On the front page of ifwefilm.com is a message from Marina Llopis:
IFWEFILM is not just film photography workshops.
This project is born for you, to help you enter in this wonderful journey. A journey which I want you to experience, get inspired and connect with yourself through film photography.ifwefilm.com
This sums up her attitude to film photography perfectly – she wants to share it, spread it as far and wide as possible and bring the joy of analogue photography to the world. The concept and website have existed since mid 2018, but Marina’s photographic journey goes back to 2013 and before, and across the world!
Marina has a YouTube channel, an Instagram account (and another!), a Facebook page, and finally, photographic business running ‘film experiences’ to teach people film photography out in the wild. With all of that going on I am amazed that she has found the time to talk to me, but I am very glad that she has!
Here we go…!
RD: Marina, tell us about your film journey thus far? Did you start off digital and move to film, or has film always had a part in your photographic life?
ML: I started in the world of analogue photography at the age of 13, when my father gave me my first film camera. It was love at first sight. I remember, I spent a long time looking at the camera and all its buttons with the Elvis’ song “Can’t help falling in love” playing in the background of my mind. I started playing with it without really knowing how it worked, but every time I used it, I was getting inspired to take more and more photographs.
When I was in high school, my mother helped me with buying my first digital camera and I started on a short photography course (I think it just lasted a few months). I remember being the one who always carried a camera with me or the one who asked all my friends to let me take photoshoots for them.
After finishing the short photography course, I felt it wasn’t enough and started seeking inspiration from other photographers. That’s when I discovered Ueda Shoji, Kawauchi Rinko and Moriyama Daido who deeply captivated me.
When I finished high school, my sister who was living in Japan at that time (and still is) suggested the idea of going to Japan to study photography. The decision to go or not go was quite crystal clear for me so in April 2011 I took my suitcase and moved to Nagoya. My 5 years stay in Japan were a strong cocktail of emotions. Not just because of having to learn a completely different language but for getting used to a new culture and way of thinking.
After mastering the language 2 years after my arrival, I entered Nagoya Visual Arts College to study photography. That’s the place where I fell in love again with analogue photography and where I learned all the techniques I needed to know to be able to apply them to my photographic projects.
I was also fortunate enough to find a job in a photo lab near Nagoya Visual Arts so practically all my days at that time were dedicated to film photography. The truth is that, without any exaggeration, they were the two happiest years of my life.
Since then my activity with digital cameras became practically nil even when I moved to Tokyo in 2015 to work at IINO Media Pro Studios during my last year of stay in Japan.
When returning to Mallorca, Spain, in April 2016 I found a job in a photo lab, where I spent two years working while starting again with new photographic projects.
Two years ago (in April 2018) I finally moved to Bristol, found a job at another photo lab and founded IFWEFILM at the same time.
Currently my personal photographic projects are on hold, since at the moment I am dedicating most of my time to IFWEFILM, but it won’t take long to get going with them again.
RD: Where did the name of ifwefilm come from? What does it mean to you?
ML: The story of how the IFWEFILM name was created is not very glamorous. When I was looking for a name for my personal brand I had in mind the phrase “If we all took pictures on film, we would all be more present” (a phrase quite long for a company name) so when trying ways to shorten it the name IFWEFILM came out.
It seemed to me a name that sounded good to say and that kept part of the message of the phrase that I mentioned earlier. Although I think I’m the only one who knows that XD
RD: The seagulls photograph is brilliant, obviously unplanned and a gift from the gods of film, but can you tell us a bit about it and the circumstances around it?
ML: Well, it was something quite unexpected, funny and magical at the same time. After a long walk from Uphill beach to Weston-super-Mare, my partner and I were gawking at a large group of seagulls (I swear, there were between 20 or 30 seagulls) soaring around very low above people while eating their fish and chips.
So I went right under where they were flying, I pulled out my camera and just as they got closer to me, I took 2 pictures of them. I honestly thought that none of the shots were going to be anything out of the extraordinary but after developing and scanning the film, I was pleasantly surprised 🙂
RD: Female Film Photographers You Should Know⠀is a series that you have Recently started on Instagram and I have to say I am a huge fan. I hope you have many more to share with us?
ML: Yes of course! I’m always looking for ways to contribute to the film community so my plan is to continue this project for quite long time to give more visibility to wonderful female film photographers and their fantastic work.
I take this opportunity to make an appeal to all those female film photographers who want to participate in this series that all they have to do is send me a private message on instagram or send me an email to email@example.com with their photographs and a description of their most recent work 🙂
RD: You have a Youtube channel with over 200 followers, impressive as to date you have just two videos on there. Do you plan on expanding this, and if so, what are your plans?
ML: Yes, the truth is that despite having only uploaded two videos on YouTube, I have the wonderful support of 204 people on my channel and I am very grateful for that. I swear that it surprises me too!
It is thanks to this current situation that life has thrown at us, that has permitted us to reflect on ourselves and the direction of our projects, that I’ve had a lot of great video ideas that I want to upload to the IFWEFILM channel (you should see the amount of of pages written on both sides that I’m keeping in my drawer)
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Best of all, without a doubt, is having the support of Kodak Professional Europe. I proposed several ideas to them. Ideas that I had in mind for videos on YouTube followed by the upload dates on the channel (an infallible method not to procrastinate and keep my word XD) and fortunately I received all the material I needed. So yes! My YouTube journey has only just begun!
RD: You are something of a globetrotter reading your ‘ABOUT’ section on your website (www.ifwefilm.com). You seem to have settled in the UK, do you see yourself heading back to Japan at any point given your love for the area?
ML: Hopefully! 🙂 I’d love to live in Japan again and settle in Kamakura or somewhere in Chiba. However, after my departure from Japan, I swore to myself that if I go back, it would be with a company that I created myself. So for now my priority is to nourish myself with the knowledge, learnings and experiences necessary to make IFWEFILM grow and reach as many people as possible.
Your “Film Experiences” look fantastic. I am strongly considering Chiba myself as portraiture is something I have zero experience in and would love to have a go at. What has been your experience of running them so far? Are you planning to add any more to your range, Kyoto perhaps, or Osaka?
ML: Well the truth is that it has meant a huge change in my life.
I have always enjoyed teaching film photography to my closest friends and loved the fact of meeting wonderful people. However, I do feel that it has been thanks to the fact of taking the step of organising and doing film experiences, that I’ve been giving KO to several of my fears and inner insecurities such as the fear of speaking in public (especially in a non-mother tongue), the mistaken idea of the little worth of oneself or the impostor syndrome (which for those who are not familiar with this term, it’s basically a constant radio of mental noise that tells you that everything you do sucks).
It may sound very romantic but, honestly, having started IFWEFILM makes me feel more aligned with my values and my purpose of helping as much as possible the film community. The film photography experiences that I’ve done to date have been two levels: Nagoya (for those completely new to the world of analogue photography) and Chiba (for people with an intermediate level).
I’m currently working on the creation of the most advanced level, Tokyo, as well as the launch of online analogue photography courses. My goal is to be able to have both projects ready before the end of this year so I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve it!
It looks from the group photographs on your site like the cameras that you use in your Nagoya film experiences are Olympus OM10s, I absolutely love mine, was that a deliberate choice of camera due to it’s great handling?
ML: In the first film experiences we used to use Olympus OM10 cameras but, at the end of last year, I decided to change them for a different camera as I realised that students had a hard time managing manual exposure when having to take their eyes off the viewfinder to change the shutter speed. That’s why I decided to change all the cameras for the Pentax Me Super since they are quite compact and light cameras (compared to most SLRs), they have a fairly reliable internal lightmeter and you can change the shutter speed comfortably.
Your personal Instagram @marinademandarina shows something of your style of photography. How would you describe your style? What do you like to make photographs of in your own time and your own projects? Who are your
influences? You mention a few in your ABOUT page, can you expand on why them, and are there any others?
ML: To be honest, defining my photography style is something that I still find difficult to answer since I find that it does not fall within any of the traditional categories such as “portraits”, “landscape”, “street photography” “documentary” etc.
I consider that my photography has two aspects: on the one hand, the photography that I take every day that is made up of scenes from everyday life and, on the other hand, the photography that I do when I carry out photographic projects based on a specific concept / idea.
As far as aesthetics are concerned, what I consider to coincide in both aspects is the use of a palette of soft colours, small pronounced shadows and spaced compositions that invite peace and harmony.
I was fascinated by the surreal world that Ueda Shoji recreated in his works and the harmony he creates through super careful compositions. I was totally hooked on Kawauchi Rinko‘s book, “Utatane” for the ability to mix everyday scenes with interesting shapes and ideas. I fell in love with the powerful and natural portraits of Honma Takashi in his Tokyo Suburbia project.
How do you see the film photography world moving ahead in the coming years? Do you think it has a bright future, or do you fear a slow run-down with fewer cameras being available since no new ones are being made?
ML: In my humble opinion, I believe that analogue photography still has a long way to go and I strongly believe that it has not only been a temporary Renaissance of film photography.
Many young people who are entering this world are bringing new ideas and projects such as innovative ways to scan films, new and improved equipment with the latest technology and alternative ways of processing films that will open many more doors in the next coming years.
What I do consider to be, and will be, quite a challenge for analogue photography is the issue of sustainability. We all know that film photography is unfortunately not environmentally friendly at all, so I find that what will make it last longer is precisely making changes and finding alternatives that make it as environmentally friendly as possible.
I have been working for more than 5 years in different photo labs and the truth is that my heart breaks when I see the amount of waste that accumulates in just one week: film canisters, plastic film pots, disposable cameras, chemicals…. and many other things.
RD: Thank you so very much to Marina for her (very!) enthusiastic engagement throughout this interview process. I get the feeling that she never stands still, both figuratively and literally!
I can learn a lot from her motivation and attitude. I find it difficult to push myself and always come up with a million reasons why it’s too [expensive|hard|worthless|pointless|valueless] and I also know imposter syndrome well. All these things can be tackled though, and Marina shows that flourishing is possible 🙂
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