I am Adam White and this is why I shoot film
Welcome, welcome to Adam J White, aka Twitter’s @burlapandlight. You may remember Adam from his Return to film piece here on EMULSIVE back in February. Thankfully that wasn’t enough to put him off, so he’s back as this week’s EMULSIVE interviewee.
Take it away, Adam!
Hi Adam, what’s this picture, then?AW: These are my kids. This is why I do photography on film; to keep things close to me and traditional. Plus it its something I can go and do with them and teach to them to pass on to their children.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)AW: Who am I? I am AJ White, (46) living in Carlsbad, NM. I work in the potash mines collecting and analyzing vibration and thermal images of machinery.
On the side I shoot portraits, weddings, and fashion. This pretty much sums up who I am.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?AW: I started shooting film seriously in December of 2014, when I bought my first medium format camera, a Mamiya RZ67 along with a 180mm f/4.5 lens.
Since then it has been an endless ingestion of knowledge, as well as a growing camera collection (which I am running out of space for).
What keeps me shooting? Easy: family (even though the wife wants all digital back-ups).
[EMULSIVE: for more detail about Adam’s film photography journey, check out his Return to Film article.]
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?AW: Who are my main influencers? Family first and always, then the others that follow below. I could choose a cheesy cop-out and name all the masters, but I won’t. Although, Helmut Newton is up there. His ability to use harsh light to his advantage was brilliant! Not to mention his work ethic in keeping most gear to one bag! For more current inspirations I’d have to say Kelly-Shane Fuller, Vu-Man, Nathan Mccreery, Jan Scholz, Robert Law, Nils Karlson, Ruby Berry and Amy Jasek. But there are so many that I follow and draw inspiration from, I couldn’t begin to name them all.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?AW: I am a mixed shooter. I use digital for client work 98% of the time. The other 2%, I will add film in for a portrait session. I did it once on a wedding shoot and the results were less than spectacular not to mention I also suffered a camera malfunction.
I try and keep my film work relegated to personal work for now but I’m hoping to transition to full-time film one of these days. I have had a few clients ask for full film sessions…it’s rare but it happens.
What’s your next challenge…your next step? How do you see yourself improving you technique? What aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?AW: The next challenge is learning 4×5 film and the camera itself, as well as continuing my ever ending struggle with home development. Some days it’s good, some days it’s not. Very frustrating!
I thought I was going be able to master rangefinders and found out they are just not my cup of tea. In fact, I’m still debating if I will continue to shoot 35mm after the end of 2017. After getting comfortable with medium format, there are just too many frames for my liking.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?AW: Easy, people! Why? Because people in themselves are complex and very inquisitive by nature. Plus, I have always been the type of person that likes to watch people. We all come in different shapes, sizes and colors, that is what makes everyone unique to capture in photography, nothing is ever the same every time.
When not photographing people, I go out and shoot landscapes and man-made things. They don’t talk back to you!!
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an unknown assignment. You can take one camera, one lens, two films and you have no idea what you’ll be shooting. What to you take with you and why?
AW: Hmmmm, the camera would have to be my Mamiya RZ67, just due to it’s unwillingness to ever die. The lens would be the 90mm f/3.5 (it’s just wide enough for landscapes if you compose correctly, and perfect for portraits as well).
The film would be Kodak Portra 160 and Ilford Pan F+.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location for the rest of your life. What do you take, were do you go and why?AW: Would have to be black and white film, just because it honors the beginnings of film photography.
For the film choice….most definitely ILFORD Pan F+ due to it’s low grain and versatility. The location would have to be Italy!!!
I was there while in the military and want to go back. It’s just beautiful over there. Plus the people there were always friendly and the open air markets are the best!
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?AW: Would be of my family and I mean all of my family even if I had to fly them all in to one location for the image! The location would be in Split, Croatia at sunrise. I would use Kodak Portra 160 on my Burke James 4×5.
The reason I would do all of my family in that location is due to the fact that Split has some of the best sunrises I have ever seen, and it would be a once in a lifetime trip for some of my family members. I’d be sure to make contact prints and give them to everyone in the family.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?AW: Right now, I think that it is due to the fact that the person you’re working with can’t see the image in an LCD….instant gratification. As well as that it will take two weeks or more to see your images and no sneak peeks that night.
But If your home developing you can have them all done in a few hours to the next day to the client.
But….film is making a huge resurgence at the moment. I’d set it right by being able to produce images fully done and ready for print purchase within 3 days for a portrait session. Weddings would be a tad bit longer.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?AW: I’d have to say the future (at the time of typing), is looking pretty good. Old stocks are coming back to the market and newer stocks being introduced. There are also some new cameras, such as the large format systems from Intrepid. That’s a good thing for the community!
But, it’s a finicky thing to be able to produce film and make a profit to be able to continue producing film for the community.
I just hope it never goes away so we can continue to create our art even if it’s just for our own selves!
These final two images above are what I think the future of film photography should be.
~ Adam White
It’s all about family.
AJ isn’t the first EMULSVIE interviewee to mention taking family photos on his final roll of film but he is the first I recall to decide to round up the entire clan and jet them off somewhere to do so. In fact, all through this interview you see the reasons and inspiration for Adam shooting film circling back to one thing: family.
As we strive to create bodies of work, to find styles that represent us as unique photographers with unique views of the works, and to establish ourselves in the noise of the digital age, it’s not often that I hear family as being a primary (root and ongoing) motivation to shoot film. Scratch that: to be a photographer. Maybe it’s just me.
Reflecting on my own motivations, family is certainly there amongst the many reasons I shoot film. It’s not right up there but then again, my circumstances are likely to be rather different to many of you reading this. AJ’s perspectives have given me pause for thought, however, and I’m already feeling the rumblings of change. Thank you AJ.
You can find AJ on Twitter, website or his brand new (hours old at the time of writing), blog. Please look him up, the film photography here and on his Return to Film article (linked at the top of this page), are only a tiny sample of his gorgeous output.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check back for another fresh interview the same time next week
In the meantime, keep shooting, folks.
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