Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

Hand Cranked: A Conversation with Filmmaker Lee Krist

Academic journal article Millennium Film Journal

Hand Cranked: A Conversation with Filmmaker Lee Krist

Article excerpt

Alex MacKenzie: Maybe we can start off by discussing your body of work and how hand cranked material fits into it. Is this a natural progression from other pursuits?

Lee Krist: My use of a hand cranked camera originated in my current experimentations with making photographic emulsions. I hand process all of my films so I gradually got more and more interested in photochemistry. Having a chemistry lab at my disposal was also a big asset. But the 35mm hand crank route was a result of needing to work with a durable, large format film camera that could basically pass anything and everything through its gate. In addition to the long exposure, my hand cranked camera allowed me the technical capabilities to pursue making my own film stock.

AM: You have been making films since you were sixteen. What initially turned you on to this medium? Is your family background an artistic one?

LK: I always wanted to be a painter. I have very poor hand-eye coordination, so the fine arts were tough for me. I think what really turned me onto film as opposed to video was the fact that you could shake the camera, do stop motion and it wouldn't look as nauseating as it would on video. My family isn't artistic- good food, but no art.

AM: Are you in communication with anyone else creating their own emulsions, or is this entirely your domain?

LK: I hear bits and pieces about people doing similar things But it's mostly secondhand news. I know many people have tried it, but I am quite unaware of the extent of their photochemical achievements.

AM: Could you speak a bit more about the actual creation of film emulsion? How does that work exactly (okay, not exactly, but generally . . . )?

LK: Well, to simplify h' a11 you have t0 do is sensitize silver and have it properly suspended on a surface- something that I have yet to successfully achieve. If I were a photographer, my life would be so easy.

AM: I understand that you work at a film lab and that it was a dream of yours to pursue this. Does the content of lab contracts (commercial work) matter to you , or is it the process itself that takes precedent? How much are you keeping this job to have access to lab chemicals and how much do you really love it?

LK: I like working with film; touching it, handling it in a very inhuman way. I'm not into it for the chemical perks, it holds a special craft appeal, like I'm preparing for the future. I don't really have to deal with people or if I do, they are just students. The only troublesome things about the job are the environmental and carcinogenic elements.

AM: Your films seem very personal, intimate and fascinated by a closed system of elements. How do the subject of your films and the techniques you pursue cross-pollinate? How much is serendipity a desired and/or incidental factor in this (both the subject and the technique)?

LK: Wow! I really like the closed system of elements metaphor. It's a good euphemism for what I do. For the portrait series, the subject matter was very grounded in the technical situation that I was in. My work was previously comprised of landscape and abstract imagery. I was paralyzed by the idea of shooting on precious and time consumptive stock. So the most logical approach was to film things that were personal.

AM: I like that both the film stock and the film subject become sacred. It seems that both the technical and the conceptual spring from limitations inherent in the medium: economics, durability, etc. Do you find the limitations inspiring, even necessary?

LK: For me it's not the limitations themselves that are inspiring, but my personal response to them: the attempt to work and struggle within the confines of a specific situation and achieve personal satisfaction with the results, as if it was my original intention.

AM: How important is the necessary "in-person" element to your presentations? Is it exciting, disconcerting, primary? …

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