I am Lee Fennings and this is why I shoot film
This week we’re sitting down with Lee Fennings, a UK-based digital shooter, now just starting to shoot 35mm with his beautiful reconditioned Olympus Trip 35.
Lee’s a rather strange beast as far as digital street photographers go; his post-production workflow is rather non-existent, as he tries to do as much as he can in order to get the shot right in-camera…a man after our own heart.
Let’s jump in.
Hi Lee, what’s this picture, then?
LF: This shot was taken in St James’s Park, London (March 2015), not long after I’d reignited my interest in film photography. I had recently acquired a professionally restored Olympus Trip 35 (circa 1983) so shooting my first roll in years, with an old camera that I wasn’t even sure worked properly, was an interesting experience. But I was delighted with the results of the first roll and this shot in particular, as it has that feel of being shot back in time, with the use of black and white film lending itself nicely to the effect.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
LF: I’m a street photographer from Kent, UK shooting mostly digital. For a majority of my street photographs I much prefer to shoot in black and white.
When did you start shooting film?
LF: I’ve always had a very keen interest in photography but would have probably started using film with purpose in my early twenties. As a keen traveller visiting South East Asia and North America as a twenty year old (23 years ago), my compact would never be too far from my side to record the memories.
What about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
LF:There is something magical about film, something old school. For me it’s the anticipation you don’t get with digital, which is the format I use most.
The Olympus Trip 35 I purchased back in March of this year is a wonderful camera, a classically styled ‘point and shoot’ ideally suited to my street photography. Carrying the Trip 35 also gives me that alternative option to digital when shooting the streets.
Street photography is a fascinating genre and all about capturing a candid moment in time. It’s a well-known and popular phrase amongst street photographers and one that stands so true, that of Henri Cartier-Bresson pursuing what he called ‘The Decisive Moment’, the moment in which the meaning of an event is most clearly captured in a photograph. This is what drives me…to seek that candid, extraordinary and unique moment in time.
Any favorite subject matter?
LF: I have travelled extensively covering six continents (Australia remains) so travel photography has always played a significant part. But I seem to become instinctively drawn to the human condition and I suppose this has led me to become the street photographer I am today.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
LF: I don’t claim to be an expert on film but for me it would simply be a good quality black and white for use in my Trip 35. And as it’s my last roll, 36 exposures!
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of the subject matter. What to you take with you and why?
LF: My film camera resources are limited so it would be my Trip 35 with its 40mm Zuiko lens. To date, I have only used two rolls of Ilford XP2 Super 400 black and white film so I’d take two more of these with me. It would be a straight forward pick up and run…in less than two minutes!
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
LF: I live an hour away by train from London, so I’d take my unlimited supply of film there. It’s incredibly diverse and the perfect hunting ground for a street photographer.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
LF: I guess teenagers of today might ask the question ‘Why use film, when you have digital?’ Digital is now seen as the norm and I suppose more convenient and cost effective in many ways. But film seems to be making a massive resurgence and it’s organisations like yours with a real passion for it that will hopefully make the difference by putting it out there and keeping film alive!
Finally, in your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
LF: It certainly seems to be heading in the right direction and I see no reason why film’s popularity shouldn’t continue. On a personal level, there is so much more I want to experience and learn, from using different types of film to mastering the processes of printing in a darkroom. All in good time.
Lee’s still getting to grips with the little Olympus and we’re looking forward to seeing how his style develops and how shooting film might influence, or affect his digital work.
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.