I am Lucy Wainwright and this is why I shoot film
Lucy has a wonderful mix of styles that sit somewhere between playful, abstract and experimental. She’s incredibly hard to pin down as belonging to one particular subset of photography and for me, that’s a good, no a GREAT thing.
Open your eyes wide and get ready to bask in some wonderful images.
Over to you, Lucy.
Hi Lucy, what’s this picture, then?
LW: This is one of the most satisfying pictures I ever took. I was wandering about in Manchester (UK), really enjoying the sunny day and the atmosphere. I found myself by A highly reflective building near Picadilly Gardens, which turned the world into a giant kaleidoscope.
I stood there for about a roll and a half shooting some Rollei Digibase which I crossed, and some Fuji Superia 200, which this is. Superia 200 is lovely. I really rate it.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
LW:I am all the things I remember, most of which were pretty good really, and all of which have been of use in some way. I am all of the things I’m dreaming about and wishing for, some of which are so vivid they’re almost like memories too. My ambition is to be an art therapist*1. I’ve been working towards it for some years now.
I am all the things I like too. Some of the things I like are rum, folk music, statuary, philosophy, tea, secrets, flowers, ruins, signposts, gazing at things, the sea, serious literature, graphic novels, pickled fish, empty notebooks and film. I think my children are fantastic. I’m happy on beaches, and not speaking.
When did you start shooting film and what about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
LW: For Christmas in December 2013 my partner gave me a Diana F+. He really wasn’t sure if I’d like it at all, but I did, quite a lot. I spent an ecstatic Christmas week doing multiple exposures, long exposures, partially winding on, moving the camera around, and things like that. Unmetered, just guessing and playing. The fantastic thing was I took some photos I still love now, and still think are good. It was huge fun.
Film is such a beautiful media. I had been using a DSLR for about a year, or less than a year. It was a decent one and I took some nice pictures with it. But as soon as I’d played with that boxy, silly little gorgeous blue plastic camera, the DSLR literally died in my hands. I haven’t used it for anything creative in two years plus, because it just isn’t how I like to work.
I like to wait (I hate to wait really, but for pictures I like to wait) and I like to plan, but also I like to be impulsive. I like sometimes not knowing quite what is in my camera, or having really not quite the right film for the situation, or making mistakes.
I like planning, but I also like planning to allowing inspirations to happen. And there are so many films I haven’t tried, and so many possible combinations of film, camera and subject. I literally can’t stop.
Any favorite subject matter?
LW: Whatever I’m looking at, just as it is, and how I feel about it; that is my subject matter. I walk and go to places and I photograph them as I see and feel them. I love light and like photographing actual photons if I can.
Back-light is my gold. I want novelties and wonders. I don’t use flash and I’ve never hired a model, and those are two things I can’t ever see myself doing either.
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?
LW: Next steps. In the summer of 2016 I’ll get to focus more on the alt pro side, as there’s better and more reliable warm sunshine. I’ve already managed some lumen prints this year…in England…in April, amazingly.
There will be more of that, and anthotypes. I’ve made some papers with beetroot and spinach emulsions and now I’m going to make some positives on Harman DPP to make anthotypes with. I’ve also just put some pinhole cameras up in the garden, which I’ll take down again in September, hopefully with nice summer solargraphs in… My first ever.
I also have wet plate collodion on my list. John Brewer runs a very well-regarded workshop in Manchester and I’m saving up for that.
I’m also planning special trips to photograph interesting things. I am an opportunist photographer by nature, as mostly what I like is sunshine and weather and conditions and movement that comes and goes and needs catching, and this year I’m making a special effort to plan myself some really good opportunities. I’ve planned a trip to London, Holy Island (off Anglesey in Wales), and two trips to Yorkshire, one in the summer and one in the winter. I also go to Whitby, which is very special to me. I take my kids there and we swim and make sand castles, catch crab and play pool in the arcade…and I take hundreds of photos.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
LW: Nooo! Ok…it’ll be Kodak Ektachrome, and I’m going to cross process it.
I’ve used a few different versions of Ektachrome in the past and I’ve had my best results crossing daylight-balanced versions like the 200. I love Ektachrome’s arty, Better Than Life pinks and blues. My last ever roll of film (I really hope this never really happens), will be a roll of Ektachrome 200 and I’ll take it somewhere like Whitby. It loves the seaside, and so do I.
I really like trying new films. I just got hold of a tin of Ektachrome slide duplicating film, which falls somewhere between D and T (daylight and tungsten-balanced respectively) by the sounds of it and needs shooting fairly slow, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with that. Also a very kind friend just sent me a tin of Fuji IT-N, and I’m going to roll some of that for night shooting when I go to London in the summer. The colours look really interesting! It’s another really slow one, so I’ll need a tripod.
It’s safe to say that I’m not into accurate colour. I know what colours look like in the real world, and I want to make photographs that show how colour feels, which is just amazing. I was talking to a photographer friend about B&W film recently, and I told her it makes me sad; I just think about all the colour I’ll be missing!
The exceptions for me are B&W films that are either near or true IR (I love IR’s drama and contrast), x-ray film, which I shoot a fair bit of, paper negatives and Washi paper film. I use paper, x-ray and Washi for pinhole, which I do quite a lot of, and tray develop it in my kitchen by safelight. I’m not likely to ever do much classic BW 35mm or roll film again now.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two flms and no idea of the subject matter. What to you take with you and why?
LW: This will never happen. I will never let this happen! But…
My Nikon F90x (in America this is called an N90s), 50mm/1.4 lens and a roll of Fuji Superia 1600. Ready for anything.
The Nikon F90x is a clever, clever little camera. It has everything I need and there’s nothing to get in the way of making good photos quickly. I’m a very simple soul… I make pictures out of what I can see right now, and I use available light almost exclusively. The F90x is comfortable, chunky but not too chunky, and not too heavy.
I like the autowind for quickness. The metering is flawless, and it goes down to 6 iso on the dial, which you can even further reduce to 1.5 iso with the exposure comp. I’ve shot 1.5 iso film in it, handheld! I have three lenses for it and a good range of filters: IR, coloured and magnifying. I love to massively magnify tiny things until they become strange and abstract, especially in strong light or on slide film.
My F90x with lens and filter kit…there’s nothing I can’t do with that.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
LW: I’ve got unfinished business with Scotland’s islands. I had a holiday in the Western Isles many years ago but never got as far as Orkney and Shetland and so I’m going to go there, and then all of the others too, is that ok?
Well, I’m going anyway.
I’m going to photograph all of the stones and seas and skies and moods of all of them. It’s going to be ace! I’m really going to do this. One day.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
LW: That it’s prohibitively expensive. It’s not, or I wouldn’t do it. I don’t mind spending money on my hobby, because it’s a joy to me, but I can’t spend much and I have to budget.
So, you can shoot AGFA Vista plus in an XA2 and get it developed for less than the price of a small round at the bar. Way less!
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
LW: I couldn’t say. I guess nothing lasts forever. I’m going to keep on until I drop though.
~ Lucy Wainwright
*1 – Art Therapy
Art therapy is a kind of psychotherapy in which people make expressive images and objects which can then be used to bring emotional issues into the open. Confusion, distress and trauma can be really hard to talk about, and we don’t even know what our issues and troubles are, sometimes. Art gives us a way in.
Not everyone can find the words, but everyone can hold a pen or model a piece of clay. There’s no skill or experience needed. And when we have that object or image, we have a way to begin reflecting on our experiences and our responses to them. Art therapy is incredibly powerful with all kinds of problems, including PTSD, addiction and abuse.
I volunteer at a hospice visited by seriously and terminally ill adults, a really brilliant place. We make art and have projects and chat and share support. When I’m fully qualified I want to continue working with illness and mind/body trauma. I’m heading towards a practice with fuses art therapy with ecotherapy, using art and natural materials both inside and outdoors to support people in connecting both to nature and their own *inner* nature. I think that photography can be a part of that.
There are two points I’d like to frame here, if I may. The first is Lucy’s mention of planning a few trips this coming year, and the second being her statement when talking about misconceptions of film photography, “That it’s prohibitively expensive. It’s not, or I wouldn’t do it.”
To the first; I count myself as an opportunistic photographer who plans but is not always able to execute photographic excursions, or excursions where photography can have a deep focus. In this way, I see a kinship with Lucy outside her love and advocacy for film. Life has a way of getting in the way of things we enjoy doing but I really believe that regardless of our individual situations, we can always do something for ourselves and not the personal world that surrounds us. It may not always be easy but for those of us in a photographic rut especially, taking time out from our daily grinds can help throw better light and new perspectives on our 9-5’s (or 9-9’s!), when we return to reality.
To Lucy’s second point about the misconception that film is expensive. I’m going to leave the development and scanning element of this equation aside in for a future reckoning in order to get a point across about hardware. I feel (and could be wrong), that she’s talking to a world filled only with Linhof, Hasselblad, Leica and Rollei. I often feel that these brands and the vapid, almost feverish, reverential love and adoration given to them is what gives film photography its reputation of being expensive, exclusive and snooty. I don’t like it, it’s not healthy and it takes away from the focus of film photography. Any guesses what that is?
It’s the medium.
Yes, I own and use a couple of cameras carrying a couple of the brand names above but I don’t believe that they offer a magical experience that makes my photography better. They can certainly offer me an experience devoid of worries about mechanical issues (on the whole) but the magic, the real magic comes from the environment, the light, and the ability of the eye to see and capture it.
Lucy excels at this, in my opinion. I’m humbled and in awe of what she’s shared here and it makes me want to be better than I feel I am.
THAT is what these interview are about.
Aside from being a member of the The Film Shooters Collective, Lucy has an image in their forthcoming book, NSEW or North, South, East and West (keep an eye out in the autumn of 2016). You can find out more about the book over at Revela-T, and you’ll be able to see a selection of images from the book (and Lucy’s image!) at their analog festival in Barcelona in the Summer. You can find Lucy as @thelucywainwright on Instagram, or on Twitter.
We’ll be back soon (as ever), with an other film photographer’s words and images. In the meantime, keep shooting, folks.
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