Jesse Dittmar’s new book, “Overexposed,” shows his personal work shot on film during digital portrait assignments. He may very well be this century’s Yousuf Karsh.
Celebrities in black & white
When the review copy of “Overexposed” by Jesse Dittmar arrived, I was excited. The book is exquisite. I knew Jesse’s work from a webinar we did together about his photography of TikTok influencer Charlie D’Amelio. I opened the book expecting a long introduction to explain the work. That first page has just four short paragraphs. Then the photographs take over.
The rest of the book is all about Jesse’s pictures of celebrities. No type. No captions. No page numbers. Photographs, page after page, of pictures of people we know and recognize. No words.
I have a large library of books of photography by everyone, from Ansel Adams to Helmut Newton, to Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. In all of these hundreds of coffee table tomes, I have never seen a book that is so clean and focused on the photographs until now.
Discovering his voice
All of the images in “Overexposed” were shot on Ilford 3200 black and white film. In 2010 he photographed Bates. When he had finished, he noticed his light meter was set for ISO 100, not the five-stop more sensitive ISO 3200 rating of the film in his camera. “I developed it halfheartedly and expected nothing,” Jesse writes in the back of the book. “This portrait is what came back. Suddenly, a mistake turned into something I loved, and from this shoot forward, I had a style and voice that I knew was mine.”
Jesse Dittmar does something new and old at the same time. On assignment photographing a celebrity, Hugh Jackman, for example, he shoots digital in color. After he gets the pictures, he pulls out his Hasselblad 500C loaded with Ilford 3200 and makes personal portraits.
Jesse Dittmar only shoots one roll of film per assignment.
After taking a picture with his Hasselblad, Jesse puts the darkslide into the back, pulls it off the camera then winds the shutter. Replacing the back and pulling the slide, he is ready to make another exposure on the same frame.
The photograph of actor Peter Dinklage taken as a double exposure became the cover of “Overexposed.”
During the digital part of the session with Chris Rock, Jesse had the comedian cross his hands. He returned to the pose to make a double exposure on film.
After the 97 portraits in “Overexposed” is the section called “Plates.” Each spread of photos in the front part of the book appears again, this time with Jesse Dittmar’s comments. His writing is from the heart. He talks about his interactions with each person. Spending time with this section is richly rewarding.
I love this book. It goes on sale in March 2023. The first edition press run is 1500. This book is for anyone who appreciates the beauty of black-and-white film. Currently, its price is $105.00.
Overexposed is available at overexposedthebook.com. I am proud to own it and I believe you will be too.
Leave a Reply