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10 Questions with RayKo Instructor
Erika Gentry

Posted by Shawn Tamaribuchi on 11/1/2012 to interviews

1) What was the first camera you owned and do you still shoot with it?

I absconded with my mother's Pentax, with aperture priority mode – an amazing upgrade at the time. My father also had a K1000 with a lot of lenses. That was the benefit of having divorced parents – more lenses to choose from! My father recently sent me that camera and I keep it because it's sentimental. Later, when I graduated high school I put all my savings down on the latest and greatest Nikon 8008 with its then super fast auto focus. I remember the clerks at the suburban mall camera shop were kind of surprised when a 17-year-old female teen whiped out $600 in cash for that camera. Or maybe it was me - perhaps I remember being shocked! In any case, that's the camera that shows the most use and I still love it today. My friends and I spent a lot of time fashioning 80s outfits and utilizing the 9 multi-exposure capability of that camera. I plan on keeping those photos in the closet btw….

2) What's in your main camera: Film or Memory Card?

That's really hard because I'm split between shooting medium format film and DSLR. I also have an old Graphlex 4x5 that I bought and had reconditioned that I love. I have to say though, I recently checked out a Phase One back from Bear Images in Palo Alto. They have some older Phase One backs that are cheaper to lease than their newer 80MP backs. I rented a 30MP back for a summer artist residency and I fashioned it to my ole 501C Hassleblad camera. I have always loved the image quality of the Hassy lenses and that gorgeous shallow depth. If I could have anything, all the time, for keeps it would be that back for the Hassy. Wanna help? Great! You can donate to my equipment fund at erikagentry.com click on the piggy bank and then maybe I’ll let you use it too !

3) If you had access to any photographic equipment you wanted for a day, what would you choose?

I would choose to own the 80Mp back from the guys from Bear Images. I keep mentioning them not because they pay me, but because they are very kind. They came in recently and did a demonstration for our CCSF students. The images are sharp, beautiful and amazing. I know that the new Nikon DSLR rivals medium format – but I sure love the optics of the Hassleblad. Feel free to throw in a broncolor lighting kit too!

Do you want the Ferrari one (Hassy)?

Sure – why not! The Ferrari one. There's also a Hermes Leica which would be fun to have that I saw in Paris – très cher mais chique!

4) What classes are you teaching?

At RayKo I teach Lightroom Level 1, Lightroom Level 2, and a San Francisco Gallery excursions class where we visit local galleries and go behind the scenes. I also teach a Digital Master Printing class were we go over advanced Photoshop techniques for output to the large format printers at RayKo. The goal is that you can come in and use the printers yourself on a rental basis after you are done with the class. In the past, which may or may not rerun, I've taught Exposure Merge Techniques which includes HDR and panoramic shooting, as well as a Digital Printing Master class Level 2 which is an open lab to come in to get help with work in process. I've also taught the Digital Negative to Silver Gelatin Image class in the past.

5) What are the top reasons someone should take your class, what makes it unique from similar classes out there?

The staff at RayKo have a passion for photography and the equipment is great. I started teaching in 1996 - so in addition to being somebody that is accomplished in photography, processing and production, I am also a skilled and practiced teacher and education provider. I understand how to teach the material as well as how to use it. I also value creative process and ideas as much as well honed technique so encouraging others to blend those two is a wonderful challenge.

6) What was the last art opening you went to?

I go a lot to galleries and museums. Aside from seeing the work, I like to go to the members' previews at the SFMOMA because it's a fun social networking event. I also like to go to Arles, France every summer for the Recontres d' Arles to see new emerging artists and I take students with me as I design photography workshops in France. Honestly, the last opening I went to was at the Obscura Gallery at City College of San Francisco when one of our students opened a show last week.

7) What part of RayKo's facilities do you use the most?

I use the lighting studio the most because I gave up my home studio space. I also use the darkroom occasionally to print from digital negatives and the Epson 11880 to print mural sized images. The print finishing area is great too because I don't have space at home to trim large prints so I like to do that here at Rayko.

8) Bought any good photo books lately?

The last photo book I bought was from a Photo Alliance Lecture by Emmet Gowin. I bought one of his classics as well as his new book Mariposas Nocturnas – Edith in Panama, which is quite a departure from his earlier work but lovely. I also really enjoyed meeting him and talking with him at the book signing – a very kind man. I also just received In the Darkroom – An Illustrated Guide to Photographic Processes before the Digital Age in the mail to reference in my History of Photography class. I collect signed artists books and on November 10th Chris McCaw and Doug Rickard are having a book signing at the Stephen Wirtz Gallery so I’ll go pick up books there too. It’s an addiction really.

9) Recent work that has caught your eye?

I saw the Partners In Surrealism show at the Legion of Honor, which was a beautiful and intimate display of the artistic conversations and life long friendship between Man Ray and Lee Miller. It was surprisingly touching and good. This week - I am really looking forward to seeing the Idris Khan show at the Fraenkel Gallery because I admire his work so much. He mixes analog silver output and digital layering techniques and the results are really stunning.

10) What are you currently working on and where can we see it?

I am currently working on printing a series that I did over the summer called “Ritratto Gratis”or “Free Portrait”. I will have them on display in Assisi, Italy at an International Invitational in December and two here at RayKo for the Student / Instructor Show. I am also excited to start photographing a new portraiture project soon and am currently in the informational gathering stage. I’m hoping my sabbatical next Spring will be very fruitful as well.
 Feel free to visit Erika’s website to see samples of her work, her students works, reviews, video tutorials and more! www.erikagentry.com

Series: Ritratto Gratis. The concept “Ritratto Gratis”or “Free Portrait” is not a new one among artists but one I felt was fitting for the historical town of Assisi, Italy and inspired from the following quote from St. Francis of Assisi. “Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that have received–only what you have given.” — St. Francis of Assisi


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