaroids were my first instance of using film. I get it from the Impossible Project. I ended up finding my first Polaroid film at a local shop and the rest I get online. Certain things need to be purchased online, like for instance it’s hard to get ilford film. I shoot ilford and black and white mostly. Sometimes I do color if it’s for family or bigger events, but if it’s for my personal stuff I use black and white.
What interested you in Polaroid and film?
A documentary on Netflix got me interested in Polaroid, actually. I figured, as anyone would, that it was just a documentary about how the film is nonexistent and how people used to use it. But it showed me about the Impossible Project creating this new formula and bringing the power of Polaroid back. I did my research and saw that they’ve had the film out for a few years and I ended up getting my hands on some. It’s a little expensive, but it’s worth it. Your photos mean so much more because you really only get one. Sure, you can stand there and keep shooting, but there’s only one real copy. It’s so different from digital…even some film too…it’s a different category all together. I prefer it to any other type. It makes the memory greater. Especially with my daughter, Allison. Every pack I buy (8 shots) has at least one photo of her come out of it. I want to preserve those memories, and for however long the film is made I’m going to keep doing it. I’m a special member with the Impossible project and they actually allow me to test film out for them. They’re improving their film rapidly. They share some of the behind the scenes stuff with me. Shooting film has opened my photography so much. I was a digital photographer from the age of 16, doing weddings and events and all of that. But after a while, they all start to seem the same. And you have to shoot so continuous and fast. I just want to do my own thing right now.
“When you have 24 or 36 shots on a roll of film, suddenly you really think about things…you know you have to make it count.”
Wow, you did weddings pretty far back. Did you ever try to incorporate film into the weddings in any way?
No, there usually is such a time limit that it’s really hard to try to step back and embrace the moment to get the right shot. It put a new dynamic on a wedding and clients would have to make the time to slow it down.
When shooting with film, do you find so much more pressure to get the right shot?
Well, like I mentioned, I’ve found it’s really helped me slow down. Before I would just shoot away. Now, I look at a scene and think for a few minutes and when I know what I want I go for it. It’s really made me become a better photographer because you don’t know what you’re going to get until it’s developed. You have to think about what you’re doing and make sure your settings are right and your composition is what you wanted. I don’t Photoshop or alter my photos in any way. I want my stuff to feel really natural when I present it. Now that I have a daughter, I want things to slow down more than ever (laughs). She’s only 2, but slowing down is what every parent wants and this type of photography really helped me get there.
It almost makes you appreciate everything around you more.
Right. I get these rolls of film and I’m capturing these moment around me that really matter to me and those close to me. I’m not just going to keep snapping everything I can. When you have 24 or 36 shots on a roll of film, suddenly you really think about things…you know you have to make it count. It’s much more worth it.
So you’ve had your work published/show in some things, right?
Yeah, the Impossible project has their own magazine. They saw my comic Polaroids and they wanted to do a story on me about it and feature some photos. Also, before that they had a Halloween article and they came across a photo I had taken of my daughter and our dog on our porch and they wanted to put it in their issue. I told them about how it was the first picture I actually got both my daughter and my dog to look at the camera (laughs). So they featured it and wrote a little description about it. It’s also pushing me to try to things with the photos I’m shooting. I’ve got a new project where I’m going to do Polaroid photos, but use high key photography lighting and make these intricate portraits. It’s kind of the opposite of a Polaroid, mixed with a Polaroid. It’s an experiment for me.
Are you doing mostly comic stuff right now?
No, that was another experiment of mine. It’s a strange story actually, I tried reading a digital comic book, but thought I’d experiment and pull it up on my tv screen and read it there. Once it was up, it struck me and I knew I wanted to try to shoot what I was seeing. I pulled something up of my favorite artist and shot a photo and I loved it. I was shooting with test film that had really bright, interesting colors that worked perfect. It was really good timing.
What’s next for you Polaroid and film work?
Summer’s coming, so I’m just ready to go out there and shoot. I’m going to keep working on these experimental projects. I’m going to be shooting some film for a few live bands soon. I just want to push my work, try new things and maybe enlarge and sell some prints. I’d love to have my own shop or my own gallery and studio space. I don’t see a lot of people in this area shooting film. It’s crazy that these new generations might not have these physical photos anymore. Everything’s online and they aren’t even printing things out anymore. What happens when a hard drive crashes? What happens when you just want to hold a photograph? The other day I was shooting with my Polaroid camera and a teenager came up to me and asked what I was holding. He had never seen a Polaroid camera. People don’t understand them, or they think they’re outdated and make fun of them. But I think film is revolutionizing photography and is regrowing. You can even see the influence on movies. There’s a new super 8 camera coming out soon.
That’s really incredible. Where can people catch some of your work?
Do you have any last thoughts?
I’d just like to thank my wife and daughter, the rest of my family, Jaimie Radar (for introducing me to this great zine)…and everyone that’s influenced and helped me with my photography!