Reno photographer’s film portraits blend old-school with high-tech
By Paul G. White
There’s a familiar quote among photographers that says, “If you want to shoot fashion, shoot in color, but if you want to shoot emotion, shoot in black and white.”
Pete Rezac of Reno is an award-winning portrait photographer who embraces an old-school style of black and white photography.
Why choose to create black and white photographs in the era of digital cameras that are capable of accurately capturing millions upon millions of colors?
The answer, he says, is simple:
“I love the process of how film makes me work,” Rezac said, sitting in his home studio amidst a virtual sea of medium- and large-format cameras. “Large format film is easier to work with than 35mm, and it takes more time and slows you down. I put a lot more thought into it.”
Rezac was bitten by the camera bug in when he was 25 and working on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline near Valdez, AK. He enrolled in an introduction to photography class from the Prince William Sound Community College because he thought it would be ‘kind of fun.’
“If I’m being completely honest, I had no interest at all in photography,” he confessed. ‘I thought: ‘Community college. … there’s gotta be girls there!” he joked. Instead of romance, Rezac discovered his first true love, the magic of capturing light in a box to produce beautiful images.
“I thought I’d meet a girl and I didn’t,” he said. “Instead, I fell in love with this crazy craft of photography that, man, every time I see a print come to life, I mean it’s still an amazing experience to me.’ ” Five years later, he met his soul mate, Molly. They have two children and a dog.
Rezac scans his film negatives into his computer, where he works on the images in Photoshop, but he does very little editing, preferring instead to try to get the settings right in the camera instead of in post behind a computer screen.
“Film has a unique structure, another dimensionality to it. It has its own signature,” he said. He prefers film images over digital images because film better captures the essence of his subjects.
“The style I work in is black and white; the genre that I absolutely love to photograph are children,” he said. “What I strive for is something that is authentic,” he said.
His prints are bold and dramatic as well as iconic and timeless. And his work is highly regarded by his peers. He has been awarded numerous accolades from the Professional Photographers of America, a worldwide organization with more than 30,000 members.
Rezac’s work has consistently won him recognition from his peers in PPA and he shares his passion for shooting film by hosting film photo walks, workshops and lectures across the nation.
“I’m a proud member of PPA,” he said. That organization is family for me and I’ve learned so much.” He said.
Rezac’s photographs of children are reminiscent of a bygone era of the early 19th century portraits illuminated in dramatic, Rembrandt style. The light in his portraits is low key with the focus on his subjects faces, giving them a timeless appearance.
Over his career, Rezac has gradually worked his way from 35mm cameras to the larger, 120mm and even 4-inch-by-5 inch formats. He recently purchased a new 8×10 field camera.
Some of his best work is in a prestigious loan collection at the PPA. “I’m fortunate to have 10 images in there.”
Rezac is encouraged to witness a growing number of people are discovering film, a trend he says is that is very appealing to Millennials.
“There is really an interest in working in analog (film).’ He said. “You see it in typewriters, coming back, Vinyl records coming back It will never overcome digital, but people are realizing it’s another set of paintbrushes to work with.”
To see more of Pete Rezac’s portraits, visit www.peterezacphotography.com.