I am Colin Wilson and this is why I shoot film
Considered, methodological, quiet, contemplative.
Today’s film photographer isn’t someone you’ll likely see running after the next shot. He plods, ponders, thinks, frames and shoots before moving on to pastures new. Welcome to the world of Colin Wilson; 35mm and 120 shooter from beautiful Scotland.
It’s over to you, Colin.
Hi Colin, what’s this picture, then?
CW: This is my favourite photo of my wife Susan. Her hair is tousled and she has sand stuck to her skin from the beach. I feel it captures her essence better that any glamorous staged portrait.
For me the power of an image comes from the emotion it can provoke rather than notions such as sharpness or rule of thirds.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
CW: I’m Colin from Scotland. I shoot 35mm, 6×6, instant and occasionally digital.
I was photographing a fisherman I met while I was out walking one day when out of the blue he asked me “why I do it?”
…It’s funny how the simplest of questions can really catch you off guard! I thought about it for a minute then gave the only answer I could “I don’t know how to not take photographs”.
That answer sums up my photography. I’m not really interested in making money from it, although some people have been kind enough to buy some of my work…I do it because I’m compelled to!
When did you start shooting film?
CW: Longer ago than I care to remember! This is me with my first camera (A Kodak Instamatic) around 1977.
What about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
CW: Like many film shooters I like the look of film, but for me film is part of my personal journey towards living a more “intentional” life, especially when I shoot with my fully mechanical Hasselblad.
It forces me to slow down and visualise the finished image. It can take me weeks to get through a roll of 120 but I get more shots I’m happy with than when I was filling a memory card on my DSLR.
Any favorite subject mater?
CW: Lately I’ve enjoyed spending time in forests watching the way the light falls. It feels like the perfect antidote for the fast paced, city dweller I become to earn a living. The Japanese call it “shinrin–yoku” Maybe one day I’ll collate my forest work into a collection and call it that.
I also love shooting people, too. I’m currently exploring more in the way of stranger portraits as opposed to what would be normal candid street photography.
I’ve also been known to occasionally dabble in the dark art of in-camera and post-process image manipulation. Here’s an example of a blend of two images (post process). One is a single image of the sea and woodland blended with a 5 shot (in-camera) multiple exposure of a wind sock. As with the stranger portrait of the carpenter above, these were shot with my Pentax LX on Fuji Superia 35mm film.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
CW: My last roll wouldn’t be a roll it would be a pack!
I don’t have the time or space to dedicate to a fully analogue (chemical) work stream. Scanning my negatives provides a convenient alternative to a darkroom and allows me to easily share my work, but if I could never shoot film again I would choose to end with a fully analogue process that I could share easily. So Fuji or Impossible instant film.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of the subject mater. What to you take with you and why?
CW: I would bring my Pentax LX as the “off the film” metering is pretty infallible and just lets you get on with it. It’s a good size and easy to use. I would couple it with my 35-105mm fixed f3.5 “stack of primes” as it is my most versatile lens.
I’d take a roll of Ilford HP5 plus and a roll of Kodak Portra 400 as they are both versatile films.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
CW: I would love to visit Japan and hope to do so one day when my circumstances will allow me to stay for at least a month.
From the shrines of Kyoto to the moss covered forests of Yakushima Island I imagine it to be a photographers paradise.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
CW: The question I get asked most is “can you still buy film?” So there are defiantly misconceptions around availability.
Clearly unless you can see the benefits and unique quality of film invariably it will be perceived as a “hassle” in comparison to digital. To those people I would simply say I agree, digital is easier in many ways, much like instant coffee is easier than a flat white.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
CW: The future of film photography looks quite promising. Rather than being killed off by digital I see the two existing side by side.
Digital will continue to be the preferred format for most, but film can exist as a niche market in the same way as vinyl has.
Film photographers will inevitably shape this future with their purchasing power.
We should buy our film from companies who are as committed to the future of film as we are and support our local labs where possible
Colin will readily confess that he finds it tough to describe his photographic style. Like many of us (myself included), he’s a bit of a chameleon, driven by what could be in the frame and shooting what his heart wants as and when he happens to come across it
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