Why shoot film part 2 – by Simon King
It has been a couple of months since my first post, on Why I Shoot Film, and I thought that now would be a great time to provide an update. A lot has happened since I got my first few rolls of film developed, including adopting a truly unique camera into my workflow, and settling on my ideal film.
The Leica CL is the perfect starting point for film photography. With the Jupiter 8 attached I am not concerned about taking it in my bag every single day I go out to shoot; its weight is negligible.
As such my film images have accompanied my digital ones on assignment at London Fashion Week, Comic Con, weddings, fashion commissions, and down the pub. The effects of my film workflow have been noticeable, as I have become more frugal with my images both digitally and with film.
(TIP: to view any of the images in the gallery below in full screen, give them a click or a tap)
I also find myself actively seeking out compositions that will work with black and white, and which are “worthy” of being captured on film, and finding the balance on what images I want digitally, and which I need on film will be something I am likely to spend quite a lot of time figuring out.
I’ve spent some time trying different film stocks, and have decided that ILFORD XP2 Super is not only my favourite, but also likely the only film I will continue to use. Black and white was a conscious decision when I started shooting with film and I enjoy how very different the aesthetic is from my usual digital colour work. I started off with HP5 and XP2, soon removing HP5 from the equation. For colour I tried AGFA and Fujifilm Superia – which I actually found to be fairly similar.
After around a hundred images I took a look through what I had produced – I had been writing a blog entry for every roll of film I had developed, which was a great way to keep track of my thoughts and opinions on a topic, which was entirely new to me.
There was something lacking from even my favourite film images, and it took me a while to quite figure out exactly what it was I needed from the medium. I have quite specific needs, as most photographers tend to, and it is important for me to get exactly from film what it offers to me, and not what it offers in terms of the appeal for nostalgia, or aesthetic, or development ritual. I had to figure out what I needed film to do for me.
It took a while of research, based on this experience and also interest from before I even got into film, but I decided that the answer to my issues rested with the Hasselblad XPan. Film photography offers such a visceral medium, malleable and with diverse application. I realized that simply using another 35mm medium was not offering me results that were discernably different from my digital rangefinder – or any camera I had ever used for that matter. The 3:2 format is prolific, and for film to really offer me something different I feel it was a total shift in the overall look of the image.
I managed to find an XPan fairly cheaply, and soon put it to work. A lot of my work is informed by my love of cinema, and I have tried to incorporate this cinematic aspect to many of my images. This meant that I took to the XPan fairly quickly, although I still have a long way to go myself in terms of being aware of what is going on in my entire frame.
I quickly started using the XPan in my pitch to clients, offering them something truly unique. Whenever I discussed this panoramic, cinematic style with my clients they were always engaged and excited; loving the idea and agreeing – but always insisting I use colour film. This was how I first came to experiment with Fujifilm and AGFA, to figure out their effects, and how best to apply them.
My favourite commercial shots so far have been from my fashion concept shoot for PSLDN, especially the shots from the launderette – a location I intend to return to with some XP2 and more time for some candid images.
I am glad to have settled on a unique style for my film photography, one which offers far more to my capacity to grow as an artist and to offer a unique perspective. Honestly, if the XPan had a true digital counter then I would likely choose that, however it really shows what can be achieved when using film as something physical, which can be stretched beyond using it as a cheap full frame solution. I hope to use film a lot more before writing again, with more thoughts and hopefully an improvement in my images as a result of practice!
Thanks for reading. You can read more of my thoughts on photography on my personal blog and follow my work on Instagram – links to both are in the bio a bit further down the page.
~ Simon King
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