We all watched the high-contrast, black & white, square portraits stream across the screen in a continuous slide show while Anthony spoke about his personal project titled “68-Degrees.” Each one was a unique image of individuals and couples enjoying their experience of Austin’s Barton Springs’ 68-degree temperature water. Anthony Maddoloni started swimming there regularly almost every day in 2012 because the ice-cold water gave him relief from his shoulder and knee pain.
In 2014, as he became more familiar with the swimmers who also came everyday, it dawned on him he could bring a camera to make their portraits. He wanted to use his love of film photography and darkroom skills to create a long-term documentary about the springs as a barometer of Austin changes. He dreams that his best photographs will become a self-published book about Austin’s iconic, spring-fed pool. After five years and sometimes 30 hours a week at the springs making photographs and many more hours in the darkroom developing film and prints, he says it may take another five years to reach his goal.
He takes his mostly black and white portraits with old film cameras he collects, for example, 4 x 5 and even 8 x 10 large format cameras. Because tripods are banned, he may push his TriX 400 film in development. Even though he has a legal right, he believes, to make photographs there, some life guards give him a tough time.
Anthony said its a challenge to take pictures in the high contrast, reflecting, Barton Springs sunlight, but over the years his darkroom experience and looking at his negatives has taught him how not to repeat mistakes. He feels working in the darkroom is being “close to heaven.” He has a strong attachment to developing film negatives that are the basis for printing amazing images. He teaches classes at his personal darkroom studio because he knows traditional darkroom film developing and printmaking skill are being lost. NAPfS is certainly grateful for his inspiration and presentation tonight.
When asked how he gets people to cooperate, he says he uses patience and honesty. During the summer, he’s at Barton Springs nearly every day and he sets up his camera in familiar spots. People either come over to ask what he’s doing or he watches for unique people for his portraits. After he explains his 68-Degrees project, he asks for permission; some say yes and others say no. Either way that’s fine with Anthony. Maybe he’ll meet them again another day when they say yes.
Surprisingly, he says he prefers not asking subjects to sign a model release because he doesn’t expect to sell images for commercial use. Most of his subjects know him as a regular at Barton Springs and he’s pleased to make a print of their picture for them. Even though he has done fundraising to cover book publishing, he believes his project could never make a profit. Maddaloni’s motivation is to satisfy his curiosity about people’s stories and his love of watching people.