Episode 3 - Joshua Stein
By Storm Simpson
Sight is recorded by photography, a silent medium that is one of only two ways we have managed to record our five basic senses, according to Sara Knelman. The other is sound. These senses help us navigate and perceive the world.
The inventions that allowed us to reproduce these perceptions — the photograph and phonograph — unlocked a vastness of creativity that persists to this day. “…their fundamental operations are by definition inaccessible to the other,” wrote Knelman. “Sound is invisible, still images silent.” And yet, they overlap.
Many of us are able to hear sounds when looking at a still photograph even if they only exist in our head — the bustle of the city in a street scene; the roar of waves crashing in a seascape— just as we’re able to visualise the music we listen to and imagine fully formed people behind the disembodied voices we hear on the radio. Sight and sound, one evokes the other.
Cape Town-based photographer, Joshua Stein’s work straddles the worlds of photography and music and most of his subject matter emerges from this overlapping interest. “I am really inspired by other artists in a wide variety of mediums,” said Stein. “I am really into music and so I have done a lot of photography revolving around that.”
Stein documents the live gigs of bands in Cape Town and beyond on his Instagram page —@been.scene — and in many photographs that show guitarists bent over their instruments or singers with bulging neck veins, the music and atmosphere are palpable.
Stein started taking photographs in 2016, as part of his journalism degree at Rhodes University, where he covered the FeesMustFall protests and honed his skills as a photojournalist. Since then he has expanded his repertoire to include fashion, editorial and documentary photography.
The work of Steve McCurry and the enigmatic Vivian Maier was very important to Stein during his formative years as a photographer. He also lists Alan Schaller and Chloe Sheppard as other artists he admires.
Stein chose film because it has the perfect blend between realism and interpretation and he finds the way film interprets light and colour very appealing.
He takes lots of photographs of “everyday stuff” and believes in taking his camera wherever he goes, however, the studio is his favourite place to work because he likes “the ability to totally control a scene.”
All mediums have their advantages and disadvantages and film is no different. “The best part of film is the look. It’s totally unique and something that cannot really be recreated digitally,” he said.
“The worst part of film is without a doubt the cost,” he added, echoing the sentiments of many photographers who continue to shoot analogue despite the financial burden.
While he doesn’t have a favourite film stock, he favours consumer-grade film stocks — Kodak Gold or Ultramax — for daily use. “Portra 800 is probably my ideal film for more serious stuff. I really like it in medium format.”
In terms of cameras, Stein is kitted out with SLRs. He uses a Canon EOS-3, which is famous for its eye-controlled autofocus, and a Nikon F3 when working with 35mm film and the Pentax 67 is his go-to when working in medium format. “I love my Pentax 67’s 105mm 2.4. It definitely deserves the hype,” he said and continued that the lens is really sharp with “a beautiful character to it.”
Stein encouraged those who would like to start analogue photography to take the plunge. “Film is not as intimidating as it seems,” he said. “I think people get put off because you cannot see your shots until you get them developed which is a big jump from digital.”
“I was surprised at how it’s actually quite difficult to completely mess up a photo. As long as you learn your camera you should be fine.”