My camera of choice is a large-format, 8”x 10” film camera, and it is truly a cumbersome piece of equipment. Sometimes, it can take up to an hour to create a single photograph. But the camera’s inherent slowness isn’t a disadvantage to me; it’s an advantage. In setting up for a shoot, I have time to consider the narrative behind the image. I get to slow down and think.
My work is all about documenting community. Past series like Bell Pond, The Mall Series, and my ongoing Dinner Series, are all about capturing the intricacies and nuances of different kinds of communities. And of course, community often includes my own family. With Dad, a 20-year project ending with my father’s death in 2009, documents his battle with Alzheimer’s, and ultimately, his debilitating decline to the disease.
8”x 10” large-format, 2002, © Stephen DiRado
8”x 10” large-format, 2012, © Stephen DiRado
Galleria Police, Saturday Morning
8”x 10” large-format, 1986, © Stephen DiRado
Gene, Nursing Home
8”x 10” large-format, 2005, © Stephen DiRado
Bell Pond: Cheryl, Jamie, Michael
8”x 10” large-format, 1983, © Stephen DiRado
To me, Showing was a both a project in and of itself, and also a continuation of my other work. I’ve been photographing the community on Martha’s Vineyard since 1987—starting with my family and friends, and later, beachgoers, architecture, and even the night sky. Documenting Emily, a farmer living on the island, was a continuation of that process.
It is always a challenge to document somebody in the midst of their work. I have to be sensitive to not disrupt their activity, which is no easy task when you’re using a camera designed for studio work and grandiose landscapes. Emily asked me to follow her while she fed her goats. It was magic unfolding right in front of my eyes. I set up my camera as quickly as I could. Emily helped out by throwing hay towards my camera—the goats followed. Miraculously, it all came together, Emily pausing to look towards the lens, the goats beautifully framed. I triggered my shutter, exposing one frame.
I shot more that day, but sometimes you just know that the first frame was the magic one.