By Katherine Stephens
Gordon College New Service
February 5, 2014
IPSWICH—Boston born photographer Michael Hintlian fell in love with photography at age eleven while standing on a stool peering at a roll of Kodak Plus-X Pan film soaking in the kitchen sink. His father was performing a regular ritual as a photography enthusiast in 1963, developing a single roll of film, but Christmas, somebody’s birthday, Easter and the Fourth of July were on that roll—nine months in 36 pictures.
“When he pulled those negatives out of the water, my life ended,” said Hintlian. “That image and that connection with something. That was the fix.”
Raised eight miles out of Boston in Winchester, Hintlian spent many hours in his high school’s dark room. But he knew early on that newspaper photography did not appeal to him and wanted more from the medium, which the School of Museum of Fine Arts in Boston provided for him.
Now, four decades later, his work has returned to another college. As an Ipswich-based artist, Hintlian’s photos of Guatemala are currently in an exhibit in the Gallery at Barrington Center for the Arts at Gordon College in Wenham. The exhibit, “21st c. Monochrome: New Works in Black and White Photography,” includes Hintlian’s work along side nine other area artists, and runs through March 8.
“I respond to the things I see,” said Hintlian. “I just drove to the mall and back with my wife, and I’m sitting in the passenger seat taking pictures out of the car, or I’ll walk down to the post office and shoot a whole roll of film.”
Hintlian goes back and forth between digital and film photography, seeing the benefits in both. It is rare to see color photos in Hintlian’s work. In fact, he has only shot one color project throughout his whole career, “No Transfer: Pictures from Public Transportation,” an ongoing project he began five years ago.
“This project was originally going to be black and white, but a voice in my head kept nagging me to do color,” said Hintlian. “As soon as I think I know my path, it shifts.”
Hintlian took a brief hiatus from Boston and moved to New York City in the mid-1970s, where he paid rent by working as a third class rigor at a shipyard, took random day jobs, and experimented with fashion photography. He returned to Massachusetts in 1980 and moved to Ipswich where he and his wife have lived for 25 years.
But no matter where he’s located, Hintlian is always aware of his surroundings.
“It’s critical for photographers to constantly respond to the stimulus around them,” said Hintlian. “You need to allow this. Photography is inclusive not exclusive.”
Hintlian calls himself a street photographer and is drawn to commissions in this genre. On his own accord and through grants and self-funding, he took nine different trips to the Soviet Union for a photography project and an extended trip to Africa, spending most of his time in Kenya. Hintlian also became a teacher at the New England School of Photography in Boston, and began teaching a workshop with colleagues in Antigua, Guatemala, which are part of the current exhibit.
“I’m not a wealthy man. I’m somebody who survives by guile and a commitment to my work,” said Hintlian. “And I don’t usually have an agenda. I locate how I feel first in a place and then I begin to shoot.”
It has never been easy point and shoot work for him, though. In fact, for seven years Hintlian snuck onto the work site of the Big Dig, Boston’s central artery project. He’d arrive at five in the morning with rolls of film and a flash hidden in his vest, wanting to photograph “where the work and the workers met.” Hintlian shot 4,000 rolls of film, each roll with 36 exposures— approximately 1400 pictures—out of which 60 were good and are now featured in his published book, Digging.
“That’s what photography’s all about, failing, and you do it a lot,” said Hintlian. “But it’s also generous. If the picture you made doesn’t work, you get to try again, even though you still go through your own emotions about failing and not connecting.”
For more information on Michael Hintlian’s work onwww.hintlian.com or on Facebook, Instagram, VSCOCAM, and Twitter.
IF YOU GO:
Exhibit: “21st Century Monochrome: New Works in Black and White Photography”
Where: The Gallery at Barrington Center for the Arts, 255 Grapevine Road, Wenham.
When: Monday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. until March 8, 2014.
Free and open to the public.