I am Sina Farhat and this is why I shoot film
Today’s guest is based in Sweden and spends his days working as a freelance photographer. He teaches photography courses in his spare time, letting his students decide the direction they want to (after making sure they have the basics down!)
Although he spends his days working with ones and zeros, Sina prefers to spend whatever spare time he has left shooting film and exploring the frankly prolific experimental side to his film photography.
Over to you, Sina.
Hi Sina, what’s this picture, then?
Fika is a Swedish word meaning having a cup of coffee or tea, something to eat and being social in a (hopefully) relaxed environment. I took this picture during a time when I was doing a lot of experimenting and learning how to get the most out of my Canon A-1. It was a time when I would press the shutter button and hope for a good result without thinking too much about if the shadows were good, or worrying about getting blown highlights.
It was a time when I was innocent and didn’t overthink things too much!
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
My father used to work as a photographer and it looks like I got those genes from his side!
I learned the basics of photography by shooting film. I was constantly annoying my parents by giving them handfuls of exposed rolls to be sent for development!
As time went by I learned to appreciate the joys of the analog look and my collection of analog gear started growing! I also learned to develop my own black/white film and more recently also C41 by setting up a lab at home.
When did you start shooting film?
My father used to work as a photographer and in 2007 I picked up his Canon EOS 500 SLR for the first time. With it, started my photographic journey. I learned the basics and never looked back. I’m constantly moving forward!
I learned the basics on this (mostly) automatic camera then moved on and got myself a Canon 1V HS Pro SLR, which allowed me to move away from basic automation and learn more advanced stuff.
I later found my father’s old Canon A-1 (along with a with a couple of lenses) and with that, I began to learn the tricks of using a manually-focused SLR. As I learned, I began to trust my newly found fully manual knowledge, which was very different compared the to automatic Canon EOS 500 I’d gotten started on.
When I got comfortable with the A-1, I got into developing my own black and white film by building a lab at home.
Later still, I got myself a 1950’s Rolleicord III TLR 6×6 camera. It was different, had very few features and as expected from a camera so old, was fully manual. It requires me to think really hard on what I want to use those 12 square frames on!
What about now, why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
I work as a freelance photographer and a digital camera is my primary tool. Film is my hobby, for when I don’t need the fast turnaround that digital offers. Film allows me to take my time and in many cases I don’t develop my rolls until some time later, as a way to really appreciate the images. It becomes a surprise, as I often forget what I shot!
During the summer of 2015, I also began to develop C41 at home. Being able to experiment with color film really opened my eyes. It’s a challenge for me to get the color right during my digitizing process and it forces me to practice and constantly work on the tools I have available for capturing the correct colors.
I love experimenting. Not using an LCD display has a calming effect on me, as I have to trust myself to get the photo as I want it to be.
As part of my experimentation I have (over the years), been given many rolls of expired film. In fact, I was given 50 rolls of 30+ year old first generation Kodak T-MAX 400 not so long ago. I love shooting them and learning how to get best result from a sometimes challenging film!
Last year (2014) I was given 50 rolls of 10 year old C41 color films. This has so far been a great experiment into learning the tricky methods of getting the best results, as the colors can be everywhere and sometimes nowhere!
I really enjoy the basic tools that a Rolleicord III TRL camera comes with as it doesn’t have a light meter and I can really relax and take some great shots knowing that I only have 12 frames in the 120 film!
In 2015 I got a Canon F1N and I learned to love how compact that SLR is – I hardly have to carry much gear with me! A 50mm or 35mm lens and the F1N allow me to take great shots and not being that guy with the huge camera! It allows me to relax more and work on my fear of getting too close to people to get shots I wouldn’t be able to get as easily with the bigger Canon 1V.
Any favourite subject mater?
I have found that simply walking around with a camera creates the best shots. I don’t plan on what I want to shoot, instead I let the photos come to me. Sometimes I don’t take a single shot, sometimes I finish several rolls!
I really enjoy getting a nice shallow depth of field, as blowing the background gives my subjects a really nice look and makes my photos stand out compared to other photographers (in my humble opinion)
When it is a still subject like plants, I take my time to compose and try out new angles; and when I am with my photography friends I try to practice taking portraits of them or place them somewhere in the frame as a reminder for how nice that day was!
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
A fresh roll of Kodak T-MAX 400 that I can push depending on the available light. Great contrast, nice grain and an overall great look on that film!
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of the subject mater. What to you take with you and why?
I would go for the safe options: Canon 1v, a Canon 50mm 1.4 USM, the legendary Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 and two rolls of t-max 400. The 1V has the features of a modern DSLR, autofocus and a wonderful large viewfinder that allow me to fast manually focus.
The 50mm is my favorite focal length for the all-round shots, the Nikkor 105mm is a excellent tele lens with a stunning sharpness and bokeh! T-max 400 gives me a look that the client can’t say no to and impresses even the most picky person!
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
Manhattan. It is a fascinating place that has so much to see. In combination with a versatile film that I can push and a 35mm lens, I would shoot away and not think about running out of film!
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
It has to do with time and the older generation that ended up disliking film for its slow delivery between taking the picture and getting the roll developed. People will always ask why not digital that one can share online.
My argument as a freelance photographer is that we need to stop stressing over everything and enjoy life more!
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
The in the same way that the LP has returned and is selling enough units for investors to believe in it, I believe that film will also stick around.
Even when more and more films are being discontinued, there is always an option. In my case, I go for cine (motion picture) films. More specifically, I’ve recently got 152 meters of Polypan F 50 black and white cine film that will last me forever!
As for C41 color, film there is the Fuji Eterna 250d and the Kodak Vision cine film line, which saves me money by getting it by the meter!
Find a job you love and never work a day in your life.
I know many professional photographers (freelance and salaried staff), who cannot stand to be near anything photography once they are clocked off. For them, research is a tedious task and experimentation with new techniques is something to be loathed rather than welcomed.
So, to come across a full-time photographer like Sina, who not only enjoys his work but also spends his free time chasing the film photography dragon is a welcome change from my norm. Don’t let Sina;s humble manner give you the wrong impression from designing and bodge-building DSLR scanning rigs to getting arm-deep in developing chemistry, Sina approaches everything photographic with wide eyes and an open mind. More people like Sina would be a very welcome addition to the world.
You can find Sina on his website sinafarhat.se, or lurking as @belola on Twitter. For those of you with good memories, you may also be keen to learn that Sina also hosts the Mellan Skärpa och Korn podcast along with fellow past EMULSIVE interviewee, Jonas Lundström.
We’ll be back again soon with another guest but in the meantime, keep shooting folks.
EMULSIVE needs you. If you’d like to take part in this series of film photographer interviews, please drop us a line, or get in touch in the comments. We’re featuring to photographers young and old; famous and obscure, so get in touch and let’s talk.