I am Don Lupo and this is why I shoot film
I’m so happy to be able to bring you the words and pictures of Mr Don Lupo.
Over to you, Don!
Hi Don, what’s this picture, then?DL: This is my father, posing with the first camera he ever gave me: a Pentax Spotmatic. It was very important to me that I make a portrait of him with it. This image was made with another camera he gave me: a Yashica LM TLR.
I shot with that Pentax from my teens into my 20s, learning to use it for creative expression and then as a photojournalist with the local newspaper. He was a police chief, and when he retired, he gave me his old crime scene camera: a Crown Graphic 4×5 which I still shoot with today.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)DL: Husband. Photographer. Tall guy. Advertising nerd. Cat enthusiast. Raconteur. Voyageur du Temps.
I lead Digital Production for an ad agency in Los Angeles along with working as Director of Content and Marketing for the leading advertising trade association. I get to work in the industry I love while also helping the industry. Having had a previous career as a photojournalist, professional photographer, and photography instructor on the college level, I’m grateful to both companies that my photography can be part of my work.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?DL: I started shooting as a kid; I always had a camera in my hand, from a Kodak 110 Instamatic to a Polaroid One Step. I love the texture and depth that comes from film. I have yet to see even high-res digital provide that. I’m shooting with the original “full-frame sensor” no matter which film camera I use, so why not use it?
I keep shooting because I want to capture the details I see in the world on film. It is the subtleties of light that are endlessly fascinating: the way light falls on a building, through the trees, or on someone’s face.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?DL: My grandparents and my sister kept buying me film as a kid. (Thanks to my sister for all those packs of Polaroid 600!) As a teen, my father encouraged me and got me headed toward making money with a camera. (He built the first darkroom at police headquarters.)
Then I met a photographer, Jim Lord, and apprenticed for him for a few years. I learned so much about the business from him.
As for the masters, Richard Avedon has always been a huge influence, as has Patrick Demarchelier. Lately, I am obsessed with the richness of Dan Winters’ work and Brad Trent’s lighting, along with the young photographers I know who constantly surprise me with their excellent work.
My biggest inspiration today is my wife: just seeing her beautiful face each day inspires me in countless ways.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?DL: I find that I am often shooting digital for clients and film for myself. I’ll go out early on a Sunday morning, camera in hand, and walk around Venice, CA to shoot morning light on buildings.
As film continues to make the climb back to popularity, the two worlds are crossing over: I will shoot a job in digital and then ask them to sit for a frame or two of 4×5 or some 35mm film.
What’s your next challenge…your next step? How do you see yourself improving your technique? What aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?DL: I am going back to the 4×5 so much more lately. It used to be my 1973 Hasselblad 500 C/M that was always in my hands; now it’s the Crown Graphic. I’ve been using it with small strobes and Pocket Wizards; I want to see what I can do with Profoto lights and large format portraits. That just might end up being my life’s work.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?DL: I really enjoy faces and capturing light on them. Each person is so different and has so much to show us on film if we are patient and respectful.
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?DL: I would take my Hasselblad 500 C/M with an 80mm lens and two film backs loaded with Ilford HP5+ and Kodak Ektar 100. The Ilford will give me drama, detail, and latitude; the Ektar will give me depth, color, and vibrance.
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?DL: Kodak Portra 400. I would shoot in the streets of Paris, capturing light, faces, architecture, and history. I cannot get enough of all there is to see there, and the people are wonderful. My wife and I would wander the streets, eating in small cafés and making photographs that we’ll pore over together later. That would be pure heaven for me.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?DL: I would shoot Ilford HP5+, 36 exposures, all of people I love. It will be at dusk with one light against a background of trees with a very narrow depth of field. Their eyes will light up the frame.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?DL: People are constantly surprised that film is still available for the older cameras I use. I’ve been stopped in the street and asked about it. They think it’s difficult to find and even tougher to get processed. I enjoy setting them right.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?DL: The future of film is vibrant. The re-introduction of EKTACHROME is a very hopeful sign, as is the production of films like New 55. I credit Lomography and Fujifilm Instax with doing a lot of that heavy lifting. (I hope they bring back Fujifilm FP-100C as well.) There will always be a place for film, whether still or for motion pictures.
It provides what digital can never offer: substance and heart.
~ Don Lupo
Over the past few months I’ve seen a few interviewees and contributing authors talk about using film as part of their professional workflow. Is a trend that’s definitely on the rise, so I’d like to pose a question here rather than making a statement, as I normally do in these little outros.
How many of you reading this today are professional photographers who use film or other analogue processes in your client work? Is it something that you happily introduce, or something that is only a “time and client will permitting” affair? If you do use film, are you digital-native photographer, or have you been shooting film for your whole life?
It seems to me that charting the rise of analogue in a professional environment (if that’s it what in fact it is), would be an interesting undertaking. I look forward to your thoughts below and by email – whatever works best for you.
They’re linked up to but please head on over and give Don a follow on Twitter and Instagram, and make sure you drop by his website and jump across his personal and professional work. It really is great stuff.
Another interviewee is making their way over and will be ready for your hungry eyes next week. In the meantime, why not take another peek above before heading over to find out about Antonio Lastoria’s return to film?
Thanks for reading and as ever, keep shooting, folks!
Contribute to EMULSIVE
EMULSIVE NEEDS YOU. The driving force behind EMULSIVE is knowledge transfer, specifically engendering more of it in the film photography community. You can help by contributing your thoughts, work and ideas.
Help drive an open, collaborative community – all you need do is drop us a line and we’ll work something out.