Aidan Dvorak Artist Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work

I’m a film-based photographer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I got started with photography in my senior year of high school. Having grown up in a house that only had digital point-and-shoot cameras around I realized I had zero understanding of how the photographic process worked, so I went online to learn about it. From there I started consuming as much content on camera operation, film stocks, home development, and photography as an artistic medium as I could find. The more I learned the more I wanted to start taking pictures. In May of 2019, I bought a cheap Pentax k1000 online and immediately fell in love with taking pictures.

How has the pandemic affected you, your artwork and day to day?

While I have been doing some shooting at home since the pandemic started, I’ve mostly taken this time to reflect on what I’ve done and where I’m going. I’ve been revisiting my older pictures and looking for patterns. As I go through them, I look for what I’d change moving forward and what I think is working. I’m still young, dumb, and developing my approach to photography so I should take every opportunity I can to examine my photos in an effort to improve.

How has your working process changed during the pandemic, what is your working method?

The way I process my film has changed more than anything due to the pandemic. Since I can’t go to the photo lab at my college, where I would usually develop and print most of my photos, I’m doing everything from home now. Without access to traditional darkroom chemistry, I’ve opted to start developing my film using Caffenol, which I make with relatively common household products. After looking through some online photography forums I’ve also learned how to use a supersaturated salt solution instead of regular fixer. From there, I scan my negatives and make some minor edits.

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work

I’m always looking for new subjects and themes to explore. I usually bounce between ideas and revisit them periodically, then organize what I have into more cohesive projects later. One thing I always find myself coming back to is people. People tend to think of their relationships and lives in terms of the big events then mush all the little details together. I enjoy exploring the seemingly unimportant moments. I try to capture the things nobody in the photo will remember. The way someone sits in a room full of friends, the look on someone's face when they hear a bad joke, and the body language that accompanies idle chit chat when there’s nothing important left to say are all things I try to look for. I think those in-between moments that we’re often barely cognizant of hold far more value than we usually give them credit for. These insignificant little experiences make up most of the time we spend together and are the foundation from which the important moments spring up from. Taking these photos is a way of reminding myself that these moments exist, and I should appreciate them instead of letting them fade into the background.

Is there something you couldn't live without in your studio? What is your most essential tool?

My Pentax k1000. I have a few other cameras, but my Pentax is my go-to. It was the first camera I ever bought, I’m familiar with it, it does everything I need it to do, and I love it. The only other equipment I ever really use is an incident light meter and a tripod when I think I need them.

What do you feel the role of artists and photographers is in society?

Art is one way to let people engage with something outside of their day-to-day surface level thoughts and worries. It’s easy to get stuck thinking about work, school, plans, and all the things that have to get done. To me, being able to get engrossed in a story, self-reflect, appreciate the world around us, and examine different perspectives is a key difference between just existing and living. Sometimes we need a little push to get out of autopilot mode and I believe art is a great catalyst for that. To me, an artist’s role is to find ways to give people that push through their medium.

Obviously exhibiting artwork physically is on hold, have you any projects or goals you are working towards?

One day I’d love to put together a zine. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I suppose I’m always working on that in a more passive sense by taking new pictures to pare down later. The 8x10 prints I usually make are nice, but I’d really like to have a little book of my photos that I can thumb through. The idea of making hundreds of tiny decisions about layout, sizing, text, color, etc. and turning it into a cohesive project is super appealing to me. I’d mostly be doing for myself but if it turned out really well, I’d love to make some copies to give to whoever might want one.


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