I am LA Lyles and this is why I shoot film
Today’s interviewee stumbled into film photography as a result of not wanting to be left out of all the fun that was going on around her.
I’m incredibly glad that she did and I’m sure you will be too, after seeing her words and work below.
Over to you, LA!
Hi LA, what’s this picture, then?
LA: This photo is off the very first roll of film I ever shot. I had no clue what I was doing at the time. I was shooting on a Holga with very shaky hands mind you, then this happy accident occurred. To this day it still remains one of my favorites. This is the roll that started it all.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
LA: I’m LA, an all american weirdo living in Cleveland, Ohio. I hold a BA in Directing and an intrepid taste for adventure.
When did you start shooting film and what about now? What drives you to keep shooting?
LA: I stumbled upon film in 2010. A few of my friends in film school were big film shooters. They all had Holgas and not one to be left out, I purchased one as well. I remember waiting by my mailbox for days until it finally arrived.
My first several rolls were terrible, much to my chagrin. I had been shooting digital for years and couldn’t quite figure out where my knowhow was lacking.
I persisted as a hobbyist for a few years. Finally fed up with not being able to control my focus and aperture, I purchased my first film SLR.
…it was kismet.
My photography game was completely changed and I haven’t looked back. My camera is with me wherever I go.
I started shooting film in 2010 as a hobby, then seriously in 2013. Film is my go to, far more than digital nowadays. For me, film is a meditation in patience. We are a culture of instant gratification. We can snap a photograph and immediately see the results, delete and start again.
Film teaches you to wait. You have to develop and print before you get that final result. It’s a constant reminder to slow down and enjoy the process.
Any favorite subject matter?
LA: The feeling of a person or a place. I love to play with emotions, color, shape, and shadow. Those closest to me know I usually have a small arsenal of cameras on me to capture those fleeting, true to life moments.
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?
LA: Wet Plate. I have always been intrigued by Ambrotypes and Tintypes. I’ve researched them voraciously and can’t wait to try my hand at them.
I want to keep pushing my style. I’ve played it fairly safe with my photography so far and I really want to cut loose. I’m talking double exposures, film soup, long exposures, off focus, the works. My technical knowledge has a much better foundation from when I began, now it’s time to break all the rules.
I too tend to be a reactionary shooter, just a passive observer more than a creative director. I would love to start crafting more narrative based images. A few friends and I have recently started a fledgeling collective with the aim to do just that.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
LA: This recently happened to me with Fujifilm discontinuing FP 100c and 300BW (I’m still not over it by the way).
My last roll I would take back to the place where it all started. Those first few tentative steps on the streets of Los Angeles. It’s a feeling I want to immortalize, that first little taste of magic.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films, and no idea of the subject matter. What do you take with you and why?
LA: I know my Canon AE-1 better than I know myself. It’s a no-brainer that I’d grab my tried and true and bring along my 50mm f/1.4. That lens is my go to, and performs well in any lighting situation.
Film wise, I’d bring along a roll of Kodak Portra 800, as it’s color saturation is out of sight and it’s a fast film, and a roll of T-MAX 400 BW, I love the grain and it’s a good, dependable black and white.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
LA: Where wouldn’t I go! There are so many places I’d love to see and capture. If I had to choose only one, it would probably be South America. There is so much culture, beauty, and places I’ve dreamed of visiting, I might not come back. All those colors captured on film would be utterly breathtaking.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it right?
LA: I think a common misconception about film is it’s irrelevance. “It’s too hard, too time consuming” are many of the gripes I’ve heard from the digital camp. I don’t shoot film because it’s easy, or quick, I do it because I love it.
I love the hours crammed in a little dark room waiting for photographs to take form, I love that I have a limited number of frames to challenge myself to make the most of it. It’s a long lost discipline most people are lacking, the control to slow down and appreciate what you have in your hands.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
LA: I think the future of film photography is very bright. With Kodak’s release of a new Super 8 and all of the recent innovations in instant film, I hope that the fire spreads. While I’m a fan of old glass, anything to get film in people’s hands I think would show companies like Kodak and Fujifilm that the demand for film is still there and growing.
As long as there are those overflowing with passion for the craft, I don’t see analog going anywhere anytime soon. We need a little more magic in the world.
~ L.A. Lyles
It seems that I’m saying something along the lines of, “…I didn’t know how to articulate XYZ until ABC interviewee articulated in a way I couldn’t have”, but it’s true, I tell you!
This time it’s about the old adage that film slows you down. As LA says,
“Film teaches you to wait. You have to develop and print before you get that final result. It’s a constant reminder to slow down and enjoy the process.”
So, so true. It’s the process that has me hooked, and I don’t just mean the waiting for development, scans and prints.
I love that each roll is a finite resource that must be cared for, looked after and nurtured into giving up that perfect shot. Whilst the camera and lens has a huge impact on the result, it’s the care that goes into preparing and making the photograph that accounts for much of the true quality of the final negative – in my humble opinion, anyway.
Thanks to LA for becoming the latest in a long line of photographers who have collectively given me the ability to express myself!
Well then…that was interview number 98. Just one more to go before we hit 100! Anyone else excited?
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.