For Los Angeles, based photographer Henry J Keith III, photography comes naturally. He always carried a camera around his neck, to record, understand, and immortalize the world around him. When the Black Lives Matter movement started in May 2020, amidst a pandemic, Henry didn't think twice before hitting the streets to photograph the protests. By photographing what was unfolding in front of his eyes with some Berlin Kino Black and White ISO 400 he was recording History.
Hello Henry! First off, can you tell us how you got into photography, especially analog photography?
In 2015 after moving to LA some friends did a photoshoot with my wife and it left an impression on me. I started photographing everything with my phone then a year later
I bought a DSLR. Around the same time I bought a digital camera, a friend gave me a 35 mm film camera and I was hooked. In 2017 I decided to quit my job and returned to school to study photography and art. My community college had a really good photo department that trained us in analog photography.
Why do you still shoot film?
The aspect of shooting film helps me feel the creative control I need. With film, from start to finish, the photograph is made rather than taken. Also, ending up with something tangible is really gratifying.
Where do you usually draw inspiration from?
My inspiration just comes from everyday life and the nature of how things are constantly changing, which prompts me to document.
What’s your favorite film/camera to shoot with?
I love black and white film, I haven’t found a favorite yet, I'm currently testing out a few different stocks. I can say the same in terms of cameras also, I honestly just enjoy whichever one i’m using. For the sake of the question, if I had to choose one film and camera to use it would be Ilford HP5 and a Canon P rangefinder.
When did you decide to start shooting the protests?
I tend to shoot a lot and as I was in the mist of working on documenting when COVID-19 protests also began. There was never any focused decision to photograph protests I just reacted normally to the times.
Why was it important to for you to shoot the protests, especially on film?
For me it's important to document the protests because its history in the making, as a Black man, I wanted to reflect where my people are, and many of my photography
role models had done the same in the past. Film is just a medium that helps me stay connected without being distracted by instant results. Also with so much happening, while out shooting I’m rarely able to emotionally process what's happening. With film, I'm left with something tangible which allows me to process on a deeper level emotionally and physically once a print is made.
What do you think the role of photography is in such historic times?
Making photographs in historical times is a tool, with this tool we are able to make change, document the present, and bring light to things that may have been overlooked.
How did a day of you shooting go by?
Generally, I tend to always have a camera with me, sometimes I have a destination of where I want to start but many times I will follow my curiosity and allow that to lead
me to the photographs I make.
From the pictures you shot and developed, do you have a favorite one? Can you tell us the story behind it?
I really like the photograph I made at BLM’s 7th-anniversary rally in Downtown LA. The man is a street vendor with his little grill (a grill I also have). He had burgers, links, and hot dogs going. I like the sign he had and in the backdrop you see shirts for sale at the rally. All these things just really caught my attention.
Are you working on some bigger project we should be on the lookout for in the near future?
My hopes are to create a photo-book with some personal work I have been making since 2017.