By Regan Reeck
Austin Cupach answered the phone with a simple “what’s up?” his voice was relaxed and he often finished his sentences with a soft laugh. Correcting the pronunciation of his last name, he explains it’s phonetically pronounced with a Q rather than a hard C.
A senior majoring in studio arts, Cupach originally never intended on going to college. He is currently in his fifth year at Cleveland State and admits that waiting until his junior year to declare his major, might have set him back. Regardless of the slight setback in scheduling, Cupach’s interest in photography has been a constant throughout his life, pushing him to go to school and pursue a career in photography.
“I’ve always had a love for images. Even when I was a little kid I would look at photo books and even with books in general I would be more interested in the images than in the writing,” Cupach said. “I wasn’t going to go for the college route and I kind of had a change of heart my senior year of high school and decided to go for something that I wanted to do.”
He works with both analogous and digital formats, regularly using four cameras – including a Canon 6D, Sony A7 and Canon AE-1, but his first camera was what he describes as a basic Nikon and was bought when he was eighteen. Prior to a class he took on black and white photography at Cleveland State he was never exposed to the techniques of developing film and working in a dark room. As he worked and refined his skills he found himself preferring the process and the resulting images.
“I have this funny notion with myself that I want pictures when I’m older because our generation just has these snapshots on our iPhones and stuff like that, who’s to say that technology will be around in the future?” Cupach said. “I just want all these old negatives to look back on, like I can with my family.”
After a stint of exploring abandoned buildings and capturing the faces of many of the homeless throughout the Cleveland area, Cupach has shifted his attention. In his meanderings he takes note of potential locations and focuses his camera on shots of the suburbs and classic cars of Cleveland.
“I prefer to go back at one or two in the morning just because I don’t like to be bothered or have someone wonder what I’m doing,” Cupach said.
Drawing inspiration from American photographer Gregory Crewdson who captures tableaus (staged scenes) of American suburbia, and two Instagram photographers Josh Sinn and Patrick Joust, who use medium format cameras to shoot urban Baltimore — Cupach strives to capture scenes that confuse the eye and make the viewer question his images.
By shooting in the middle of the night, he captures images rarely seen by the general population. The long exposures giving a surreal effect, his photos made distinct by with clean lines, tight shots and sharp contrast. Though he usually works with digital for both class and personal projects, he wishes he had the time and money to use his Mamiya c330, a medium format camera that has only 12 potential exposures per roll of film.
“There’s a quality about them (medium format cameras), that even though it’s 30, 40 year old technology, it captures something that my digital cameras just don’t,” Cupach said.
While he mentions a potential desire of traveling for work, he hopes to develop his career in the area near his family and girlfriend Claire, an Art Therapy major at Ursuline. Despite what he views as an often negative view of Ohio, he remarks on the diversity of the area in terms of geography.
“I just like how underdog [Cleveland] is, you feel [good] about being from here,” Cupach said. “I don’t think people realize how cool of an area it is”
To see more of Austin’s work check out his instagram @ austin_cupach.