Justino Blake embodies Lomography's first Golden Rule “Take your camera everywhere you go.” We're just glad that he takes it to heart to bring his camera because his photographs are some of the most beautiful we've ever seen. All of his adventures are captured in 35 mm and 120 vignettes and they can fuel the fire of adventure and wanderlust in any traveler.
What's more inspiring about Justino is that he does everything for the love of it. Not for the fame, the money or the recognition. He's one of those types that finds beauty in the moment he's in even if he is trapped in a thunderstorm with only a leaking tent as his shelter. In this interview, he shows us a page from his visual diary.
Hi, Justino and welcome to the Magazine! What do you do and what got you started in your photographic career?
Thanks, glad to be here! I’ve worked all kinds of jobs to sustain my travels, but the last job I was really stoked on was working as a guide on the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage that spiderwebs its many routes across Europe to the lovely city of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain.
And I just take pictures for fun really. I wouldn’t call it a career but you could say I got started when my grandfather gave me a camera and I began to shoot photographs with him. His passion is what really got me going.
How would you define photography? What is your favorite thing about it?
I’d say my favorite thing about photography is the strength of emotion a photograph can inspire. I love to return to photos from years ago, to remember how we felt, the adventures we undertook, the people we loved and the people we once were. This mixture of nostalgia and wanderlust and love and wonder is pretty powerful. It’s like a mouthful of bourbon that burns all the way down, or like the crackling static electricity of a sweater hot from the dryer as you pull the soft fabric over and around you, and you are insulated from the cold and comforted.
Why pick photography as your creative outlet?
I think I’d take pictures regardless because I want to remember all the beautiful moments I’m lucky enough to experience, but why not have fun with it you know?
In this day and age, what makes you stay with film?
The process feels so much more substantial and rewarding. With a digital camera, you can shoot as many photographs as you like and because you know you can return to them later to pick and choose the “best” ones, you just keep shooting. And because you’re always shooting, you never have time to appreciate the moment. Whereas with film you’re limited to the number of photos on a roll. And film is not cheap — far from it. Plus you can only carry so much in your pack if, for example, you’re summiting a mountain, which means that each image is infinitely more valuable. So you have to take your time and be present, ya gotta pay attention, and I think you get more out of the experience this way.
How does shooting with film affect your work?
Besides the fact that everything looks at least five, nay, seven billion times better on film, I love the room for experimentation which film provides. You can use battered old cameras that let in crazy light leaks, soak film in seawater, shoot film which expired decades prior, and cross-process — experiments like these mean that you’re never 100% sure what the end result is going to look like. Sometimes the result is absolutely incredible. Sometimes the result is absolute shit. (Hahaha) There are always imperfections and I like this, it feels a bit more true to life.
Your travel shots are mesmerizing. What was your favorite location?
We imagine that there was a lot of hiking and climbing involved in the making of your re: mountains series. Was it worth it?
Sure. There’s nothing quite like considering from a mountain summit the earth flowing down into milky oceans of cool clouds which slosh back and forth like bathwater. Some peaks are easier than others sure, but no peak is without physical challenge, no peak unearned, and to appreciate such beauty after so much striving — the pride, exultation, wonder, exhaustion, all the feelings swirl into a great endless WOW which stretches as far as the eye can see. It’s kind of like a distillation of that feeling at the end of a feel-good cookie-cutter movie when everything works out for the protagonist despite seemingly insurmountable odds and although it’s so predictable and you saw it coming a mile away you smile anyway and reach in the darkness for the person beside you. Definitely worth it.
What's the most unforgettable moment that you encountered in your travels?
People often ask this question of long-term travelers and it’s a difficult question because there are so many unforgettable moments. Getting caught in an unpredicted monsoon storm which forced a bivouac on the side of an active volcano, turning a relatively easy ascent/descent of a few hours into a solid 18 hours, that was pretty unforgettable. But I think that the most unforgettable of all is the warm and beautiful relationships forged along the way — it’s the people you meet along the way who give meaning to your travels and make the moments unforgettable.
We love how you pick your shots. Your composition really makes the view stand out. How do you know if it's the right time to hit the shutter?
I couldn’t say, it’s just intuition and luck really. I try to get to pretty places around sunrise or sunset, that usually leads to some killer results.
What do you think matters more — talent or skill?
I don’t know, I don’t think either is very important. I’d say what matters most is that you enjoy what you are doing.
Any upcoming trips or projects down the road? Please share them with our readers.
I’m currently exploring Australia, working jobs here and there along the way to keep petrol in the tank — hoping to make it to Tasmania by September.
What does a perfect day look like for Justino Blake?
It doesn’t get much better than a day at the beach with friends — sunshine and blue skies, good waves at some uncrowded point break, bbq and brewskies at sunset, telling stories and jamming around a bonfire, enjoying perhaps one too many and howling gleefully like a bunch of lunatics as we sprint naked into the moonlit sea, then finally crawling into a sleeping bag with a lovely lady to keep one another warm, something along those lines.
Lastly, what would be your advice to aspiring photographers?