I am Kay Adams and this is why I shoot film
Even if you have a short memory, you’ll remember today’s interviewee from their guest post on experimental development with mouthwash, orange juice and a whole bunch of other household goods; and the recently published thought piece on perfection.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to welcome Kay Adams into the EMULSIVE interview fold.
Over to you, Kay…
Hi Kay, what’s this picture, then?
KA: I guess there is no picture that describes my way as a photographer better than this one. It started with an OK portrait I shot a couple of years ago. I developed and printed it, then threw it in a box and did not look at it for years because I thought it could not match the photographs other people take.
I recently found that box and started “upcycling” the old photos. It might look like trash to a lot of people, but for me, it’s perfect.
Categories and rules are only in our heads.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
KA: My Name is Kay Adams and I live in Germany. I was born in 1989, which means that I am younger than most of the cameras I am using.
I currently work as a clinical psychologist at a forensic psychiatry. Analog photography is a counterbalance to my tight work schedule and a big source of energy. I like to wander off the beaten tracks doing what makes me happy.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
KA: I started photography using digital cameras in about 2005 after realising that I suck at skateboarding – the only chance I had to hang out with ‘the cool guys’ was to start taking pictures of them skating.
One of the guys was shooting analog and I could not understand why he would go to all of this effort. In 2007 he invited me to his own darkroom, and 4 hours (which felt like 5 minutes) later, I was in love with analog photography.
Suddenly I understood how the sweat and tears lead to a deep connection with your work. I started to read everything I could get my hands on and bummed analog cameras off of my family and their friends.
And then I just started.
It was trial and error at it’s best, and explains why I go by the name of Wasted Films. To me, shooting film feels like the right thing to do. It forces me to concentrate but I still feel like being in control from beginning to the end.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
KA: Back then, I was influenced by the guys I was hanging around with and skateboarding photographers like Eric Antoine. It had to be rough, grainy and cheap in the making.
Today I am inspired by a lot of things. Writing for a German online magazine gives me the chance to get to know a lot of interesting artists like Ajay Malghan, Robinand Cracknell, Andrew K. Thompson or Nils Karlson. But most of the times inspiration strikes me at odd locations like the drugstore.
I see something and ask myself: how could I use that?
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
KA: I use a digital camera like once every six months for random family photos.
If you force me to pick a category I’d go for hybrid photographer since I use film for all important shots but often scan the negatives. I’d love to find the time to print every good shot.
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?
KA: Answering these questions is actually a part of my next step.
I love what I’m doing, and I want to share this with other people. I’m not sure where it will take me, but I am thinking about doing some small exhibition, or maybe I could get my work shown in a print medium.
I didn’t used to have the guts to contact people and show my ‘art’ but thats slowly changing. All I needed was a swift kick in my butt by a good friend. I see the progress I am making and I guess I will improve more and more by just following what I am doing right now.
Like Samuel Beckett said: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
KA: I somehow find myself being drawn to rather creative subjects and styles. I guess the reason is, that I felt and feel like I can’t compete with all those genius fine art photographers and printers.
Doing some sort of abstract art allows me to create things that are not limited by ‘rules’. At one of our encounters,Nils Karlson said, “that it’s the chance to create your own language and you’re not responsible whether people understand it out not”. Plus I like the idea of doing unique pieces in a world of random repetition.
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 do you take with you and Why?
KA: I’m not a big gear guy so I’d work with what I could get. I guess I would take my Bronica SQ, Zenzanon 80mm f/2.8 ,one roll of Ilford FP4 and one roll of Ilford HP5+. Even though it’s not the smallest nor the lightest camera it’s my all-arounder since it has a lightmeter prism, a leaf shutter for flashes and can do double exposures. When it comes to film I took my best shots on ilford film plus you could do quite a bit of pushing and pulling.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location for the rest of your life. What do you take, where do you go and why?
I would probably do something completely different. I would grab some nice color slide film and jump on a plane to Sweden. I’d start doing serious photos of landscapes, people and animals.
I love Nordic countries and the people living there so I really wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my days shooting there.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
KA: I would grab my gear, a roll of Kodak Ektar and try to get to Prypjat which is located next to Chernobyl. I always wanted to shoot the abandoned amusement park with its big ferris wheel and overgrown attractions. The place fascinates me and due to its history I couldn’t think of a better place to shoot the last roll of film.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
KA: There are a lot of things that are true about film photography. It CAN be expensive and complicated. But on thing, that’s definitely not true is that film photography is inferior to digital shooting by any means. I don’t want to start discussing wether shooting film makes you a better photographer, but there’s no reason to be afraid of using film.
Get into M mode, grab some old books (analog photography hasn’t changed much in the last few decades, so it does not have to be a 2017 release!) start shooting, start learning, start printing.
You will see what I’m talking about.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
KA: Film is definitely not dead. It’s getting a lot of attention from the media and celebrities again. Look at all those crowdfunding projects.
A TV series like The Walking Dead shows a polaroid camera, YouTubers pose with their INSTAX camera and rappers tweet pictures of their 35mm cameras.
Cheaper scanner models mean that you don’t have to own a darkroom anymore. I think people finally understand that nobody will look through the billions of photos stored on a hard drive 30 years from now.
Negatives and prints are timeless, they will be around much longer than we will. That leads me to my guess that film (and hopefully analog printing) won’t disappear within the next years.
~ Kay Adams
There’s something I really love about Kay’s destructive approach, or “a thin line between creation and destruction“, as he puts it. It’s not something I dare to do myself (yet) but each time I re-read his work featured here and over on his website, I get a little jolt of inspiration and promise myself that I’ll do something.
In fact, I’ve started in a small little way, baking rolls of redscaled film before shooting them. It’s not a huge leap but small steps and all that. Results should be incoming within the next couple of weeks, so please keep your fingers crossed!
We’ll be back next week but in the meantime – 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.