I discovered the photography of Brian Henry while visiting urban exploration forums and his instant film skills inspired me to buy my own instant camera. It was a packfilm camera I called Eddie and helped me launch #BelieveInFilm. I am so happy he was willing to answer a few of my questions.
Can you tell me a little about yourself and what is in your camera bag?
I’m a self-taught photographer exploring abandoned places, fears, the body, mortality, intimacy, storytelling and the medium of photography itself. I try my best to portray subjects as I see them using various photographic techniques as a way to achieve my vision. This means that depending on the subject, my camera bag will change often. However, my most-used cameras are my Pentax 6×7, Polaroid SX-70, Polaroid Spectra and Polaroid 110a.
I discovered your photography while browsing UER and I remember being captivated by the way you capture abandoned spaces with instant film. What do you love about instant film?
Thank you so much! I love that it’s such an intimate medium. I love that the image is the negative, chemistry and print all in one. I love that it becomes almost a souvenir of my travels. I love that it’s an analogue color process that isn’t flat and lifeless like a digital or perfectly processed color negative or slide.
Do you have a specific camera or film stock that inspires you?
These days, I’m primarily using Ilford HP5 film for all of my monochrome work. Occasionally, I try other black and white films only to be unhappy with the quality, especially how it feels in my hands when I’m loading the film into my enlarger. There are a couple film types that I will cherish and miss dearly. The beloved Polaroid Time-Zero film, Polaroid Fade to Black and ID-UV/669. The characteristics and colors of those films are so sentimental that it’s safe to bet that anything you shoot with them can become beautiful.
You were in the first show at the Impossible Project’s NYC space. What was that like?
It made me feel a lot of things! The most exciting was seeing several of my friends from Europe that I had just visited the year prior where I heard rumors of them saving the last Polaroid Integral Factory in The Netherlands. At the time, it seemed purely insane and then they actually achieved the impossible! On top of all of this, I was encouraged to use an experimental film prototype to create images to be on display among many great artists! It was a surreal experience to have instant film highlighted so prominently and be surrounded with people who did not want to see the medium disappear. I’ll never forget it!
What draws you to places like abandoned hospitals and homes?
I’m not entirely sure to be honest. I believe it comes from curiosity as a child. I loved running away, finding new places in the forests and going into abandoned places along the way.Even though these places leave me with a lot of questions, there is still this sense of nostalgia. It’s like taking a break from our present lives and escaping to these timeless scenes. I enjoy continuing to tap into the curiosity I’ve had with me a child and still love the thrill that comes with it.
Do you have a favorite location?
I feel like every time I claim that a place is my favorite, it ends up getting demolished or vandalized. For that reason, I’m just going to say no! Ha! I will say that I prefer places that are remote and that involve a good hike to get to. I live in Baltimore where there are blocks and blocks of vacant buildings, but I still prefer to venture out to places that are more isolated.
I love how your include cool props like skulls and the occasional dismembered hands. What is it about those items that you like?
Many of the items are things that I’ve collected either from places that are going to be destroyed, or through my job as an oddities store owner. I’m always seeking out items that have a lot of questions behind them. I have a love and appreciation for uncommon objects.
Do you have an online store where we can buy prints or a Patreon we can support?
Yes! I just reopened my online shop with tons of original Polaroid and silver gelatin works.www.instantdecay.com I also maintain my Patreon page where you can see full series and receive a monthly print for as little as $15/month.www.patreon.com/instantdecay