For Stuart Dance, photography is a saving grace

"My name is Stuart Dance and I am from Raleigh, NC.  I am a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts and have been involved with the arts since an early age.  I grew up with a darkroom in our house and first began shooting on a Pentax K1000 (which I still use from time to time) and simple, homemade pinhole cameras.  I find myself primary using a Rolleiflex 2.8D these days, along with a Graflex Graphic35, a Lomography Super Sampler, and a Canon IIs2 ...but I have an extremely large collection of cameras dating back to the early 1900's, which I rotate in and out of use. 

Photography has been a saving grace in my life.  I've struggled with crippling alcoholism for the past 15 years.  I have literally been on the streets, homeless, broken and lost many times, but somehow always had a camera.  Photography has always been there for me.  It's the one creative light that has always led me back to finding the self that I thought I had destroyed and forever forgotten.  Photography validated my existence through the years that I thought I had no one and almost literally had nothing.  

Today I am sober and shoot almost everyday.  It's a mindful reminder of the brevity of life and the importance of the moment.  I am grateful beyond words for what a simple photograph can do for me.

To see more of my photos and my camera collection, my Instagram is @stuartdance."

Website is

ALTER/ANALOG: What processes were used to create these photos?

SD: Well, I own several bulk film loaders and about half a refrigerator of expired film.  My father is an artist who never throws anything out. I grew up with a darkroom in the home, so I learned to spool my own film and develop at an early age. A few years ago I picked up a Pentax 6x7 for him which meant I inherited all his expired 35mm film. Typically everything is a c-41 process, and I own a JOBO rotary processor (you can luck out and find these things on craigslist or eBay for fairly decent prices).  I love being refined and clean in my work, but I can also be really sloppy and impatient with processing which sometimes works in my favor.

I keep a fairly tight photo journal when shooting. Photography is an exercise in mindfulness.  This means frame by frame accounts of what I am doing with each roll. It’s not uncommon for me run the same roll through different cameras.  Results vary, destroying many rolls of film…but occasionally a frame with emerge that is very pleasing.

I shoot with several 35mm and 120mm cameras.  My 2.8d Rollieflex is a favorite, but I also use a Graflex Graphic35, a Pentax K1000, the Lomography super sampler, a Lubitel 166b, a Canon IIs2, a few LandCameras and several others from my shelves.

ALTER/ANALOG:  Anyone who follows your Instagram knows you have a huge collection of cameras.  How many do you have?

SD: Hundreds. Dating back to 1897. I think what surprises many, particularly those not into photography, is that it is not an expensive hobby. Many cost me twenty bucks or less. Anyhow, perhaps collecting cameras was born out of that early analog introduction through Dad. Each camera is a different machine. So, it is exciting when a camera arrives or I find one at a yard sale or estate auction. Then the experience of learning that camera and seeing what it may do or can do differently is the real fun. The character, quality, inflection and feel of a photo can be different contingent on the camera. Obviously, one cannot stroll the streets with seven suitcases full of cameras, so choices are made to embark on an adventure with one or two. But with some of the finished work, you see that you wish that you brought another camera instead. Subsequent to lomography, you can stack on the rending, materials and processes in the darkroom. You twist the Rubik’s cube and learn old cameras in ways they were not known before. I can be really careful and clean in my process, but I also enjoy absolutely destroying traditional approaches to producing a photo. The combination of all these things is the fun. So is taking old cameras apart and fixing them so they work again. Acclimating to each old camera may be akin to learning a different instrument or repairing and rebuilding a life.  For me it begins with an unwan