We love when people are passionate about their ONA, and even more so when they decide to share their experience with others. When we stumbled across Ivan Apfel’s review of the Union Street Camera and Laptop Messenger Bag, we were thrilled to see how well he was putting the Union Street to work as a wedding and portrait photographer in Miami. Ivan’s first photography job was documenting crime scenes and shooting surveillance photos, which is a far cry from his current gig of capturing couples and families in love–but it’s clear that this man’s true love is taking photos.
Ivan carries the Union Street Messenger Bag in Ranger Tan.
ONA: How did you get into photography?
IA: Art had always been the subject I enjoyed the most in school. Maybe because it was the class I always did really well in. In 10th grade I went to a new school in Colorado that offered photography as one of the art electives. Seeing this was something I had never tried before, I thought it would be a great change from the years of ceramics, painting, drawing, etc. To be honest, I was pretty intimidated going into it. After looking at the film-developing reel and reading that I would need to perfectly load the film onto it in complete darkness, I was convinced the camera would be the easy part. I think it wasn’t until about my tenth attempt that I had my first one where the whole roll was reeled perfectly. I sat there holding the reel over my head, photo flo dripping on my face, looking through the film in the ceiling light as I unrolled it and I was totally hooked right then and there. 25 years later (not a typo!) and I am still just as hooked.
IA: This might sound odd, but I am currently still shooting with my Nikon D300 and FujiFilm S5 Pro. Mostly for the same reasons I shot with my Nikon F3 even while most people were shooting with the F5, which is that the D300 is a solid workhorse that shoots beautiful images. And being a very “light” on the shutter button photographer, my D300 probably has as many frame actuations on it as some have on their D800. As for the S5 Pro, well, the tonalities and colors are so darn pretty I just can’t get rid of it. However, I am currently getting ready to move up to the D4.
As for my “go to” lens, I have two. 70 percent of the time you will see my 35mm 2.0 on my camera. Having spent most of my career as a documentary photographer, I find this to be the perfect street photography lens. Sharp as can be, great perspective, great low and bright light lens and super light. Even when shooting weddings, I use this lens to shoot all the getting ready shots. My second “go to” is my 17-55mm 2.8. For shooting the ceremony, reception and many of the portraits, this lens is the ultimate workhorse.
ONA: What sort of project drives your creativity? Follow Up: What is your dream project?
IA: Life. Well, life and human interaction. How they interact with the world around them, other people, the ones they love… all of it.
As for my dream project, I was really influenced by the works created by Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans on the FSA Photography Project during the Great Depression. I would love to travel the country hitting all the same key communities they documented and photograph what has become of those communities and farms. A bonus would be being able to locate some of their original subjects’ descendants in the same communities and shooting their portraits as well.
ONA: What is the hardest thing about being a photographer?
IA: Not sure I would saying anything is hard about it, but the most challenging aspect would be continuing to grow while not being swayed by trends. Even though I have been shooting for 25 years, I still believe in striving to shoot a better image tomorrow than the one I shot today. I see so many people attempting to make their work fit with the current trends of shooting and retouching. To me that is counter productive. If you are constantly changing styles, how can you ever excel at any one in particular? Or even, for that matter, know who you are as a photographer?
IA: Wow, that’s like asking a woman what their perfect man is. Almost impossible to put into words. I guess I would say organic and natural while completely controlled. I try to capture people in a way that reflects who they are and capture events the way they happen. As for the control part, I am one of those photographers that the P, A and S are wasted buttons. Honestly, I wouldn’t know how to use them. I am most comfortable shooting 100% manual. I like the control.
IA: The moment you stop shooting based on what people like and begin shooting based on what you like is the moment you start shooting your best work.
ONA: How did you hear about us?
IA: Took me forever to find you guys! I never go anywhere without my camera. For years I would use a smaller Domke bag but they sort of stick out and are useless for carrying anything other than camera gear. I wanted something I could go to meetings with, travel with, use for engagement sessions where I only shoot with one body, two lenses, a flash and that’s it. I looked at tons of shoulder bags but they all seemed either too small, too feminine, or their hardware did not look sturdy enough to trust my gear in. Then I found your products and fell in love with the Union Street.