I am Drew Amyot and this is why I shoot film
Today’s interviewee is Drew Amyot, Nova Scotian born and raised. Drew seemingly relies on getting his inspiration from a full cup of hot coffee and a suitable playlist of tunes but I think there’s a little bit more behind it than just that.
Read on to find out what drives him to produce such beautiful imagery.
Over to you, Drew.
Hi Drew, what’s this picture, then?
DA: This is a wild blueberry field in rural Nova Scotia. Like I tend to do, I was out shooting alone in a rural area. Photography is a way for me to clear my mind and connect with my environment and its hidden beauty. As for the photo itself, I like the rich colour of the field and the simple balance from the snow covered rock piles.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
DA: I’m a 26 year old who spends way too much thinking about all aspects of photography. Shooting film provides me with endless cameras and films to research and daydream about, not to mention admiring the work of others on Flickr.
I always try to have a camera on me (the little Olympus XA2 helps with this) but I find that my best work happens when I am out shooting with no other agenda. I generally enjoy shooting landscape or urban environments void of people. Photography is my meditation, so environments that allow for me to be introspective put me in that ideal headspace.
When did you start shooting film and what about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
DA: I started shooting film about eight years ago now. I had a good friend pick up his dad’s Minolta X-370 and soon after I found my mom’s Pentax K1000, the rest is history.
Aside from the obvious “film look,” I enjoy film as a teacher. To me film is the perfect blend of teaching you what’s important about photography while unveiling the lifetime of learning available ahead. The limitation of 24 or 36 frames per roll (each having a real-world cost) did a wonderful job of teaching me the value of each frame. It helped me take more time on each shot, walking back and forth finding that perfect composition and really thinking about the exposure and light to get it right.
The limitation of waiting to see an image eliminates the trial and error technique of shooting, forcing me to learn the theory on how to make the final image match how I saw it in my head. This forced me to learn the basic rules and internalize them.
What keeps me shooting is 70 percent because I actively love being out shooting, with the remaining 30 percent being divided up between interacting with the photography community, documenting my life in a non-narrative format, and of course getting my negatives back from the lab and seeing that roll for the first time.
Any favorite subject matter?
DA: As for a favorite is has to be landscape. I grew up in a small town environment which may have attributed to this. I have lived in a city for a year now and I have come to find a new admiration for shooting backstreet urban environments.
So maybe my favourite subject matter is what I’m surrounded by; certainly the best shots come from familiar settings.
What’s the next challenge…your next step? How do you see improving your technique, or what aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?
DA: I would like to be more active in my own community. I put most of my effort on sharing my work online and have neglected getting in touch with local photographers. Edmonton has a lot of young talented artists and I hope to get more involved here.
On terms of the next 12 months, that’s a tough question. My main form of improving technique is to shoot often and train my eye. I would like to get into medium format this year if at all possible, and learn the strength of that medium.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
DA: I’ve had a long love affair with Kodak Ektar 100, but my honest choice at the moment would be Kodak Portra 160. Side note: is it bad that I’m daydreaming/romanticizing the concept of having only 36 photos for the rest of my life? [EMULSIVE: No, you’re good. Keep going.]
The quality I find unique and appealing to my work is a sort of softness the film creates while also producing richness. This creates a great sense of atmosphere, and plays well with my sensibilities as a photographer. Maybe it is how I approach shooting Portra 160, but when I look through albums from that film, it all looks like frames from the same dream.
I bet I would shoot it over a lifetime and pass away with the counter at 35, or shoot 36 and immediately pass away. Regardless I don’t think I would ever see 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?
DA: No question I would take my Nikon F4s and 50mm 1.8 prime. Nothing fancy here, I just love the layout of the F4 and its Matrix meter. As for film I would grab one Kodak Portra 160 and one Fujifilm Superia 400. 160 for the chance that it has decent natural light, and 400 to have a little more versatility.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
DA: I’ve been inspired by a lot of talented photographers shooting in Iceland as of late, so having the opportunity to travel there and blast through some rolls would be prime.
If I didn’t have that external influence to head to Iceland, then it would have to be Newfoundland, here in Canada. I am from Nova Scotia and yet I have never made the trip. I have come across a few photographs of Newfoundland that have inspired me with their captures of the rugged coast. I guess it would be the perfect place to shoot Portra 160. Aside from that the character of the homes and buildings as well as the great people makes it a must visit.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
DA: The misconception is that convenience equals happiness and/or superiority. The only way I’ve found to set it straight is to let your passion show and hope it’s infectious. I feel like logic plays a very small role in the argument as 24 expensive shots vs 10,000 free ones is a hard case to make.
Logically it is better to have unlimited free photo’s rather then 24 expensive ones. I guess it is to say purely rational animals would shoot digital, as it has many legitimate conveniences. Regardless of the truth in the qualities and differences that exists between the two formats, my heart has fallen for film.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
DA: The future is strong. I see as a dichotomy of convenience vs. craft. Our current society is quite obsessed with convenience but life is cyclical and I can imagine we’ll a more “craft” focused movement occur.
We do love expensive handcrafted lattes over cheap gas station coffee, right!?
…or it dies slowly.
~ Drew Amyot
If I remember correctly, I’ve tried and failed to make a financial justification for film over digital a few times before. To be fair, there really isn’t one unless you place a limit on the number of times you can capture an image with the digital gear. Even then, it all becomes a bit iffy, as prices of equipment, film and scanning vary so much all around the world. What works financially in Japan or Vietnam probably won’t in San Francisco, or London.
To continue rabidly pulling that thread, If I was to really try and make the justification (pointless as it may be), I would propose that learning to shoot on film offers a better value proposition than learning to shoot on digital. I strongly believe that the limited number of shots plus the time spent learning from those 36 little exposures (assuming 135), offers a somewhat more productive route to becoming a proficient photographer than simply grabbing a digital camera, where the ability to endlessly shoot, fiddle and chimp only really offers a quick route to taking a well exposed snap – and that’s assuming you take the thing off P mode. That’s my two cents on it and it comes mostly from having followed both paths in a similar fashion myself. Your results my vary.
Anyway, I digress.
A big thanks to Drew for his words and images. My take may be different to yours but looking through his photographs, I get distinct feeling of flicking through a misplaced album taken by someone who burned several rolls of film while walking through the wilderness and eventually stumbling on a ghost town.
They’re quiet, a little lonely and for the urban images at least, convey a desolate landscape picked clean of people.
I love it.
You can catch up with Drew via Instagram, where he does by the difficult-to-guess name of @DrewAmyot and on Twitter as @Drew_Amyot Please take a minute to drop him a line, I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.
We’ll be back again very soon (as always) but in the meantime (also as always) keep shooting, folks!
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