NightCall: Laidric Stevenson
Laidric Stevenson is a Dallas based photographer. Originally born in Wisconsin, he attended the University of Texas- Arlington graduating with a BA in Journalism and a minor in Sociology. His work explores themes such as nostalgia and the forgotten details that the never ending technological race to perfection has left behind. He believes in the freedoms of the open road, and the power of print, specifically books and zines. He self-publishes frequently, mostly for himself, but he one day believes that he’ll have a project worthy enough for a Kickstarter campaign.
DR: Hey Ladric, how is Dallas doing?
LS: Man, Dallas is Dallas. Growing, changing. I am interested to see how all the new apartment/office buildings downtown are going to change the feel of the streets down there. Hopefully more density and people will re-vitalize downtown.
DR: How did you first become interested in photography?
LS: I became interested in photography in high school, I had always liked taking pictures, so I was excited about being able to take a class that would teach me more about the camera and the craft, that class led me into joining my high school's newspaper & yearbook staff, I learned a lot shooting for that. Doing assignments, shooting for layouts, always being prepared (since my camera was part of what I took to school everyday), pushing film. It was during this time that I realized that photography was not going to just be some passing fad, that I always was going to have it as part of my life somehow.
DR: Where do you gather inspiration to go out and shoot? Where do you gather the courage?
LS: Honestly, I get restless if I'm not shooting something, like I get bothered by the fact that I'm not developing some film, or scanning some negatives, or if it's been too long since I've done a layout for a zine (which it has!), or just the fact that there's too much film lying around my house right now that needs to be shot, that bothers me. Courage? shooting is a release for the anxiety that I have about being photographically idle, so I gotta keep getting out there, and I have to keep hearing the shutter click, and I have to go new places and run into new people, then come back home and make zines...
DR: Would you call yourself a street photographer?
LS: I would not call myself a street photographer, it only makes up a small percentage of the work that I do, I'm not out there pounding the streets day in and day out, like other photographers are. And I take photos of everything that interests me on the street, not just people; signs, tags, anything is fair game.
DRP: In contrast to your work in the streets and social landscapes, you have a particular approach shooting at night. Could you talk about how you shoot projects like Night Call and #AmericanMadeMachines.
LS: I'd like to say I have a set approach, but I'm more of a hunter, searching out these images (specially the AmericanMadeMachines), but I tend to stick with certain sections of town for weeks at a time. Then switch them up when I get bored. Like I'll head up to Harry Hines Blvd, and drive up and down (and a good number of both my Night Call images and AmericanMadeMachines came from this area and the streets around it). Now I'm looking to get out of the Dallas area more, I was just in Greenville with a photographer friend and shot some images out that way that I'm excited about. I like to use my medium format 6x7 Bronica GS-1 and I always use Portra 160, which is nothing but an amazing film stock. I love the way it handles mixed lighting and it's muted color palette. Everything is shot on a tripod using long exposures (average 2 mins), which helps burn in shadow details and causes some color rendering, specially the sodium vapor lights some stores still use. I also use wider angle lenses (24mm -35mm) because while the subjects are important, the background is just as equally important, so I like to go for an enviromental approach when shooting. I tend to shoot the bulk of my images from midnight to 2am, and I try to limit shooting on Friday and Saturday nights, as that's when more bar/club traffic is on the streets, and police to police them. I haven't had any issues with the police, but I'd rather avoid having to talk to them if at all possible. I have another photographer that I pair up with if I am shooting on the weekend (Efren Lozano, an amazing photographer), but when Monday - Thursday shooting, I'm by myself.
LS: #AmericanMadeMachines is a series born out of my late night photographic travels. My wife and I had our first child in December of 2014, of course caring for a newborn baby put a pause on what I had been doing photographically up to that point. As our son grew older and was able to sleep through the night, we made the arrangement that I could go out for a few hours and photograph. Inspired by the amazing night photography of Patrick Joust in Baltimore, I would drive the streets of Dallas looking for interesting scenes. As the months passed by, looking through my negatives, I started noticing that I had been shooting quite a few late model American cars and trucks (specifically those from the late 70’s through the late 80s, which I feel is a transitional period in the American auto industry, as the oil crisis of the late 70s drove auto makers into building more fuel efficient cars, which was the opposite of what an American automobile was up to that point, which was fast, powerful and sexy…). So, at that point I began consciously searching out these automobiles to photograph. Also, these cars and trucks are not what are considered to be ‘classic’ cars, in the car show sense, which is why I find them interesting. It takes a concerted effort to maintain and drive a 30 yr + old car, when for not too much more money, you could purchase a used early to mid-90s Japanese car like a Honda or a Toyota.
DR: Can you tell me about the ongoing project you have, "Meeting New People Isn't the Easiest Thing."
LS: The beginnings of MNPITET start back in 2013, I decided to submit some photographs for this new organization (at that time) called FotoFilmic, they were doing a film only open call, winners were going to be part of a group show they were putting on in Toronto. These winners were picked out of 3 separate shortlists of 30 photographers. I was shortlisted in one, so was this other photographer from St Louis named Janna Añonuevo Langholz. Janna happened to be coming to Dallas to attend SMU for her MFA, and seeing that I lived here in Dallas, she reached out to me. We began talking and found that we shared a common interest in zines, so we decided that we would do a split together. We set up a tumblr (http://meetingnewpeoplezine.tumblr.com/), and began posting photos. What we found is our sensibilities meshed really well together, so the photographs are conversational in nature, where we are responding to each other's images. Then a few years later we were able to table at Dallas's first zine fest in September 2015, and then the Fort Worth Zine fest the next spring, and a repeat tabling at Dallas Zine Fest last fall. Then a tabling at Houston's Zine fest last November, and we are awaiting to see if we are going to get into Los Angeles's Zine Fest in May, plus we're coming back to Fort Worth's Zine Fest next month!
Check out more of Laidrice Stevensons work on his website.