This month we are featuring the extraordinary work of photographer, Abelardo Morell. Abelardo’s work is featured in several publications including a photographic illustration of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1998) by Dutton Children’s Books; A Camera in a Room (1995) by Smithsonian Press; A Book of Books (2002) and Camera Obscura (2004) by Bulfinch Press; Abelardo Morell (2005) published by Phaidon Press; The Universe Next Door (2013) published by The Art Institute of Chicago; Tent-Camera (2018) published by Nazraeli Press; and Flowers for Lisa (2018) published by Abrams Books.
Describe your approach to photography— What makes your work unique?
It’s hard to say what makes a good image but I think it has to do with honesty, invention, and surprise.
What inspires you? Who are your influences?
Hundreds of things and people influence me—photographers, painters, sculptors, musicians, thinkers…often my inspiration comes from being in a quiet place where I can look and think undisturbed.
Can you think of the first time you realized the camera you owned was holding you back?
In 1986 when my son, Brady, was born I started to use my Mamiya 6×7 camera to photograph details of his toys—soon I discovered that I needed a larger format to get very close and to get a better resolution so I got a Sinar 4×5 camera.
Describe why you chose to shoot Phase One Medium Format.
One of my signature techniques since 1991 has been making photographs inside rooms that I converted into Camera Obscuras. My exposures with film were very long, as long as 8 hours sometimes. In 2010 I started using a 20 MP Phase One camera because it allowed me to bring down the Camera Obscura exposures to minutes.
Tell us about one of the photos you’ve provided. You can describe the technical choices you made or the journey you took leading up to the photo or a combination of both.
One of my inventions is something I call Tent/Camera, where I use a periscope that sticks out of the darkened tent. The optics of the periscope brings in an image of the outside which is projected on the ground with whatever is there. In this picture made on a rooftop in New York, I put some old wooden slats which received a view of the Empire State Building. My Phase One 150 MP camera is also inside the tent aimed toward the floor to capture the blending of the landscape and ground.
As weird as this picture is, it is completely the image that was there for us to see. I like working this way…ending up with a strange picture that uses pretty straight methods.
If you had to do a project using the bare minimum of equipment, what would you bring?
My Phase One 150 MP camera with the Schneider 4-5.6 / 75-150mm LS Zoom Lens-One lens can do a lot! I also own the Schneider 40mm-80mm Zoom, 120mm Macro, and 240mm Telephoto lens—they are all impressive lenses.
What’s the most interesting/surprising/invaluable thing you keep in your equipment bag?
A level and trail mix.
What is one thing you wish you knew when starting out?
That I was in it for the long run.
Do you have a “passion project” that you enjoy working on in your free time?
I tend to become pretty passionate (maybe obsessed) about every new project I start.
What was your most difficult project?
They are all difficult, that is, making good pictures!
What’s your favorite activity or hobby outside of photography that you’ve experienced recently?
I have recently sat down and watched all 53 of Alfred Hitchcock’s Movies.