James Harr Bio

James-Tri-x I am a photographic hobbyist. By training, I am an analytical biochemist and scientific information specialist. So while my professional life is consumed with analysis and computer screens, my artistic life is one of film emulsions, old cameras and existing light.

I got interested in photography when a friend of my father's took me on a day trip out to the back roads of Montana. Shooting rusting tractors and dilapidated barns was completely unexpectedly infectious. From that point on, I considered my dad's Nikkormat FTn my own and lacking any kind of flash unit, I explored existing light, fast films, and tripods for the better part of 2 decades. I eventually got a good Nikon F80 and a Nikon D70 and eventually a Nikon D7000. The world of digital photos was like easy money. I snapped away at anything that reflected photons and filled discs and drives with piles of photos that should have just been deleted.

One day a friend of mine asked me about a "Holga". I had heard the name, but that was about all I knew about it. I went into full research mode and a week later I had one. I had to work hard to get used to the soft, usually out of focus images after the snappy perfection of the D7000. But there was something comforting about the film and holding the negatives up to the light. I was once again hooked by the analog monster. I was shooting freakin' Tri-X again for cryin' out loud!

I soon grew weary of waiting to get negs and scans back from "the lab". I love to DIY and with a minimum of Googling, I discovered Caffenol. Kitchen chemistry appeals to my scientific education and this was like magic! I dug out my old Paterson daylight developing tank and developed my first roll of b/w film in well over 20 years. That kept me high for a year or so, but color processing was calling my name. By this time I had a '70's Yashica Mat 124G TLR and a 1939 Voigtländer Bessa, both medium format cameras that take beautiful photos. Not tack sharp like a Hassy or Pentax, but beautiful in their own characteristic ways. I enjoy these cameras, but something was missing. It was surface area. So I tracked down a good deal on 'the bay' and got a well-equipped Graflex Speed Graphic press camera (c. 1951). I am still in the process of learning the technique of this camera, but it sure makes nice big negatives.

Photography for me is something I strive at. It is not relaxing to me like it is for some others. I agonize over most of my images. I hate them, I love them, I re-shoot and throw them across the room then pick them up and gently put them into sleeves to be treasured. I enjoy photography the way I enjoy food that is just a touch too spicy. I sweat and cry and keep eating, enjoying every moment of the experience.