The 27 Frames Interview

Photo: Jimmy Wilson
Photo: Jimmy Wilson

Matt Titone is a blessing from the creative heavens. While most of us are working hard on making better scrambled eggs and trying to stay asleep at work, Sir Titone is cooking up creative series like Surf Shacks (which profiles individuals in and from the surf industry at their unique homes) and now, 27 Frames—a collective photo series that sends disposable cameras to some of the best photographers, and aspiring creative eyes, in the business.

With 27 Frames and all of its participants set to take over the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles next Thursday, I caught up with Matt to pick his brain about bringing together some of the most talented names in (surf) photography, having them shoot an entire roll of photos on the cheapest cameras money can buy and if those who enjoy his creative series can expect a volume two in the near future.

How many folks are featured in the 27 Frames series, and what was your initial vision in deciding who to reach out to and setting creative parameters?

There are about 30 different photographers featured in the series — it’s hard to say at this point exactly though, since so many cameras are still out there with folks or got lost in the mail! We started by sending 10 cameras out to photographers we know and really dig, then as more people started to find out about the series, we’d have photographers coming out of the woodwork wanting us to send them cameras too.

Photo: Jason Baffa

Photo: Jason Baffa

The initial vision was pretty funny actually. We were seeing so many brands and media outlets doing “Instagram takeovers” by photographers and we always thought they were interesting. Then we had the idea to send people disposable cameras as our version of that Instagram takeover trend. We just thought it’d be funny to see what the pros shot on, like, the crappiest, cheapest film cameras out there, as well as hear the stories that went along with that process.

Much to the disappointment of many photographers involved, it was very important for us to develop the rolls ourselves and show every single frame of the roll unedited in each feature. In this instant, digital age, we really miss the process of shooting film and being surprised by the results. A lot of the photographers were really bummed on how a lot of their shots came out and didn’t want to share them all publicly, but hey, that’s the beauty of film!

The premiere on Thursday is taking place at the Think Tank gallery in LA with a little reception, silent auction, afterparty and ~7 hard beverage sponsors. I’m sure you hyped for the whole thing to come together, but which one small thing could happen at the event that would make you most stoked?

Yeah, it is shaping up to be an awesome event, we are definitely really excited! For me, I just hope we are able to sell as many pieces as possible and raise a lot of money for Surfrider Foundation. 100 percent of all sales in the show will go to Surfrider, and they could really use all the donations they can get these days (especially knowing the values of the upcoming president and his party’s position on environmental issues).

There are 88 framed (24×36” + 20×28”) prints from some really great photographers in the silent auction, so it would really be special to have a sold out show.

Photo: Laura Austin

Photo: Laura Austin

Disposable cameras—something your dad likely purchased last minute on a family trip to Disney World in 1991, or that your super budget, 74 year old aunt used to capture your baptism with. And yet, they seem to be making one hell of a resurgence lately—along with film in general. Why do you think these outdated devices are being met with enthusiasm by contemporary photographers?

Digital is so great and easy these days — it’s obviously the industry standard, but I think people just find film photography to be more charming or precious. It’s like an art form at this point and people also like a challenge.

On another note, I once read a quote from one of the Google co-founders about how this (younger) generation is in jeopardy of their lives essentially being erased since everything is documented digitally — all we do is shoot photos on our smart phones and back things up on the cloud or social media. Whereas film is tangible—it exists in the physical world. It won’t spontaneously be deleted in the event of a random solar flare or a server going down.

This isn’t a fair question, but which photographer’s roll did you enjoy the most? Who surprised you?

I think that is a totally fair question and I have no problem answering it. My personal favorite roll in the series was from Scott Soens. Other favorites of mine were from Will Adler, Grant Ellis, Sinziana Velicescu, Jeff Johnson, Mark McInnis and Jimmy Wilson.

Photo: Grant Ellis

Photo: Grant Ellis

There were definitely a few surprises along the way. For instance, I sort of assumed that people were going to shoot subject matter that they were known for and in a style that they were known for, but that was not the case at all. To cite a couple more specific surprises though; there were some dick shots and “dudie nudies” in a couple rolls, which I was not expecting to see!

Second unfair question. What was your favorite photo that came out of the entire series and why?

That’s a tough one. I generally like all the really simple, clean and graphic shots that came out of the series, but I would have to say the breaking wave from Scott Soens’ roll is my favorite if I had to pick one image.

3A

Photo: Scott Soen

As surfers, we are so used to seeing barrel shots, but this one is so raw and so real, it really puts you in the moment and reminds you of being there out in the water on a bright, sunny day, about to go under a fast breaking wave. I’m just in awe of what some of these guys were able to capture in one shot with a disposable camera and this image is a perfect example of one of those great spontaneous moments caught on film.

Are there any lost rolls on this project—ones that the photographer accidentally let slip off the side of a boat, or that USPS wrongly sent to an address in the other Venice?

Unfortunately the USPS really failed us on this project and several cameras were lost in the mail. It’s really sad. Other than the good ol’ postal service dropping the ball, Bjorn Iooss left his camera in Fiji, the TSA confiscated one that we sent Cyrus Sutton, then the other one we sent him was stolen.

Another funny story — we thought that a really big batch of cameras were lost in the mail like so many others, but it turned out the Mexican restaurant down the street had like seven of them just sitting behind the counter, so strange.

Dexter's Camera.

Dylan Gordan, Dexter’s Camera. Photo: Kenny Hurtado

Were there any photographers you want to put on wax for not getting back about being involved? Maybe some folks you’d like to line up in the event of 27 Frames doing a volume two?

There are so many photographers we would have loved to include in this series. Some we didn’t include because it just got to be too close to the show — and we also didn’t want to over-work our friends at Dexter’s Camera! And some who declined, not because they didn’t like the idea, but because they didn’t want to put images out there that were shot on a crappy disposable camera and unedited. I can totally respect and appreciate that.

For those who were involved though, we are so stoked that they participated in the project and I think most of them had a lot of fun with it — and in some cases it even inspired them to shoot more film after. I don’t know if we will keep the project going or not in the future, right now we just want to get through the show and see how it goes!

If you’re in the LA area or enjoy buying plane tickets to attend memorable events on a whim, RSVP to the 27 Frames event here.