Featured Artist: Johnson City’s Ruby Berry, a photographer with a unique style

An attorney from Wisconsin in a past life, Johnson City’s Ruby Berry has moved from the courtroom to the darkroom.

And, after more than 15 years in Johnson City, Berry considers herself a southerner, and has fallen in love with Johnson City. More than a great place to live, she said, it’s also where she discovered her passion — film photography. 

And as if taking photos on film wasn’t hard enough, she ups the ante by shooting on two cameras more than a century old, and more than a dozen toy cameras. The toy cameras, however, are where she developed her style.

That style, involves Berry destroying, or “souping,” her film in a mix of different things like Sprite or baking soda and vinegar and shooting the photos after the film has finished being prepared — a process that can take weeks.

Berry briefly:

Favorite color: Deep purple

Favorite Tri-Cities restaurant: Main Street Pizza, Holy Taco

Favorite coffee shop: The Willow Tree, Dos Gatos. “I can’t choose.”

Favorite hobbies: Home improvement, cooking and baking

Favorite modern film camera: Mamiya RB67

Note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

What got you into film photography?

It was probably about seven years ago when I got my first iPhone, and I really liked it, so I decided to teach myself as much as I could. The next thing I knew I was building a darkroom in the house. I never expected to shoot film specifically it’s just that all that I had. I always assumed I was going to save up for a DSLR, it was just kind of been one thing after another.

There’s always something new to learn.

What made you decide to destroy your film before shooting it?

It was a weird path to get there. About two years ago, I had started manipulating instant film, but really I think it started on a (personal challenge). I’ve seen people out there doing it, but most of the people doing it will soup the film after it’s been exposed, and I wondered if the effects would be more dramatic if you souped it before. It was one of those things where I didn’t really know what I was doing and I was winging but when I got the results I thought “OK, this is cool, we can do this.”

What’s your favorite part of film photography? 

That’s a tough one. I really love being in the darkroom, it’s really quiet and peaceful in there. That tactile process is really what won me over to film and what changed my mind from “Oh, I’ll just get a digital camera” to “No, I’m going to stick with film.” And there’s just something about film that makes me feel connected to what I’m doing. 

How has the community embraced your style of photography?  

Community has always been a huge thing for me. For me, getting involved with other film groups online was another huge step up. Outside of that, there’s the community here in Johnson City, which has been beautiful and is what makes me love it here so much.

What was it like putting your work out in public for the first time?  

I made like eight dozen candles because I was worried people would hate my art and I was really nervous about it and dreading it, but it was the greatest experience of my life — I loved it. I was surprised by how much art people bought and I was like “I just sold art, this is really cool.” I feel like the beautiful thing about Johnson City is everybody supports everybody and I think it’s really beautiful.

You can find Berry’s work on her website, www.lostartphotography.com, @LostArtPhotogrpahyStudio on Facebook and @RubyFalls on Instagram. You can also find her art on display later this month at the Willow Tree Coffeehouse for their Holiday Art Show on Nov. 30.