Shop Visit: Tap & Dye

Chances are, if you look at even half as much camera porn as I do on Instagram, you’ve come across Tap & Dye’s handmade leather straps. They're available in endless specifications and customizations, and are almost always paired with a fine vintage film camera, ideal for legacy shooters. 

The man behind Tap & Dye is Justin Waldinger, a New York native who grew up taking photos and still, even with a relentless output of leather straps, is an incredibly prolific street photographer. Recently, I went over to visit Justin in his shop, which doubles as something of a vintage camera museum as well, to see him make his straps and talk shop. The conversation naturally went right to all things photography: styles of shooting, editing, equipment, Instagram, and so on. Even though Justin spends much of his day making accessories for cameras, he maintains a sort of democratic just-go-shoot-and-don't-worry-about-your-gear approach to photography, which is really refreshing and something I'm totally in line with. Below is a condensed version of our conversation.

H&E: Tell me what first attracted you to photography.  

JW: Well, cameras have always been around growing up mainly because my father was an amateur enthusiast who specialized in film photography. He had a large number of cameras that I would get to play with, under his supervision, and I guess that's what attracted me to learning more about photography in general. When I was in college, I took up dark room and finally got the opportunity to become fully immersed in developing and printing my work. It was such a rewarding experience, which I guess is why I like to stick with film photography. Having a tangible proof that I can always print from really changed my perspective on photography and how I wanted to approach it.

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H&E: Explain briefly your approach and philosophy to photography. You were talking about just taking pictures, worrying less about your cameras. 

JW: Yeah, for sure. I really take to Garry Winogrand's mantra of "I don't have messages in my pictures...the true business of photography is to capture a bit of reality (whatever that is) on film" and that's how I like to approach my street photography. I love documenting the candid moments of everyday life on the streets of this city. A camera is a tool and should be used accordingly, I feel so much time is wasted focusing on the specs and hardware of it when it should be focused more about capturing what's going on in the frame, be that a rangefinder or a dslr. It doesn't really matter if it's digital or film.

H&E:  Do you remember your first camera? 

JW: The first camera I actually ever received was a Canon Rebel G with a standard 18-55mm kit lens in high school. 

H&E: What are some of your favorite places to shoot in the city. 

JW: I would have to say, some of my favorite spots to shoot right now are on the Avenues, mainly 8th, 1st and 5th Avenue. But I always try and shoot in my neighborhood of Astoria, where I live and also in Bushwick, where my studio is located as well. 

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H&E What are your favorite cameras? 

JW: Have to say, the Leica m3, Pentax 67 and Hasselblad Xpan round out my top 3. All three have very unique characteristics to them and if I had to pick a favorite out of those three, it would be the X pan hands down for sure! That's probably the only camera I would never ever sell, no matter what.

H&E: Tell us some great Instagram accounts you're liking right now. 

JW:There's so much good stuff, but I'm really liking the work coming out from these talented peeps: @photodre, @chrisvossnyc, @bananaaapeels, @jolenelupo, @robbiejeffers, @gilesclement, @aaronbergerfoto, @jasonlee, @drsmoothdeath, @patrickjoust, @a_small_riot, @rafagonzalezphoto, @theadamgoldberg and @raymond.molinar.