[Above: not Chase. See full photo credits at end.]
Whenever I conduct interviews, I always ask the interviewee if there’s anything especially important that they haven’t said yet. Chase Hart (better known as @myfridayfilms* on Instagram) just wrote one sentence: “I’m only a love letter away.” Though it may or may not have been a reference to a Voxtrot song from 2005, the sentence still reminded me of the overall mood of his 35mm fashion photographs: perfectly constructed in a seemingly offhand way, entrancing, and beautifully open-ended.
Hart grew up in South Lake Tahoe, a mountain town in northeastern California on the Nevada border near various internationally-renowned ski areas. “A lot of the people from my hometown are or were pro snowboarders,” he said, “and that circle [was] really art-driven.” From a relatively early age, he continued, he was “surrounded by older kids with good tastes in art and film.” The intersection of art, film, and snowboarding led him to start shooting full-length videos of his friends and other snowboarders on the mountain.
* “What’s the origin of that?” I asked him.
—“I love the Cure, like a lot.”
Along the way, he began to experiment with film, specifically the Super 8 format. This led him, at the age of fourteen, to start shooting black and white still photographs, which he was able to develop and print in a community college darkroom. Film quickly became his preferred format, as it is today. “I see things better with a film camera,” he wrote. “When you shoot digital, it’s ninety percent post work. When you shoot film, it’s the opposite; it’s done.” He uses 1990s Nikon autofocus SLRs (“they’re cheap and work super well,” he said) and a variety of film stocks, most recently Kodak Gold, which he said works especially well in bright sunlight.
Though Hart settled on film thirteen years ago, he stuck to black and white for a while. Much of his work during that period depicted cities he travelled to, and was influenced by the French photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson. He still developed his film in community-college darkrooms, this time by signing up for photo classes but never coming to lectures. He recalled that there were five different classes, each of which could be taken a total of three times. He failed all of them due to lack of attendance, which he still doesn’t regret; he added, “I got fifteen quarters’ worth of darkroom use, and the classes were literally $50.”
Eventually, though, Hart began to gravitate towards fashion and editorial photography on color film, the style he is known for today. The transition was not deliberate, he said; “it just happened and I like it.” He now cites Tamara Lichtenstein (particularly her “colors and the way she sees humans”) and his girlfriend Abby VanSteenberghe, a highly accomplished model in her own right, as his greatest influences. VanSteenberghe often features in the photographs he posts on Instagram, photographs Hart said are often taken “on a whim,” either in Portland or while traveling. “She’s beautiful and creative,” he said, adding that “[having] someone around that you can explore and create with…makes things so effortless.”
And Hart’s creative instincts and impulses have served him well, artistically and professionally. Within the last two years, Hart’s photographs and editorial shoots have been published in b-authentique and Nakid Magazine. He’s shot for catalogs and look books for companies like Penn Boot Co. and Elemental Jewelry. He has upwards of 29,000 Instagram followers (he doesn’t recall when he joined, though he suggested it was probably quite a while ago). Despite all of this, Hart doesn’t consider photography a full-time job.
“I don’t use photography to make a living,” he said. “It’s just fun for me. Not much of a career going.” As far as his editorials in magazines are concerned, Hart wrote that he shoots whatever he wants and occasionally picks magazines he likes and submits to them, rather than explicitly tailoring shoots to fit one magazine’s aesthetic. Indeed, I would call Hart a consummate amateur if the word didn’t carry the unfortunate connotation of lazy mediocrity; his photographs are neither. The word comes from a Latin verb meaning “to love,” and originally referred to someone who creates art out of love for it: that is, the same reason why Hart keeps doing what he does.
Many, many thanks to Allegra Messina for introducing me to Chase’s work.
FULL PHOTO CREDITS (top to bottom):