Over the last several days we’ve had the pleasure of chatting with the wonderful and talented Ben Macintosh (@figment_hf). He is incredibly kind and humble and his mood-filled style of editing has mesmerized us for quite some time. The depth and darkness he adds to many of his edits remains fairly consistent while each photo tells a different and detailed story. So we spoke to him about these things and many others and we’ve compiled the conversation here to share with all of you!
I'm Ben Macintosh, a photographer and aspiring film maker from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK. I was born and raised here in the middle of the Peak District National Park and would spend a lot of time as a child in the great outdoors with my Dad, rock climbing, caving and hiking. It's probably where my love of nature and landscapes was born. I never had a camera as a kid and wasn't really aware of photography aside from school photos and disposable camera holiday snaps. But I do remember my Dad having a camera. It was an old Olympus OM-10 that he picked up in 1979. He recently dug it out of the attic and I've been shooting with it quite a lot recently. There's just something about the look and feel of film. I think imperfections are what makes something unique or interesting. Which is why I use Mextures so often. It's an amazing way to give your images their own character.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO INSTAGRAM
Well I downloaded Instagram shortly after it was released. I think I'd played with Hipstamatic a little before and I liked how the filters got rid of that cold 'digital point and shoot' look. I'd just moved down to Bristol and having a new city to explore went hand in hand with discovering photography itself. My early pictures were very average; food, friends, seagulls, etc.
I ended up taking a break from Instagram for around a year or so. I got back into it when I moved back to Sheffield and discovered all the endless editing possibilities. People like @erratum, @nevandoyledesign, @c_grizz and @oliviermorisse introduced me to a whole new dimension of creativity.
I think I originally got hooked on taking photos because I had always wanted to make films, but it's a very laborious and costly undertaking. The iPhone camera allowed me to make at least a single frame of a film.
My favorite film director, and also one of my favorite photographers, Andrei Tarkovsky (his book of Polaroids: 'Instant Light' is fantastic), said that he always liked to use some classical music in his films as he felt that cinema as a medium was too young to have any real sense of timelessness. I think apps like Mextures help to give that sense of timelessness and authenticity to digital photography.
YOU HAVE A DISTINCT TONE AND TEMPERATURE TO YOUR EDITS. WHAT DOES YOUR EDITING PROCESS TYPICALLY LOOK LIKE?
It's fairly random and organic. I do a lot of my more complicated editing (slicing buildings up, etc) in ArtStudio. But if it's just a regular edit then I'll get the image technically okay - exposure, contrast and cropping - in an app like Snapseed. Since I got a DSLR which came with a copy of Lightroom, I've been using that a lot on my Canon shots and sending them over to my iPhone afterwards.
I like to make scenes darker, colder and often foggy or obscure. The human eye only has a very small point of focus - right in the middle - so I like to manipulate that by using selective blurring to draw the eyes to where I want them. I'd describe my pictures as distorted memories as opposed to documents.
I use Mextures an awful lot because you can really create infinite moods with all of the overlays and tools. I love to strip away that digital sheen and give the images some real texture and character.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO USE MEXTURES?
My favourite use of Mextures is for texture and mood and what I'd call character. I love how the Exclusion and Difference settings can burn and fade parts of the image and that really helps with how I like to structure or guide the way they are perceived.
The texture effects in mextures can almost give images the appearance of having been printed on vellum or drift wood. As far as mood, the light leaks are really authentic when used in the right scenes and some of the grit and grains create a convincing snow effect. So you can literally change the seasons.
I love the Difference and Exclusion blend modes, especially with the grit and grain. If you have blurred areas on your image the sharpness of the grains can really add a sense of depth to the scene and it forms a great juxtaposition.
WHAT ARE YOUR THREE FAVORITE MEXTURES OVERLAYS?
If I had to choose just three I'd say a bit of Franklin blended in Darken, Seattle blended Exclusion and a touch of 120mm blended in Difference!
WHAT IS IT THAT KEEPS YOU INTERESTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND INSTAGRAM?
Well photography itself is a difficult one. I think we all have a problem with things ending or dying and pictures help to freeze and immortalize moments. Well composed images with nice tones and subjects are like brain food for my eyes to eat. For me, great photography is genuinely therapeutic and it has some kind of healing properties.
Instagram has turned photography into a kind of video game, like how Facebook and Twitter turned life into video games. You create a character, 'Likes' are points, 'Followers' are levels and 'Comments' are like Easter Eggs. Getting featured on large accounts is like finding a secret area full of loot or winning a some kind of in game tournament.
There is a form of basic 'Skinner box' manipulation at play that triggers releases of dopamine and other reward chemicals, but unlike actual games that employ these methods, like 'Epic Candy Saga 9', Instagram drives us to create lasting images that exist outside of the code and algorithms. Images that people exhibit in galleries and homes around the world.
But I think the most important and captivating aspect of Instagram is the people you meet. It is unlikely that all your real life friends will share your passion for photography and photo editing, but Instagram allows you to form close nit communities with like minded and creative people from every corner of earth. Once you know your way around the app you start to see it as a bunch of little villages and large cities. Bustling hubs and small fringe tribes.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH WITH INSTAGRAM?
When I first got Instagram it was just a fun new app with some nice inbuilt filters and I had about four followers who were all my friends. I want to do more freelance photography and film making work and of course having a large social media base can help with that. But I think ultimately it's about being inspired by the ingenuity and ever evolving creativity of the community. From photographers and designers to app developers and bloggers. It's been amazing to see the complexity of mobile photography and editing over just the last couple of years, as well as how blurred the line has become between 'Phones' and 'Cameras'.
People used to think that they couldn't do something like photography because of how expensive the equipment and software can be. But on Instagram I saw some remarkable images that had been taken with, and edited on, the same phone that was in my pocket and with apps that cost less than a sandwich. You literally have no excuse not to.
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE INFLUENCED YOUR IMAGERY THE MOST?
Without a doubt my biggest Instagram influence was @leahminium. She was really kind and encouraging when I was new and her posts made me think about photo editing in completely new ways. About tones, contrast, depth and composition. I was lucky to meet her when she was in England and she was nice enough to show me what the buttons on my camera do as she has the same one.
People like @twistdee were also very influential and supportive. When she was moderating for RSA Graphics she would do crazy cool edits! And these days her work is insanely professional and creative. I'm sure she'll go really far.
People like @tichacadabra and @oliviermorisse have been great influences and also very supportive. @tichacadabra's beautiful, calming images and @oliviermorisse's mind bending mirror and orb edits were inspiring.
There are so many more. @c_grizz with his crazy cool and original edits and Mextures formulas, @omerika with her insane photoshop skills and tones, @postaljeff with his portraits, @dorjan_ the forest fog Lord, @springheather with her animals and flowers and @pickledgoose's droplet macros. I could go on forever!
See more of Ben’s amazing work at @figment_hf!