I am Aimee Lower and this is why I shoot film
We’re finishing off this year’s interviews with the wonderful Aimee Lower. Aside from being one of the very first people we engaged with on Twitter, Aimee also knows Nils Karlson, this week’s other interviewee. In fact, she not only featured him on her blog back in 2014 but also got her Ondu Pinhole from him – a coincidence we weren’t prepared for when she told us about it earlier this week!
To top it all off, today (December 31st), is Aimee’s little girl’s birthday! Raise a glass for her folks, she’s still too young to drink.
It’s been a while coming but it’s been worth it. Over to you, Aimee.
Hi Aimee, what’s this picture, then?
This photo is one of the very first film photos I ever *seriously* shot in 35mm. I had shot Polaroid film before, but this was from when I exclusively started shooting on film. It was this roll that me fall head over heels for film. I was in love.
To think that I could take a beat up $9 flea-market Pentax K1000 without a working light meter (that I still have and use!), buy a roll of film, load it and take pictures like this…well, it blew my mind.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
Just your regular every day person who loves to take pictures. I’m normal, with a normal life. I’m a wife and mother with silver halide behind my eyes and developer in my blood ☺
When did you start shooting film?
I dabbled in film here and there over the last 10 years, mostly shooting Polaroid, or a roll once every decade, but I started shooting film exclusively in March of 2014.
Due to some financial issues I had to sell my digital equipment and after the fourth time or so of doing that, I decided that that was it, I was done LOL.
I had the $9 Pentax K1000 and I just decided that’s what I was going to use and that if I wanted to keep taking pictures, it would have to be on film.
What about now, why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
I shoot film because I love it. I used to be a “perfectionist” with digital…and I feel that that made all the photos look the same. Digital doesn’t really have the uniqueness that film does. If I want something specific, there is a specific film I can use to get the result that I want. Or, on the other hand, if I have some expired film that I’m not sure about, I can throw it in and just have fun.
I can also get completely different results with the same film depending on how I process it, the chemistry I use, if I push and pull it, etc.
All of that makes me want to keep going and figuring out the process. If it’s a really great shot, I take note of the film I used, time of day, etc. If it’s an iffy shot, I ask myself what I can do better next time.
Film has really helped me get out of my comfort zone. I was never really into taking portraits when I shot digital, unless it was for a job or something, and now over the past year I have challenged myself by taking more and more portraits of people. I really feel that film is what has given me the courage to do that.
I did a challenge last fall called “Portrait a Day” where I took my Polaroid with me on my daily walks, or when I knew I would be out and about, and I challenged myself to ask a complete stranger if I could take their picture.
This has progressed into the start of other projects and also I have met and talked with many people and found out their stories along the way.
This photo is one I knew the moment I shot it, that I couldn’t wait to see the result. I was excited about shooting a foggy morning at the beach and I saw this man, Hank, standing by the railing watching the sunrise. He looked so peaceful. So, I plucked up the courage and asked him if I could take his picture. He was a little surprised but he said sure! I knew I wanted to get a shot of him looking out over the ocean, and I wanted it to be personal yet not too intrusive.
You see, Hank came back to Florida after being diagnosed with bone cancer related to Agent Orange, an illness that has afflicted many Vietnam Veterans. When he was diagnosed three years ago, the doctors didn’t know how long he would have. He decided he wanted to live back down here where he grew up and to enjoy the time he had left. He often comes to the beach and watches the sunrise.
If I was still in a digital mindset, then maybe I wouldn’t have approached hank, found out his story and captured this shot. This photo hasn’t been seen by anyone else. I just scanned it especially for this interview. I have a polaroid that I had taken of him, but I especially love this frame.
People’s lives. The little gems that I have in these photos, and the courage that film gave me to capture those moments; they are a huge reason as to why I keep shooting film.
Any favourite subject matter?
Anything that catches my eye? Haha, I don’t know. At the moment for projects it’s probably driftwood. I am in LOVE with driftwood. On a continual basis it’s also my daughter. She’s always at the center of a frame or two on every roll. ☺
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
Oh boy. Well. As surprising as this may be, probably Cinestill 800T. It’s surprised me on so many levels with its ability to handle a multitude of lighting situations.
Using Cinestill, I feel that I could confidently approach any subject, be it low light, studio light, even bright sunlight, and be fairly certain that I’d be happy with the results.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of the subject matter. What to you take with you and why?
I could list any number of dream cameras that I wish I could take with me, but for the sake of reality and what I know, I will say that I would take my Olympus OM1N with and 50 1.4. Film-wise, I’d pack one roll of Cinestill 800T and one roll of Kodak TMAX 400.
I’d take the Olympus OM1N and 50/1.4 because I know that camera like the back of my hand and I trust it to do what I need it to do.
I would take the Cinestill to cover any possible lighting/time of day situations. I would take TMAX 400 because I fell in LOVE with it when I used it at Disney. The versatility that it provided me in all the indoor/outdoor situations I found myself in, and the superior fine grain make it a perfect black and white for me…I’m a fine grain freak LOL.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
That’s a hard one. If I’m thinking big and far away I would say New Zealand. The country out there is SO beautiful. Plus, I would love to see The Shire 😉
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
Surprisingly, there’s a huge resurgence of film going on, so I don’t think that there is a misconception about it dying off. I think the only misconception I come across is that “only hipsters shoot film”, like it’s a fad or something.
In one aspect, if part of that is true, oh well, so be it. All that does is keep the film that’s out there available for those of us who are super serious about it.
There are a lot of people out there like me who shoot film because we see past the “fad” and we see the beauty and uniqueness behind it.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
I think film (at this moment), has a very bright future. With companies such as Impossible and Cinestill creating brand new and amazing things for film photography; and others such as Ferrania who are reinventing themselves and bringing new life into old companies, it is exciting to see where the future of film is going.
~ Aimee Lower
There’s a huge difference between the images created by someone who does it with love and for fun, as opposed to someone who shoots to live. Perhaps it’s the occasional uncomfortable angle, the slightly closer than normal focus, or the (odd?) objects people in love with film shoot…further still, perhaps it’s some other latent quality in their images.
Either way, I count myself in that “Love and Fun” circle and whilst I occasionally lose my way, I can look at a spread of my pictures on the table and tell you immediately which ones were shot whilst in that zone and which ones were not.
I’ve had many months to look over and consider Aimee’s work and there’s not a single shot there that I’d change, especially given the time I’ve had to do so. Her black and white work (the Ilford SFX shot being a recent example), is great. Her driftwood shots make me want to reach in and touch them. So much texture and beautifully captured.
Please take a moment to have a flick through Aimee’s website and seeing as she seems in love with the stuff, it’s only fair to point you right at her review of Cinestill’s 800T film while we’re at it. You can find Aimee and more of her wonderful take on things on Twitter but play nice, or we’ll have to have a quiet word with you.
Thanks again, Aimee!
EMULSIVE needs you. If you’d like to take part in this series of film photographer interviews, please drop us a line, or get in touch in the comments. We’re featuring to photographers young and old; famous and obscure, so get in touch and let’s talk.