I am Jack Allan and this is why I shoot film
I’m pleased to be able to bring you the work and words of Jack Allan. There’s little to explain here up top, as Jack does a fantastic job of it below. Be glad we don’t yet have smell-o-vision…
Over to you, Jack,
Hi Jack, what’s this picture, then?
JA: This picture of from my View from the Porcelain Throne series of a horrible bathroom interior shot on a crap disposable camera. Crap views, crap camera, crap image limit and I loved it.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
JA: I’m Jack, and I like to shoot spaces and places with the imprint that people have left there. In particular when looking at design choices and ways they place items like plants or tiles for instance. I come across as quite crass in this area of work, but I try to show the humor in questionably designed spaces.
Sad plants and tacky tastes are a delight for me. Anybody who’s visited Regent Road in Great Yarmouth (on the UK south coast) will understand what level of tacky I mean.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
JA: I started shooting film in 2011 film in 2011 as my school had a really cheap lab next to it and I like playing with old rangefinder cameras. My drive to keep shooting is my want to keep collecting scenes that make me laugh and I can share with friends. I feel like a camera is my passport in life and I’m not very good at sketching or painting, so I’ve got to make imagery somehow!
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
JA: I think my first driving force was my photography tutor at my sixth form (shout out to Dom Theobald) and through university I felt greatly encouraged by portrait photographer Eva Vermandel who I was fortunate to have as a tutor. I feel continually influenced by photographers like Martin Parr, William Eggleston and more recently turning to the paintings of Walter Sickert and Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
Mostly the cost. As much as I love working with a twin lens camera, I haven’t access to a scanner at the moment so for the time being film is being shelved. A current project I’m shooting at the moment is all being photographed digitally on a 5D original and honestly it’s a breath of fresh air.
I do feel that within the photographic community digital and film users both suffer from gear envy and focusing more on the mechanism that’s exposing the light more so than the picture. I was very guilty of this for a long time but have within the last year just tried to think solely about the images at the end. A great photo is a great photo regardless if it’s 35mm, 10×8 or digital 35mm.
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?
JA: The next step for me is to keep consistently shooting. The beginning of 2017 has been slow, but I feel that I will pick up the space in working towards both personal projects and portfolio work. I would like to be taking more portraits as it’s something I’ve always neglected but enjoy putting together.
I think with this in mind, I need to get myself to grips with using flash on location and how to use it most effectively. But this aside, I’d love to be working with other photographers as an assistant over the rest of 2017 (and beyond!)
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
JA: I think I’ll always be drawn to bad gardening and landscaping. I just find that it’s something that most of the time blends in but when you look closer at some gardens or council run parks/spaces you see the taste levels slipping. Mostly it’s laziness, but sometimes you find “happy accidents” that are really photogenic.
I guess I just like to observe.
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?
JA: Olympus OM-1 with a 35mm lens and a roll of Kodak Portra 400 and Fuji Pro400h. It’s a versatile setup, and both of these colour negative films are pretty bulletproof and the versatility of choosing strong greens or better skin tones is good. This is like the boy scout setup for me.
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?
JA: The Bay Area of California and taking 4×5 film and a camera. There’s just such a huge variety of different landscapes here and a vast selection of people. Plus I mean it’s a pretty cool area when you’re not shooting too!
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
JA: Fomapan 100 black and white. I had a lot of fun using this film and really love the characteristics it has. I’d take some tree “portraits” and spend a good portion of time making some prints. This is what I am happiest shooting and working with for sure.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
JA: That It makes images more interesting. Sure film is cool, but your high contrast black and white image of ducks against a brick wall is just so blah! The only way I can think to set it straight is to remind people how many of the greats have edited all of their works down to these amazing selections we see.
I can’t imagine every single Ansel Adams photograph was a masterpiece, they’ve got to have had low hit rate for successful images! At least this idea may work?
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
JA: I think it’s going to hang around for quite a bit longer but without cinema I think it’s days would be numbered now. I feel it’s a mixture between nostalgia, the aesthetic and the feel that film photographs are more genuine than their digital cousins.
I’d love for it to expand even further and then just maybe fuji film will stop moving towards cosmetics and make film again. With the recent news with Kodak and Ferrania It looks really good for the world of film photography!
~ Jack Allen
How much does humor inform your photography? Not the things you think others find funny but the kind that tickles you directly? I’m willing to bet that for a many of you the answer is, “not much”.
Google “humor in photography” and you’ll find a generous crop of what I like to call “shit post”; articles which give you the same banal, regurgitated advice in the same top 10 or list formats. I won’t do these websites service by linking to them but you know who they are. They’re full of sage advice such as, “wait for humorous moments”, “find photobomb opportunities”, “use forced perspective” and my personal favorite (seriously), “post processing”.
To my mind, that’s not humour, simply a set of methods to create (potentially) funny pictures to post on image hosting websites and like-farms. Humor is an intensely personal frame of mind and whilst I may share likes and dislikes with others, mine is mine and can never be the same as anyone else’s. The same goes for you.
To be honest, when I first saw the photographs that Jack proposed for this interview, I didn’t really understand them. It took me a while to get into his mind and see the world as he does, or at least the poor approximation I’m able to create based on my own life experiences.
My opinion and appreciation changed considerably; and I find myself smiling a many of the images he’s shared here with us today.
Humour is – amongst other things – about perspective and looking at the photographs above now, I think I’ll be a little less worried about what other people find funny and more interested in capturing humor formed in the future.
Thanks for reading, we’ll be back next week with another photographer for you to get your teeth stuck into. Until then, please scroll back up and give Jack’s interview another read!
As always, keep shooting, folks.
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