Not so long ago a friend introduced me to Balthazar, an imaginary sailor and pretend photographer , who writes love letters to whoever wants one. That’s right, love letters. Real letters, on paper, filled with flirty secrets in a romantic atmosphere. If you ever feel lonely or just in need of a smile, seek no further and request your letter here.
I found this particularly charming and decided to contact Balthazar and ask him some questions.
Who is Balthazar? Where did you grow up? Where you happy as a child?
Balthazar is an exploration. I grew up in a small seaside town in Massachusetts. We moved to Wisconsin when I was 11, and I’ve been here ever since. My Dad worked in a factory and wrote poetry at night; my Mom worked for the government. It’s strange to think about whether I was happy as a child. I was quiet. I missed the ocean after we moved. I’d read about Portuguese explorers and hear stories about my uncle Jack who was a captain of a ship and I’d feel saudade. I still do.
When I first heard about your Request A Letter concept I instantly had to think about the Kasabian song "Where did all the Love go". Where did you get the idea of writing those letters? Do you have a feeling that in this day and age, there is a lack of true love and romance?
Writing was my first love, and I feel that the letter is my ideal medium. I think I’m at my best writing letters. It makes me happy. And I think the letters make other people happy, too. I don’t know whether there is a lack of romance today. Not for me. When I first starting dating my partner Sonia, I would write her a letter every week. My Grandfather recently passed away and among his things were these scrapbooks he had assembled of letters, photos, etc from when he and my Grandmother were first dating. The letters are incredible. After reading them I wondered about what the next generation will have to show from when they fall in love. The text messages (probably for the better) will be gone. They will have nothing as eloquent and lovely as those letters, I imagine.
Can you tell us something about your equipment and your fascination for film? Where do you get your inspiration? And who are the people in your photos?
Part of what intrigues me about photography is that it is a conjunction of the machine and art, technology and creativity. That said, details about equipment bore me a bit. If I have any talent, anything I can hang my hat on, it’s my relentless curiosity. I’m interested in people. But to answer your question, I mostly shoot with a digital DSLR (with a 50mm prime lens), but also shoot with a few different Polaroid camera models. The Polaroid SX-70 is a gorgeous piece of equipment. It’s my favorite camera.
Polaroids are really the only film I shoot. What I love about them is they combine the instant thrill of technology with a tactile artifact. So much of our experiences now are based on the “screen” instead of objects and the tactile. Including Polaroids with my letters is my favorite thing to do. I’m sending along a one-of-a-kind piece of art, a tactile artifact that I will never be able to recreate.
I mostly shoot people I know. My girlfriend, friends, friends of friends, etc. I like to get to know people before photographing them and shooting them is itself an act of me learning about them. There are models I have shot (such as Katelan Foisy) or want to shoot (such as Nettie Harris), but it’s their stories more than their hotness that interests me.
What are your plans for the future? What do you still want to achieve? And do you have a certain goal with the letters you received?
I have no idea. I just keep following things that interest me and get me excited and I don’t think much about where it will take me. I don’t think about achievement, really. As far as intentions for the letters, for the ones I occasionally receive back from people I’ve written to, well, those I will simply cherish. The ones I send out to people I scan before putting them in the envelope so I have a record of it. I’d like to do more with books. I find them to be a perfect art medium because they require you to touch them and interact with them in a really concrete way in order to get meaning from them. Perhaps I will put together a book with my letters and Polaroids. We shall see...
Guest Post from Bjørn of Ben Trovato