Roman Spataro's photographs are effervescently nostalgic, as if it belongs more in a Sofia Coppola movie than in real life. Featuring photographs of everyday life, his body of work are mostly taken in and around his hometown, Pittsburgh - Pennsylvania where he grew up in. He is notable for shooting both on his Iphone and his Mamiya RZ67. This 19 year old first got into film photography shooting around his family's house using his mother's old point and shoot camera. But only got serious when (believe it or not) a random lady gave him a 35mm camera while he was out and about shooting on the borrowed camera.
What was your first experience with the camera?
When I was very young (around 10 years old) my parents bought me a cell phone. It had a camera on it and I began taking photos of whatever interested me. My mom also had a point and shoot camera that I would borrow from time to time. I would think up photo ideas (usually taking place around my parents’ house), take my mom’s camera, take the photo, and return it to where it belonged.
Do you remember the first bunch of photographs you took? I do! I would get so excited about taking a photo that I liked! When it was in the very beginning stages, it was kind of like a secret talent that I was always excited to show off. Thinking back to then, I think I felt that the photos I would show people said so much more about me than I could explain or show on the surface.
How did you foray into medium format?
My first experiences with film were in high school. I had a couple teachers that introduced me to it, and to be honest, I really didn’t take much interest in it at first. But eventually I started borrowing a 35mm camera from one of them and realized how much I enjoyed the process. Not long after, a 35mm camera was handed down to me by a random lady while I was out in my town taking photos one day (I know it sounds strange. It was.) I shot that camera for a couple years, but eventually became unhappy with the results and that’s when I decided I wanted to upgrade to medium format.
You shoot on medium format and also the iPhone. What is your approach to toggling between medium format and the iPhone and how has that helped you in understanding photography if any?
Yes! So until I could get a medium format camera, I began to take a lot of photos on my iPhone because it was convenient and to me, seemed to have some oddly similar qualities to medium format, especially paired with the way I was editing my photos at the time. By this point I was completely over dwelling on unnecessary technicalities, and my focus was completely on “the photograph”. I learned composition and color during my time shooting digital and 35mm and could finally just focus on putting the right things in front of my lens.
Nowadays for any serious work, I do typically only use my Mamiya RZ67 just for quality purposes, but the iPhone remains my go to “practice camera” per say.
Can you share with me a little more about Evening Hours? What was revealed to me at the beginning of the process that kind of defined my attitude towards the work was that I didn’t need to rely on influences/inspirations like I thought I did. For the longest time I was just taking photos of what came naturally according to what I was seeing (mostly on social media), but at this point I realized that it had been a long time since I last thought about what it really was that I wanted my work to represent. At the time there were a lot of positive influences surrounding me and I wanted to channel that positivity into my photographs. It was also the beginning of Summer, a time when optimism is natural. So as a result of these realizations, I dropped a lot of the standards that I had previously held my photos to, and started to create work far more focused on what I felt.
Where was Evening Hours shot at and how long did this project take?
It was all shot in small towns throughout Pennsylvania. While I’ve photographed the area more times than I could tell you, at this point I kind of saw something new in it, and I think my deep emotional connection to the area helped me to pull the best out of it.
The project took me the length of Summer (2018) to shoot.
What’s your favourite image from Evening Hours and why?
My favorite image from Evening Hours is actually the first photo I took from the series (the very suburban pink house picture above). It was the first photo I had taken that successfully portrayed the optimistic feeling of Summer I was attempting to create, and it set the mood for the rest of the work.
Why was this project titled Evening Hours?
I feel that the evening, especially during Summertime is a particularly memorable time of day/year. I know that I at least have a lot of pleasant memories surrounding Summer evenings. Not to mention, every photo was taken in the “evening hours” of the day.
Your photos seem to have nostalgic undertones to them, was this purposely? How important is ‘feeling’ to you as a photographer?
I’m glad you feel that way! I had been interested in nostalgic themes within photography for years before I made this work so it’s kind of naturally intertwined in my “style”. However, I think that the nostalgic themes in this work were a bit more successful because I was searching for nostalgia that’s more personal to me.
Any tips for those getting into film or medium format cameras?
If you’re just getting into film and are looking to start with a 35mm camera, buy something cheap or even ask around to see if a family member or friend has one they don’t use. If the camera’s in decent shape, it’s going to give you a similar result to just about any 35mm camera. If you’re buying a medium format camera, you probably already have some film photography experience and I’d recommend investing in something that’s going to last you. For the quality that you get, medium format cameras aren’t particularly expensive either.
Also, make sure you’re getting proper scans. As long as your camera functions well, the more important part of getting great results happens in the lab.
Any upcoming projects?
I have plans to shoot my first proper photo book sometime around late Summer, early Fall 2019. The concepts behind it are still being fleshed out and I don’t want to say too much just yet, but keep an eye out! I may be making a couple smaller bodies of work before then as well. Those will probably be released as zines!