A conversation with Erich McVey

 

    Alexandra Wallace spoke with Erich McVey about the pressure to deliver for his clientele, why the color green is not heavenly and how film helps him mentally compute the world.

    We’re living in a time when more and more people are feeling a primal pull toward tactile and tangible goods and experiences. For me, film provides that and much more.

    1

    Alexandra Wallace

    The paramount element of your work is film; taking an image on a tangible media, rather than using a digital camera and memory cards. One could argue that film is more reliable — it has endured throughout history. Yet, the world’s population has shifted as a majority to the convenience of digital imagery.  Do you see film making a full-fledged comeback in any near future?

    Erich McVey

    I see film making a comeback in a big way. When I caught the film bug in 2011, the threat of extinction felt imminent. At that point, few in the industry predicted this kind of surge in popularity.

    Whether it be a professional photographer shooting medium format film for their wedding and fashion work, a hipster with a man bun (like me) shooting 35mm film on a disposable camera or an old Canon A1 at Coachella, or a tween with an Instax in 3rd period, it feels like film is gaining momentum across an array of demographics. Now, more than ever, my clients are actively seeking out a film shooter for their event or campaign. It’s clear that film offers a unique process and experience, as well as a final product that can not now, and may never, be replicated digitally.

    We’re living in a time when more and more people are feeling a primal pull toward tactile and tangible goods and experiences. For me, film provides that and much more. When I’m out shooting, film allows me to focus entirely on the constantly changing set of elements that contribute to each photograph. I’m not distracted or overwhelmed by a screen or an array of settings to choose from. Each shot feels special and intentional. Photographing people and using natural light is hard enough as is. Shooting film helps simplify things, and allows my tiny brain to compute each artistic equation without exploding.

    I didn’t choose photography because I love to sit at my desk editing RAW files. I chose photography because I want to explore the world, and document relationships and people. Shooting film allows me to spend more time enjoying the components of photography I love, and less time adding to the list of reasons why I will eventually and inevitably burn out.

    It’s encouraging to see the big film companies bringing film stocks back and putting more resources into their film brands. Hell, Fujifilm even hired my wife, Amy, to help market their film division. Can a guy get a few free rolls of film?

    Is film ever going to return to dominance and overtake digital as the the go-to? Of course not. But if film can continue to grow each year, after having survived its near-demise, I think that’s a win.

    2

    What is the most expensive item you have ever lost?

    I was with my wife when she lost her wedding ring, and I can assure you that my birthday cake tasted considerably less sweet that evening. Thankfully, insurance covered the whole thing, and my wife (on her own accord) chose a considerably less expensive replacement ring. Bring on the profits!

    3

    Your house is haunted by the ghost of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. What do you do?

    I double the Zestimate, and put that bad boy on the market. We’ve got a lot of eccentric folks out here in Oregon, and I’m sure there’s someone out there who’d get their jollies from bunking with the Master himself.

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised with humanity, in working for folks whom one might assume have unrealistic or unfair expectations.

    4

    Your career has garnered worldwide praise and publication, from Harper’s Bazaar to the Los Angeles Times. For an outsider looking into your body of work and online presence, it would seem you have a perfectly constructed life and career. Do you ever find yourself disappointing a client? Does fame cause the deterrence of complaints, or increase them due to expectation?

    Did you just insinuate that I’m famous? I think my friends, family, associates, cats, my mailman, and your readers are probably having a good laugh at that assertion.

    I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a correlation between my clients’ investment and the pressure I feel to deliver. That being said, the most nervous I ever felt on the job is still the very first wedding I shot. Thankfully, the tension was relieved by the naked man scampering down the river bank to soap up and bathe himself during the couple’s portraits. Oh, I forgot to mention this was at a clothing-optional hot springs, and my entourage included five family members toting battery packs, lighting equipment, reflectors, and huge umbrellas to shield the equipment from the Oregon rain. But hey, $350 is $350.

    When you start shooting weddings, you suck. That’s a universal truth. Thankfully, as the weddings get bigger and you gain experience, the better and more comfortable you get, and the easier this job becomes. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with humanity, in working for folks whom one might assume have unrealistic or unfair expectations. I’ve found that those who are willing to invest a great deal in my services truly respect and appreciate what I bring to the table. They are less likely to micromanage the way I work or nitpick the final product. Now. of course, there’s always a bad apple or two…

    5

    Would you rather visit the 1993 version of Jurassic Park for two days, or be trapped in Disneyland’s Critter Country for a month?

    I’m going with Jurassic Park, because my daughter is really digging dinosaurs right now. I realize the risks involved in entering a kingdom of dinosaurs are greater than the potential for insanity that looms in Critter Country, but I never pass up a good photo op. After all, they don’t call me a “thrill seeker” and “the bad boy of wedding photography” for nothing. Neither of those things are remotely close to being true; although, I do hope I’d be more the Jeff Goldblum type, and less the lawyer guy who hid in the outhouse while the T-Rex savaged the children.

    6

    What are three objects within your reach right now?

    A Tim Horton’s latte, the emergency exit door, and god willing, a parachute. I’m on a flight from Buffalo to New Jersey, and if I can’t think of anything clever to say in this conversation, I’m going to abscond with this man’s iced coffee, blow the hatch and parachute into the great unknown.

    In the real world, green grass on a sunny day may seem like a little slice of heaven, but on camera, I assure you that it is my version of hell.

    7

    You are forced to remove a color from everyone’s eyesight forever. Which color do you remove?

    Lime green. Get that shite out of here, and burn any record of it ever existing. Most photographers would agree that bright green is the enemy. In the real world, green grass on a sunny day may seem like a little slice of heaven, but on camera, I assure you that it is my version of hell.

    8

    Describe your favorite memory from childhood.

    My dad placing my siblings and me in what I would now consider risky situations, all in the name of fun. Infant waterskiing, whitewater rafting class five rapids, and back country black-diamond ski runs were all a part of life before the age of seven. Now, with a young toddler under my wing, I wonder how far I’ll go to de-Nerf her world, or if my fear of the worst will cause me to play it safe. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything, but a happy medium may be in store for my brood.

    Thank you.

    Data


    Conversation: 216
    Curated by: Alexandra Wallace
    Conducted by: Email
    Edited by: Morgan Enos
    Published: July 27, 2018
    Total questions: 8
    Word count: 1222
    Reading time: Four minutes

    Metadata


    Experience: Accessed
    Green: Rejected
    Parachute: Activated
    Complaint: Null
    Umbrella: Activated
    Computer: Accessed

    Relation


    About the subject


    Erich McVey is a wedding, portrait and editorial film photographer who graduated from the University of Oregon. He resides in Salem, Oregon.

    About the curator


    Alexandra Wallace is a photographer, visual artist and the founder of Coyote + Oak. She resides in Orcutt, California.


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