Story 114: Dave Bischoff

What is your backstory?

I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. Growing up I loved art and drawing but didn’t get into photography until my early 20s. Shortly after getting a SLR I discovered street photography. I consider myself an introvert who desperately wants to be an extrovert so I saw it as a means to be social without actually socializing. Living so close to the city allowed me to take the train downtown nearly every weekend and explore, hoping to be the next Winogrand. I enjoyed the process but never truly liked anything I came away with. It’s only been in the last few years by exploring the American road trip that I’ve become comfortable with my photographs.

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What camera gear/editing setup do you use?

I use a mix of Fujifilm and Leica cameras with 35/50mm lenses.

Most of my recent work is made with a Fuji GFX 50R; A Small Town being shot entirely on it. I struggled for a long time trying to find a digital camera that doesn’t get in the way. Mirrorless can almost feel like cheating since what you see in the EVF is what you get but the ease of use has allowed me to focus more on subject and composition.

For film I use a Leica M3 and M6 loaded with Tri-X that I develop in HC-110 and scan at home on a Plustek 8200i. I prefer a rangefinder since they’re compact and allow me to react in a way that other cameras don’t. The world outlined by framelines is a different experience than looking through a lens. I’m not influenced by what the lens sees, only what my eyes do.

My approach to editing with digital and film is that “less is more” so I’ll only make minor adjustments to levels, brightness and contrast in Photoshop.

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How do you achieve the look of your photographs and could you take us through the process?

I prefer soft light but since the majority of my work is done on road trips I’m left using what light is available to me. I’ve come to realize that there’s no such thing as bad light, only challenging light. I typically go out alone and hop from one town to the next while avoiding major highways. The back roads are quiet and full of the forgotten. When composing I try to remove anything that would indicate time and place.

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Could you tell us the backstory of some of yours photographs?

A Small Town on its surface is what the title implies but subconsciously for me it has become more about the idea of running away. Even if it’s only for a fleeting moment, I think that everyone has had a time where they’ve romanticized the thought of starting a new life.

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What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

The internet is an amazing tool for discovery but social media can at times be an echo chamber. Trust yourself instead of chasing likes. If you have the means, invest in photo books and visit exhibitions. Study and view photography tangibly in a way that the photographer intended their work to be seen.

Also a quote from Henry Wessel also comes to mind:

If you let some time go by before considering work that you have done, you move toward a more objective position in judging it. The pleasure of the subjective, physical experience in the world is a more distant memory and less influential.”

There were times where I would shoot, develop and scan in the same day. Or with digital I’d unload the memory cards the moment I got home. The process is exciting but detaching that initial emotion from the result will allow you to view your work objectively.

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Dave Bischoff

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