He works in black and white, explaining to Vogue: ‘There are emotional notes that black and white can deliver that colour cannot. It is a different medium. It’s like silent film. You know, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin delivered some moments where they killed you. They just absolutely killed you. It’s not going to happen like that again with sound’.
Steinmetz photographs serendipitous moments of beauty, rarely knowing his subjects of his photos – he sometimes asks them to repeat a gesture he saw them making .
In another interview, he argues: ‘Black-and-white has more stillness to it, you can be absorbed into it in a different way. You have to employ your poetic imagination. With colour, I just have an argument! Is the green really this green, or is that the green of Kodak? I’m more interested in the narrative, the human, the interior depth of what I’m photographing – I don’t want to be distracted by bright red outerwear’
He also prizes film over digital. ‘With digital, people take pictures endlessly without being selective, and don’t learn to discipline their minds. It’s important to take an internal pause while you photograph. Time is actually malleable … Be aware of how many frames you have left and stay conscious. That’s how you’ll walk away with the photo in hand.
Steinmetz works in a darkroom in his home. ‘The darkroom is where I really confront what I’ve been doing, whether I have been successful or not and whether making a print is worth the effort. Doing darkroom work yourself helps you to become a better editor of your work, which helps you be a better photographer.
'Today’s world is so fast-paced … that in comparison, darkroom work seems to be an alien relic from an ancient world’
I don’t begin a project with an agenda,’ he has said. ‘It begins with a faint vision – one of those whispers on a breeze – that somehow gets a grip on me.'