“Photography has changed the way I see everything from the less obvious beauty of simple moments to the epic landscapes across the US.” – Jakob Lilja-Ruiz
Jakob Lilja-Ruiz is a US-based photographer, whose stunning, color-rich images demonstrate the profound potential of analog photography.
From the very first glance, his compositions grab your attention. The interplay of light, tone, and form imbues scenes with a powerful sense of allure, inducing a palpable sense of wanderlust.
Despite starting his career using a digital SLR, Jakob’s switch to film photography proved transformative. The process slowed him down, and in his own words, galvanized him to “focus on capturing feelings rather than sharpness”. He was so enamored with analog photography, that shortly after, he quit his job and sold all of his digital camera equipment, so that he could spend the summer on the road, shooting as much film as he could get his hands on.
The Canon AE-1 paired with a 28mm became his ‘workhorse’, and remains his 35mm setup of choice today.
‘From commercial work to long backpacking trips; the canon has checked off every box for me. I believe it takes years to fully memorize your camera until it feels like second nature.’
As he ventured further into his analog journey he also began experimenting with medium format. The Mamiya 7 is his preferred camera of choice, thanks to its dynamic range and subtle focus.
Like many great photographers before him, Jakob is drawn to the open road. his images depict the landscapes, motels, and subtle details of life in the United States, conveying the essence of the American road trip, a subject that has gripped so many artists across different mediums for generations.
At times, his images evoke the work of early color pioneers like Eggleston, Shore, and Meyerowitz, and as a lover of art history, Jakob says he draws inspiration from the medium’s greats.
Meyerowitz is a particular influence, the American’s mastery of light and appreciation of tone were vital in establishing photography as an art form, and are traits that remain key tenets of Jakob’s practice. Yet he also finds inspiration from more modern sources, like contemporary Joe Greer, and more importantly, the close friends with whom he surrounds himself day to day.
“I currently live in a house of 5 photographers all pursuing their passion side by side and I couldn’t imagine a more inspiring environment to work in.
This not only gave me a good outlet and second pair of eyes on my work but made me emotional invest in art outside my own. This made my life a constant pursuit from sunrise to sunset all focused on figuring out what it means to be a photographer.”
The warmth, atmosphere, and vivid yet authentic tones of Jakob’s imagery are thanks to his mastery of the analog format and would be difficult to attain digitally. Like his predecessors, he puts great value on the darkroom process, asserting that, “the decisions you make while exposing film gives it its color palette and dynamic range.”
At the heart of his work, Jakob seeks to save special moments. His subtle, beautiful compositions demonstrate the relevance of analog photography, displaying its incredible potential to capture the essence of the world around us.
All images © Jakob Lilja-Ruiz