Introducing EMULSIVE’s agony aunt – Dear Benice #1: How can I let people know I’m still shooting film?
I’m pleased to be able to introduce you all to the wonderful Benice Shofil, who after much poking and prodding has agreed to join EMULSIVE as guest agony aunt. Before we jump into the first reader question, here’s a little bit about the lady herself:
Benice was born in what was then known as Czechoslovakia in June 1949 to immigrant parents and was named after the area of Prague where they first met. Educated in both Prague and Leipzig, Benice spent her first “real job”, as she puts it, working in Prague’s long-established film industry. Initially working as a drapemaker, Bencie moved to the UK in the early 1970’s; and with her first husband and young family in tow, she began working as a prop maker / dresser for small local television and theatre productions.
Nearly 50 years later Benice finally decided to call it a day and moved to Perth, Australia with her (third) husband, where they now live with their three dogs, Jasper, Bernard and Toby.
Although her work life was nearly entirely focused on making pictures of the moving variety, Benice was (and remains) an avid film photographer; and was called on to produce much of the photography used to dress the sets of the productions she worked on. Benice has many wonderful stories about her life and maybe one day I’ll get her to write about how she won her first camera from poker game with Robert Capa and Earnest Hemingway.
You should be warned that she has a sharp wit and sharper tongue. When she’s had a couple of large gins and is sat on the back porch, anyone is fair game. Where necessary, the names and locations of those posing questions to Benice have been obscured or changed. Speaking of which, you can ask Benice your own questions using the form at the bottom of this page.
With all that out of the way, it’s time to hand over to the wonderful woman herself.
Here goes nothing…
It’s been years but no-one’s noticed. How can I let people know I’m still shooting film?
Bath Salts, Wisconsin
Thank you for your timely enquiry.
As film photography grows in popularity it’s more important than ever to be able to clearly signal to all and sundry you’re “In with the in crowd”. It’s no longer enough of a distinction to be someone who merely shoots with film – in today’s cutthroat look-at-me world you need to be a “Film Shooter”.
You’re first instinct may be to dress in the perceived ceremonial battle garb of the analogue photographer – a bandolier filled with cartridges of hand rolled film, a baseball cap with HP5+ emblazoned on it, a large yellow Kodak branded cooler acting as a very poor camera bag, and of course as many pins and badges proclaiming “I shoot film, Hug Me” etc., as you have square inches of fabric available to cover, but let me stop you right there.
While a film bandolier might sound like the ideal mix of practical accessory and ideal signalling device, the sad fact is this once stylish torso enhancer has now been co-opted by the Ewoks in Star-Trak, and as such anyone wearing one will be presumed a nerd. You may well have memorised the datasheets for all of Kodak and Ilford films, past and present, and be able to explain reciprocity failure to a child of five, but the last thing you want is to be mistaken for a nerd.
The only thing a baseball cap has ever successfully signaled is premature hair loss. A Kodak branded anything is far too gauche, and the moment you start covering yourself up with pins you just look like a deranged Bay City Rollers fan.
The solution is simple.
As you are a male, your first step is to grow a beard. Nothing says “Analogue photography makes me slow down” like an absence of personal grooming. It shows you spend more time in front of an enlarger than a mirror. It’s no coincidence that 100% of successful bearded analogue photographers have facial hair. For women this obviously offers some hurdles, but nothing insurmountable – if you’re prepared to waste half an hour trying to get 120 roll film onto a developing reel in the dark then a little time with a fake beard and some glue should present no issues.
Step number two is obvious; wear a sash. The elegant cousin of the aforementioned bandolier, the sash is a garment long associated with Mayors and Beauty Queens. While It goes without saying that any individual whose end goal is to find themselves hidden behind a large box beneath a dark sheet is not going to be mistaken for a Beauty Queen, you can be the Mayor of Photography, with all the respect and awe which accompanies such a position.
How does your sash let people recognise you as a “Film Photographer”? The same way you proclaim your life choices on internet – hashtags. A brightly coloured sash boldly stating “#ISHOOTFILM” will, when coupled with the beard, remove any doubt in anyone’s mind as to what sort of person you are. Also, given their delicate, lightweight nature, why not have more than one Sashtag?
“#ILFORDLIFE” over one shoulder, “#KODAKMAFIA” over the other for example. Care should be given when choosing longer slogans, as the end of your Sashtag may be invisible to viewers and “#ILOVEANALOG”... well, you get the idea. Also avoid using more than two Sashtags at a time, because no one wants to see that.
These two easy steps are all you need to make your personal choices public, and elevate your stature above the sea of analogue photographers just getting on with it.
Ask Benice a question
Do you have a film photography question you're dying to get off your chest? Perhaps there's something puzzling you that you're afraid to ask. Don't worry, ask it using the form below and we'll make sure it get's added to Benice's queue.
She'll pick one question every few weeks and answer it in her unique style.
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