I am Debashish Samaddar and this is why I shoot film
Today we’re sitting down with the Russian camera loving, part-time philosopher, part-time poet and full-time father, Debashish (Dev) Samaddar.
So, what’s Dev to go say to us? Take a look below to find out (spoiler: thousands of unfiled DSC_XYZ.jpg files).
Hi Dev, what’s this picture, then?
My son, being a shadow puppeteer. I agree it could be done with digital as well, but I liked that grain and the contrast (this is TMax 100, btw) and liked how he was oblivious of what I was doing and immersed in his play.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
I am That. The Infinite, immortal… the rest is just an illusion (high philosophy, eh? Well, try the Vedantas!)
In more ordinary terms my name is Debashish Samaddar, I go by Dev. Grew up in India, now live in the US. I’m an engineer, entrepreneur, right-brain person in left-brain roles.
When did you start shooting film?
I don’t remember. No really! I used to accompany my father on his photowalks. This was in the early 80s. He took me along sometimes and there would be a lot of other photographers.
I can’t remember if I started shooting film then, or if I did it several years later….but I certainly spent a lot of time in the darkroom watching my father and his friends. Strangely, I remember most of it, but mostly when I fell into the tray of fixer (EMULSIVE: that explains a lot). Then I stopped…I took up painting.
Even later I bought digital cameras and got carried away with Photoshop and Lightroom, which brings us to…
What about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
…because I got sick of taking 100s of photos on my digital camera and spending hours on end in Photoshop and Lightroom to get the look I wanted…
…because I have an unmanageable library of unprocessed photos…
…because I wasn’t happy with the crop sensor and didn’t want to spend the $ for full frame, when I could do it with film…
…because I used to run out of battery all the time, especially when I needed it the most…
…because I realized that digital camera manufacturers are simply out to get your money with a new model every couple years…
…because it turned out that I was emulating film all along…
…because I used to paint and painting is very physical, you use your hands, fingers and digital is not…
…the fact we are descended from cavemen who drew pictures on cave walls 🙂
I like taking/making pictures. If not photos, it would be brush, paint and canvas. If not that, it would be burnt charcoal and cave walls.
It’s my expression, it’s what I see. And I record it in case someone else wants to see through my eyes. And perhaps, to make at least one piece of art that will last through time and make people look and wonder long time from now, like the Bison caves of Altamira.
Any favourite subject matter?
People. And some grand landscape, what I call grandscape.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll and why?
Come on man! Do I have to… Fine! May be something I haven’t tried before… some low ISO color cine film.
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?
Can I pick a camera that I don’t currently have? Or one I currently possess?
If I can pick something from my wishlist, probably a Hasselblad with 2.8/80mm lens. Neopan Acros 100 and Fuji Pro 400h. Why the ‘Blad? Because you can crop a square format whichever way you want and medium format has a quality that 35mm can’t match. Also a waist level viewfinder makes you slow down and be purposeful.
Acros 100 because I like low ISO film, so I can shoot wide open even in bright light (oh and a tripod and cable release, in case it’s low light). It’s also low grain. Fuji Pro because of the colors and to offset the low ISO of the other one.
If I have to choose a camera I have now, I’ll probably take the Mamiya 645 with 2.8/80. Same film.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
In my opinion the greatest misconception is cost. People think it is costly because you have to buy film and either develop it or send it to a lab. It’s a recurring cost. I would (I have been), telling people to compare the cost over time: digital is costly too, just that you spend it all in your camera right in the beginning and then you forget about it so the rest seems “free”. But it’s not.
Digital cameras are computers with a lens and they become obsolete fairly rapidly. Even if you don’t buy every new model, you will need to upgrade after a few years. Film cameras, especially manual ones, are very inexpensive these days (except for Leicas!) and your cost is mostly film and development and scanning.
But it’s spread out over time, so if you amortize the cost of digital photography over the same length of time, you’ll see it is not less expensive than film. Often it is more, or at least equal… (I also have an MBA and used to work in finance, so I can get into this down and dirty till I make people cry and accept my point… haha…)
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
Just like photography didn’t kill painting, so digital photography won’t kill film. Sure, there are certain kinds of photography where digital is better suited, like journalism for instance, but in the world of art, film is just another medium, like oils, watercolor, acrylic.
Some artists will continue to use this medium for their art. And if there are buyers, there will be sellers. You see it’s economics…
Actually I better stop, before my business brain takes over again. Instead, here, look at this photo I made a few hours ago: shot two days ago on TMax100, developed last night and scanned this morning.
It’s pretty tough to get up and show people your work with just a simple request from a faceless name. It also doesn’t help if you’re a humble guy, like Dev.
One of the reasons we started these interviews was to give all photographers a voice, not just those in the gaze of the public eye. There are photographic gems all around us and the images presented here by Dev are no exception.
Thanks for sharing!
Dev is incredibly vocal and active on social media and we’d heartily recommend following him on Google Plus for some long word wisdom, or Twitter for some quick fire quips. Finally, you can also check out more of Devs work and thoughts on his website: www.devsamaddar.com.
We’ll be back again soon but for now, it’s time for us to sign out.
Keep shooting, folks.
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.