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Featured artist: Evan Baines

Tim Gilbert

Sorry, we forgot to update the links in the photos for Tim Williams interview:


Editor's note: this is the first of our series highlighting various artists. Rather than focusing on the typical technical details, our goal to explore their philosophies and motivations.


Evan Baines is a former professional photographer who now pursues photography purely for the passion. He served as an enlisted US Army Medic in 5th Special Forces Group and is now a US Army Physician.

He works mostly with black and white film. His projects include a military portrait project, a documentary project on American food culture, and a series on the making of military physicians.

He has won multiple regional, national and international awards for photography in diverse disciplines including advertising, wedding, and portrait photography. He has published one limited edition monograph, entitled "Bushmaster.” He will be displayed in the upcoming “Gregory Harris Selects” exhibition as part of of the Atlanta Celebrates Photography festival, juried by one of the photo curators from the High Museum.

You can find his blog/website here:

He agreed to sacrifice some of his free time to answer our somewhat random questions:

The shot of the tree by on the coast really caught our attention. Do you shoot a lot of long exposures or was this a new experiment?
I’ve been spending some time recently studying Wynn Bullock (, and this prompted me to pull out my neutral density filters. I enjoy long exposure photography every now and again, although it's not a primary focus of mine. It's an interesting technique for the toolkit, but I try not to define my style by a particular technique.

Are these part of a series or larger project?
These are not part of any series yet.

How do you “find” your photos?
I have a few different photo series that I’m constantly looking for opportunities to expand, and those are defined by subject matter about which I have a particular interest or unusual access. Other subject matter I will take by opportunity, and often view those other shots as “practice” for my primary projects. I have very limited time these days as I work as an ER resident physician, so sometimes I just have to take what opportunities arise on my rare days off.

Why do you shoot large format? Why shoot film at all?
Mostly because it's fun. Over the years I’ve come up with all kinds of pretentious justifications and gotten involved in various analog/digital arguments, but in recent years I’ve just decided that I enjoy analog photography more. I suspect that part of the reason is that it's more difficult and requires more skill. I think we value things proportionately to the effort put in, and so I feel more special about an image that I know required a higher degree of craftsmanship to produce.

So while I think fantastic results can be produced with any medium, the challenge of analog makes me feel better about my results, and these days I’m the only one I need to please. Specifically with regards to large format, I love the control the view camera gives me, and I love the tonality and detail the large negatives produce. I got into large format for my urban landscape work, but more recently I’ve become enamored of the discipline it enforces on my portrait work.

What other formats do you shoot? Do you have a favorite?
I shoot everything from 35mm to 4x5, and it really just depends on the subject matter which I prefer.

Have you had any, shall we say challenges, explaining your photographic endeavors to friends and family?
My wife is very supportive of my photo habit. The only issue I’ve ever run into is that she’s not a fan of me putting my head under a dark-cloth in strange surroundings. We visited Egypt a few years ago, right after their revolution, and I was *ahem* discouraged from bringing the view camera.

Obligatory technical questions:

  • Favorite camera? Probably my Leica M6, since it's the only camera I’ve ever bought twice
  • Favorite lens? My 50mm Summilux Asph
  • Favorite film? Probably Tri-X, but honorable mention to FP4+

How long ago was your photon-capturing addiction first diagnosed?
During the mid 2000s or so.

How did you learn photography? Formal training, mentor, on your own…
I was trained by the Army to use a camera, but most of my serious training was all self-taught. I collect photo monographs and have spent a lot of time studying and attempting to emulate great photographers.

If you could have dinner with any artist in history, who would it be?
I’m going to go with Yousuf Karsh ( I would love to ask him how a refugee from a genocide chose to show the world the best in people with his work. I also think he would just be a pleasant person with whom to have dinner based on my readings about him. He was a lovely conversationalist by all accounts.

Is there a deeper goal to your portraits or do you just like photographing people?

I like to describe my goal as a certain degree of invisibility of style. I used to do advertising and retail work with lots of showy lighting and stylistic flourishes, but these days my goal is to subordinate any techniques I’ve used in the portrait to the subject matter. If I can make every compositional, posing, lighting, technical decision based upon how I view the subject and how I want the viewer to see the subject, then I’ve succeeded. If the first thing a viewer sees in one of my portraits is a lighting technique or some other technical aspect of the shot, I’ve failed.

Most often I find myself considering “what is the purpose of this portrait” or “who is my intended audience here.” Sometimes I think it might make my portraits appear boring to outsiders, but it's amazing to me how difficult it can be to do simple well.

I’ll also say that an underlying ambition of mine is to parcel out what principles of portraiture are timeless and which are dictated by fashion, trends, and current social dictates. For instance, the evolution of the Rembrandt pattern is endlessly fascinating to me: how did we go from Rembrandt painting dark-eyed broad-lit patterns to the currently accepted definition of a Rembrandt pattern which is typically short-lit and with bright eyes? Is the manner Rembrandt painted so many of his subjects obsolete now, since many photographers would consider it “poor lighting?” Somehow I doubt that this is the case.

What makes a photo "great"?
An interesting and well-articulated perspective makes a photo great. Images that become “great” show us something interesting, or something mundane in an interesting way, but they show it from a new perspective. They force us to see the subject matter in a different manner from what we might expect or from what we have become accustomed. It might not even be that we see the subject as the photographer originally intended, but we see things differently than we did before viewing the image.

I would also argue that it's exceedingly difficult and unusual for a single photograph to become truly "great" in isolation, and in those cases it is almost always due more to the subject matter than to the photographer. From the standpoint of art, a photograph almost always becomes great in the context of a body of work that can be used to interpret the single image. Anyone could have taken many of the single frames from Frank’s "The Americans," it's when we look at each image in the context of the body of work that we discover their unique genius.

What new accessory/innovation does the large format film world need?
There are lots of things I’d love to see brought back. I’m sad about New55’s recent troubles and would love to see someone figure out the pods they require to keep producing and improving their product. I miss rapid-loads, as they are more convenient on the road.

I’d love to see a true spot meter app or attachment for my iPhone, since I keep meaning to buy a true spot meter again but the good ones tend to be so expensive, and it's one more thing to carry. Seems like it would be little effort, especially with the new iPhone with the longer lens.

If you could take an all expenses paid two week photo-safari to anywhere, where would you go?
I think probably Patagonia. I love the images I’ve seen from that part of the world.

What is the most challenging aspect of shooting film?
I’m a control freak by nature, and not being able to “chimp” and not being able to fuss at things in Photoshop forces me to give up some control.

Does your interest in photography impact/affect other aspects of your life?
I try to use it as a refuge these days: an opportunity to create some work-life balance. It uses different brain muscles than the ones I use in the ER, mostly.

If you were limited to shooting only one film (brand, ISO etc) for the rest of your life, what film would it be?
I’m going to go with HP5+. I use that alternately with Tri-X, but HP5 is available in all formats and I love it for my large format portraits as much as on my Leica. Maximum flexibility.

Do you print in a traditional darkroom?
I’m going to give a shout out to my friend and collaborator Robert Cavalli at He is a genius and has been printing my work for a decade or so now, and almost makes me look like I know what I’m doing. I have fiddled about in darkrooms from time to time, but as I move a lot I haven’t really been able to make one for myself and really dedicate to the art of printing. Robert’s prints are simply fantastic, and I work with him closely to discuss my vision for each shot.

What's your favorite recipe for processing film?
I’m a big DD-X fan. I love FP4+ rated around 50-80, and HP5+ at box speed. Stock dilution. Nothing fancy.

Which of your photos is your favorite?

I love my portraits of my wife, because at the end of the day subject matter trumps all.

Do you have a particular method of calculating exposure? For example, are you an ardent proponent of the zone system or do you just use the “sunny sixteen rule”?
It depends on whether I’m working ambient or if I’m doing lit portraits. I’m mostly using an incident meter, sometimes augmented with my reflected meter app on my iPhone. I used to do a full zone system but am lacking a spot meter at the moment.

As a medical professional: is there a cure for Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS)?
While some therapies may help manage this condition, it's typically chronic and follows a cycle of relapses and remissions. My prescription is typically to consider buying a good photographic book to study instead of a new piece of gear, which is both cost effective and will likely improve one’s work more.

Our marketing department wants to know how you discovered our SP-445?
A friend of mine linked it on Facebook, and I funded the campaign. I’ve been very happy with it and consider it a significant improvement from my BTZS tubes I’d used in the past.


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