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I am Kikie Wilkins and this is why I shoot film

I am Kikie Wilkins and this is why I shoot film

Welcome one and all! Today we’re sitting down with Enrique “Kikie” Wilkins, Arizona based ne’er do well, film photographer and all round gentle giant.

You might remember Kikie’s introduction to developing slide film at home from the end of 2016, where we got to learn a little more about the man himself. Well, we couldn’t let him leave without telling us a little bit more.

Over to you, Kikie!

 

 

Hi Kikie, what’s this picture, then?

Grace Happens, Polaroid Automatic 100 Land Camera, Type 669 Packfilm

Grace Happens, Polaroid Automatic 100 Land Camera, Type 669 Packfilm

KW: About 10 years ago, I was driving around the foothills of the Tucson Mountains when I happened to go by this roadside sign. I didn’t have a camera with me at the time so I made sure to come back the next day. I brought along a couple of cameras, one of which was a Polaroid Automatic 100 Land Camera. I also had a DSLR with me, but somehow I think the instant film captured a certain character that my digital camera couldn’t.

This photograph and the sentiment expressed within are meaningful to me for a few reasons. Many times in my life I have been the recipient of grace and favor in many things I have set my hands to do and even in a few things I never expected.

Life, in all of its ups and downs, happens in cycles and even in the midst of uncomfortable times I know situations always have the capacity to improve. I have no idea what individual, group, or organization sponsored this sign, or what they intended to achieve with it, but I am thankful for the positive outlook it depicts.

 

 

Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)

Portrait

Portrait

KW: My name is Kikie Wilkins. I am a lifelong resident of the desert city of Tucson, Arizona, USA. Tucson is a big city with a small town feel. For many of us who call this place home, it is an attitude that is both infuriating and charming. It’s like trying to live with your feet in two worlds at once and I think that worldview has an influence on my photography.

I embrace both digital and traditional film photography; and am grateful to live in a time where I can transition freely between the two and even incorporate aspects of one into the other.

 

 

When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?

Childhood Imprint, Mamiya Super 23, 100mm 3.5, Fomapan 100

Childhood Imprint, Mamiya Super 23, 100mm 3.5, Fomapan 100

KW: I’ve always had a fascination with photography, for at least as long as I can remember anyways. I didn’t take up photography with serious interest until around 2005, when a friend gave me his old Canon AE-1 Program. I didn’t really know much about the technical aspects of photography then, so I just experimented and had fun.

I’ve never had a “formal” education in photography; everything I know has largely been self-taught with occasional help and inspiration from friends.

Tucson Skyline, Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, Portra 160

Tucson Skyline, Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, Portra 160

Even though I own a DSLR, I’ve stuck with film for a host of reasons. Early on, I never was able to afford the “nice” digital cameras and modern lenses, but everywhere I looked it seemed like people couldn’t get rid of their old film cameras fast enough as they made the transition to digital.

Over the years, I’ve been able to acquire quite a few bargains, perfectly good cameras that just needed a new home.

Radio Tower, Canon AE-1 Program, 15mm 2.8 Fisheye, Ektachrome 200, converted to BW in Post

Radio Tower, Canon AE-1 Program, 15mm 2.8 Fisheye, Ektachrome 200, converted to BW in Post

Shooting film is a way for me to differentiate myself from those who claim you need the highest resolution sensors and exotic glass lenses in order to take a quality photo. Most of my cameras are completely manual.

Whether I am shooting “off the cuff” or putting a lot of deliberate thought into capturing a single image, I always feel a bit of a thrill in not knowing exactly what it is I’ve captured until I develop what I’ve shot.

 

 

Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?

Sonoran Street, Canon AE-1 Program, 15mm 2.8 Fisheye, Kodak BW400CN

Sonoran Street, Canon AE-1 Program, 15mm 2.8 Fisheye, Kodak BW400CN

KW: The friend of mine who gave me his old Canon AE-1 Program has been a tremendous influence in my photography. He served aboard a submarine in the US Navy and he literally took that camera around the world. He and I went on photo walks to different areas around Tucson and even into Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Even though he has fully transitioned to digital photography, I still take inspiration from his work.

For a brief time I had the incredible opportunity to work professionally and collaborate with a bunch of photographers hailing from different backgrounds, education, experiences, and techniques. I count that time in my life among the most productive personally and professionally in my photography.

Faded Glory, Polaroid SX-70, Impossible Project BW

Faded Glory, Polaroid SX-70, Impossible Project BW

Even though I never had considered myself to be artistic, one of my co-workers there told me that I was, in fact, an artist, and for the first time, I believed it. People had made similar statements to me in the past, but to have someone I deeply respected tell me something like that was deeply meaningful. Being among those photographers inspired me to take up shooting film again.

Having the encouragement of like-minded people is an incredible boost to one’s self-confidence, especially when sharing something as intensely personal as your own artistic output.

 

 

Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next? 

Better Days Behind, Mamiya RB67, 127mm 3.5KL, Fuji Velvia 50

Better Days Behind, Mamiya RB67, 127mm 3.5KL, Fuji Velvia 50

KW: I think I’m equal opportunity when it comes to photography. I treasure my film and instant cameras just as much as I do my digital ones. Having a great camera and awesome gear is a lot of fun and can make the technical tasks of photography much easier, but ultimately, it is not the amount of megapixels a sensor can capture or how fine-grained a particular emulsion is that matters.

I find as much enjoyment in taking a picture as seeing the final result.

University of Arizona Mall, Polaroid Automatic 100 Land Camera, Type 667 Packfilm

University of Arizona Mall, Polaroid Automatic 100 Land Camera, Type 667 Packfilm

I’ve never been a technical photographer, so if I believe using digital and relying on automated functions will allow me to be more “in the moment” then I will do it. Other times, it is much more convenient to carry around a small film rangefinder camera and is less conspicuous than hauling around a big DSLR.

I’m a firm believer if something is holding you back from enjoying photography, practice how to overcome the obstacle or ditch the track you’re on and try a different method or equipment that will allow you to obtain the results you want.

At the Corner, Mamiya Super 23, 100mm 3.5, Fuji Velvia 100

At the Corner, Mamiya Super 23, 100mm 3.5, Fuji Velvia 100

 

 

 

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?

Standing in Nogales, Canon AE-1 Program, 50mm 1.4, Kodak BW400CN

Standing in Nogales, Canon AE-1 Program, 50mm 1.4, Kodak BW400CN

KW: Composition is something I have challenges with almost every time I pick up my camera. There’s a huge element of “luck” in photography and I believe I’ve been mostly fortunate so far in that I’ve captured many images that I like.

Sometimes I’m more in a hurry to take the shot than in taking the time to think of a pleasing composition before I ever put the camera up to my eye. I’d also like to get my feet wet with large-format photography; I’ve never done it before.

Locked Up Love, Mamiya Super 23, 100mm 3.5, Fuji Neopan Acros 100

Locked Up Love, Mamiya Super 23, 100mm 3.5, Fuji Neopan Acros 100

 

 

Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?

Food Festival, Rolleiflex 3.5F, Fuji Velvia 50

Food Festival, Rolleiflex 3.5F, Fuji Velvia 50

KW: I love candid photography, shots of people going about their everyday lives. Once others get over the fact someone with a camera is around and taking photographs, they usually relax a bit. I think there’s something incredibly relatable in recording images of people as they go about their daily business.

I also find myself photographing murals and public artwork that has been popping up around Tucson. I believe the city has been undergoing a kind of revival in the quantity and quality (I know, value judgment) of artistic expression and I find it very enjoyable to document these things in my photography.

When I began to study history I came to the quick realization that so much of our lives are incredibly transitory, which can be a greatly uncomfortable thought. What we think will be around forever may be torn down tomorrow and replaced with something else, or crumble into dust all on its own. There are many people, places, and things around Tucson that I can remember being around when I was growing up that just aren’t there anymore or have changed so much that it would be indistinguishable from what they used to be years ago. Sometimes these changes are beneficial, for necessary, positive reasons; other times they are the product of shortsighted expedience and carelessness.

Maybe a few others and I will be the only ones who ever look at the photographs I take, but I take comfort in the fact I made an effort to document some of those things. When the day comes that my memory is vague and fleeting, I can have something to look upon and remind myself of the way we used to be.

 

 

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?

Vergiss by fin dac, Mamiya Press Super 23, 100mm 3.5, Kodak Portra 400, EI 100

Vergiss by fin dac, Mamiya Press Super 23, 100mm 3.5, Kodak Portra 400, EI 100

KW: I would take my Mamiya RB67 with a 127mm lens and Kodak Portra 400 and Tri-X films. I was tempted to say I would take my Canon P rangefinder with a 50mm lens, which are considerably smaller, lighter, and would allow me to capture more frames per roll.

The RB67 is so well built and precise; and there’s also the benefit of having a larger negative to work with. Kodak Portra 400 is so versatile and I’ve had much success in pushing Tri-X three or four stops. I think with that camera and those films, I would have a good chance at success. Somehow, I think I would still find a way to sneak the Canon P in on the assignment. I would hide it inside of the RB! [EMULSIVE: Cheeky!]

Frida, Diego, and Catrina, Canon Elan 7, 50mm 1.8STM, Kodak 400TX

Frida, Diego, and Catrina, Canon Elan 7, 50mm 1.8STM, Kodak 400TX

 

 

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?

Agave Lady, Canon P, 35/2.8, Eastman Double-X 5222

Agave Lady, Canon P, 35/2.8, Eastman Double-X 5222

KW: I’m such an incredible homebody and I’ve never really traveled much, so I don’t really feel qualified to answer a question about going anywhere when I haven’t been everywhere! However, if I had to make a hard and fast choice, I would go with Eastman Double-X and pick a concentrated urban jungle-like setting, like NYC, Tokyo, London, or any of the major cities of the world.

I love how Double-X performs and I think it would lend itself well to how stark some of these environments can be and yet be so richly human at the same time.

 

 

You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?

4th Ave on a Saturday Afternoon, Canon P, 35/2.8, Eastman Double-X 5222

4th Ave on a Saturday Afternoon, Canon P, 35/2.8, Eastman Double-X 5222

KW: I would take a roll of Double-X and spend my time walking around the streets of downtown Tucson on a Friday or Saturday where there will be a lot of foot traffic because of an event or celebration going on. Tucson is my home and if I could never use film again, I think I would like to spend it recording people enjoying themselves as they go about.

 

 

What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?

Creepy Doll in Mesquite Tree, Mamiya RB67, 127mm 3.5KL, Fuji Velvia 50

Creepy Doll in Mesquite Tree, Mamiya RB67, 127mm 3.5KL, Fuji Velvia 50

KW: I think many people see film shooters as being an elitist bunch that peer down upon all others who are not film photographers. Equally, I think people sometimes see film shooters as some kind of masters of the craft, people who ought to be revered and treated as wise sages.

In these days where people seem to be needlessly divided on all sorts of things big and small we need to come together and support each other in our love of photography.

 

 

In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?

Students on the way to class, Polaroid Automatic 100 Land Camera, Type 667 Packfilm

Students on the way to class, Polaroid Automatic 100 Land Camera, Type 667 Packfilm

KW: I am guardedly optimistic in the future of film photography. I don’t believe there has ever been a time where knowledge has been so freely accessible to beginners and experts alike. Combined with the fact that equipment that used to be out of the reach of so many because of cost is now available and waiting to be picked up and lovingly used again.

Even though it is sad and discouraging to hear about some brand or type of film disappearing, traditional, alternative, and digital photography has never been as open and available as it is today. The journey of personal development is just as important and fulfilling as the final product we end up with in our hands or on our computer screens.

~ KikieWilkins

 


 

The joy Kikie has for photography is infectious and he has a perspective we could all learn from when in a photographic rut:

I’m a firm believer if something is holding you back from enjoying photography, practice how to overcome the obstacle or ditch the track you’re on and try a different method or equipment that will allow you to obtain the results you want.

It’s the beginning of the year, which means it’s prime time for lament and disillusion to bed in – and I’m not just talking about photography. For many, the beginning of the year can be a time when the months ahead seem like an opportunity to repeat the same mundane activities that took up the year before. I know I’m not the only one to have felt that way in the past, and Kikie’s words really resonate with me.

I spent much of the first half of last year in a huge photographic funk. I found myself unable to shoot the things I wanted the way and when I wanted to. Long story short, I changed my approach to capitalise on what I was able to achieve using a combination of what I had in my photographic tool shed.

I realized that a great deal of the funk came from what I was producing from the camera that had been my mainstay for much of the latter half of 2015. This camera changed my photographic approach so much that I found myself unable to recognize my own work.

It might seem silly but having since switched my gear around to verify, I’ve taken the approach of altering the way I shoot with that camera and it’s lenses. I feel happier about it and now understand that it was my inflexibility toward change (expecting the same results from different cameras), which led to my disappointment, and not the camera itself.

No, I’m not going to tell you which one 😉

Find Kikie on Instagram or Twitter, you won’t be sorry!

That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for another film photographer on these pages next week!

Keep shooting, folks!

~ EMULSIVE

 

 

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About The Author

EMULSIVE

Self confessed film-freak and film photography mad-obsessive and OVERLORD at emulsive.org. I push, pull, shoot, boil and burn film everyday, and I want to share what I learn.

2 Comments

  1. “I embrace both digital and traditional film photography; and am grateful to live in a time where I can transition freely between the two…”

    This.

    Reply
  2. Nice!

    Reply

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