Tyler Bervy is one of those rare multi-disciplinary photographers that I simply have to respect. Equally capable with a 35mm film camera as he is with a digital camera, as he is with large format, as he is with a wet plate collodion process, as he is with platinum palladium printing; the sheer breadth of his ability is stunning. And then there are the photos.
With an enviable ability to make an excellent photograph no doubt helped along by his keen eye for light, he (seemingly) makes beautiful photo after beautiful photo. We wanted to show you a few of those photos and chat with Tyler about his process. So, here’s that.
Hi Tyler. Please introduce yourself.
My name is Tyler Bervy, I am thirty years old and currently live in New York State, two hours north of New York City. Thank you for the interview!
When did you start shooting? What’s your favorite camera, and why do you love it? What type of film do you use, and why?
My obsession with photography began a little over four years ago now. While I did have cameras prior, the catalyst for my obsession was developing my first roll of black and white film and discovery of the analog process. Very quickly after that experience I found my way into a darkroom and began printing. This led to reading or watching anything I could find on the process.
In the relatively short time I have been shooting, I’ve been very fortunate to have used a a lot of different cameras, as well as experiment with various formats from 35mm up to 8×10.
My favorite camera, and the one that goes with me everywhere, is my Leica M. It is the camera that feels perfect in my hand, produces the results I want, beautifully made and extremely reliable. These traits are not special to a Leica, there are others that could provide the aforementioned but the primary reason I chose the M was because it simply makes me happy and always inspires me to go out and shoot.
When I have the opportunity to really slow down and take my time at a scene or with a subject, I will set up my 8×10 field camera. Large format is such a departure from 35mm for me, it requires me change my whole approach. It is a challenge, one that is both very frustrating and very fulfilling, but I believe helps expand my photographic vision.
For film, I go back and forth between Kodak Tri-X and Ilford HP5 depending on the subject, conditions and my mood at the time. Regardless of the film choice, my preferred developer is HC-110, dilution B. I also really like Kodak 5222 (Double-X), TMax 100. My sheet film preferences are FP4 or HP5. If I have a lot of time, and energy, I will shoot Wet Plate Collodion to make Tintypes or Ambrotypes. Wet Plate is an added challenge, to put me out of my comfort zone, and furthers what shooting large format provides. Which is an exercise that allows me to expand the way I see. An added benefit is the astonishment I feel each time I watch a plate come to life in the fixer and staring at the incredible tonal depth collodion produces.
What are your favorite subjects, and why?
Anything and everything. Photography gave me the capacity to be truly present, to notice the subtleties and perceive what has always been in front of my eyes but I have never truly seen.
If I had to choose one subject, I am going to cheat and say that it would be light. I usually share landscapes on social media and my site, but I enjoy photographing anything that catches my eye. My photographic path began with a strong need to document my life and the people and places in it. Whether it be a breakfast place setting on a white tablecloth with light coming from a window, the soft diffused light of a foggy landscape or the harsh mid-day sun creating defined shapes with shadows on a narrow street in a city, or a studio portrait of my girlfriend lit with strobes, all fascinates me, especially when I travel and experience the subtle nuances of light in a new place.
When I lived in Montana, the evening light in the winter was overwhelming in its power. The snow-covered fields stretching out in the distance, sheer magnitude of the Rockies and the enormous sky would be filled with cool tones of blues, purples and oranges. When I moved back to New York, the morning light was enchanting, especially in the summer and fall. As the humidity fluctuates after a storm, the temperature changes and a fog engulfs the landscape, diffusing the sun into a warm, soft light. While in Italy last month, I was captivated by the ancient architecture, narrow streets, medieval doorways, and beautiful people. All were bathed in the warm glow of the Tuscan sun.
Why do you shoot film? Do you also shoot digital? What do you think are the important differences between film and digital?
The process of each significantly different. I shoot film because of my love for the darkroom and dislike of using a computer. I do not believe one is better than the other, both can produce stunning images, and both can produce not so stunning ones. The results come from the individual photographer. Which recording medium is the better fit will depend on an individual’s personality and preferences.
While the majority of my images are shot on film (90%+), I will shoot with a digital camera when the situation calls for it. Then, if I want to create a print in the darkroom, I use an inkjet printer to create a negative on transparency film and make a platinum palladium print.
While the above is an enjoyable process for me, nothing compares to spending hours or days in a darkroom making silver gelatin prints. It is a magnificent and meditative experience. Ultimately, the act of making and creating a handmade print is what I love. When the red light turns on and there is my favorite music playing through the speakers, I lose track of time and reality in re-creating the scenes through my prints. [Editor note – this is a true point and one that our writer Cory Miller has dived into in a series of articles. See them here.]
What would you say is unique about your work and how do you achieve your results?
My first thought, and the easy answer, is that my work is inherently unique because of the experiences I’ve had; my likes, dislikes and influences. However, after contemplating the question a bit longer, I do not believe I can answer. It is a subjective question and what makes my work unique to me may not be what makes it unique to someone else.
By shooting everyday, learning as much as possible, and continually experimenting. I look at photography like a puzzle I will never solve completely. Always working on it but never finished.
I also “fail” a lot, but these failures are viewed as trials to the final result. Sometimes there will not be a single image on a roll of film I like, others may have only 3-5 or possibly 6-7 frames I want to print. Regardless, the frames I do not print were never a waste, they were part of a conversation I was having with a subject, scene or place. By exploring different angles, exposures, distance from the subject, or returning to a place over and over again, the results are more satisfying.
Where do you hope your photography goes from here?
As I mentioned in a prior question, the darkroom is the main reason why I shoot film, so an ongoing goal is to continue to improve my printing.
I also want to work on my photographic storytelling and incorporate more of a narrative into the sequencing of my images which will hopefully result in sequencing a book of a project I am currently working on. The first is a series of images shot on a recent trip to Italy, and the other is an ongoing long-term project with images shot near where I live in New York.
I also want to begin planning a portrait series. Portraiture is an area of photography I do not shoot often but want to start experimenting more. My hope is it will put me out of my comfort zone and in the process, I will learn something new.
Do you have any advice for new photographers?
Asking questions is the key to learning, and when starting out questions are not in short supply. Regardless of the complexity, I always take a few minutes and type my question into google, or look it up in a book, to see what I can find on my own. Usually, I either find my answer or find out how I can solve my problem to get to the answer. In addition, I will learn something new or get inspiration from researching a topic. It is not my intention with this advice to discourage asking questions, rather the opposite. Ask questions frequently but be open to the possibility of multiple solutions which can lead to more questions. Experiment with the solutions you find and be patient if the desired results are not achieved instantly.