Today’s EMULSIVE interviewee is none other than multi-award-winning, internationally published photographer Bex Saunders. Over to you, Bex.
Hi Rebecca, what’s this picture, then?
RS: This is a photo of a shop that I pass when using a rail replacement bus service. I had always assumed the shop was abandoned until I went to shoot it. It’s a regular shop with regular opening hours. It is a part of my ongoing Southampton series, which documents the decaying of the city. It was taken with my Yashica Zoomate 70.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
RS: My name is Bex Saunders and I am a 23 year-old from Southampton, UK. I first started taking photos on a Barbie camera as a child, and I have been shooting ever since. I shoot both film and digital.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
RS: I started shooting film around 5 years ago, at the age of 18. Someone local to me had been listening to monthly features on BBC Radio Solent and decided to donate their old film camera collection to me. The reason I had never shot film before was mostly because I remember the increasing popularity of digital over film as a child, so why would I go back to film? I was very ignorant on the topic initially, but now I love film. What’s the point in creating a film look in Photoshop, when you could just shoot film? Film is so magical.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
RS: One of my favourite film photographers is Negative Sadie, who mostly does live work. She experiments a lot with double exposures, long exposures and meddling with film a lot. When I first started shooting film, I didn’t even realise these things were a possibility. I thought the film was very restrictive and limited in terms of experimentation. I also thought all film was the same, apart from the ISO of each roll. She really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of film. She also gave me the confidence to delve into shooting live bands, which I am forever grateful for.
Aside from Sadie, my other favourites include Bailey Elizabeth and Alex Stoddard. Although they mostly shoot digital, they have shot film in the past. They are both conceptual artists. I have been following their work for close to a decade. It has been such a pleasure to see them grow as artists.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
RS: My film portfolio is very different from my digital portfolio, mostly in terms of subject matter. I tend to shoot portraits and conceptual work with my digital camera. Whereas, I carry a film camera with my 24/7 in order to be able to document everything. I have never done a so-called ‘photoshoot’ with my film camera. Whereas everything is very controlled, elaborate and deliberate with my digital work. Although I love portraits that are captured on film, it just isn’t for me.
What’s your next challenge…your next step? How do you see yourself improving your technique? What aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?
RS: I have recently acquired 18 rolls of expired 120 film, which is a medium that I have not tried yet. The camera is currently in the post, and I cannot wait to play with it.
I really want to start making more bold choices with my work. I feel very confident in my knowledge of film and film cameras currently, which means I can now push the boundaries.
In non-photography related news, I started my Master’s Degree in Law in September.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
RS: I love documenting my surroundings, particularly urban decay. I love art as a form of protest, and showing the devastating deterioration of my surroundings is my form of protest.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an unknown assignment. You can take one camera, one lens, two films and you have no idea what you’ll be shooting. What do you take with you and why?
RS: I would have to choose my Yashica Zoomate 70. It’s a compact camera, which means I can’t change the lens. It also has no manual setting. It was the first film camera I ever experimented with, and I still carry it with me 24/7 to this day. It has never let me down. For film I would take one roll of Color Negative 400 35mm ISO 400 film from Lomography, and Yodica Andromeda 35mm Colour ISO 400 film. That means I have a “safe” option and a creative option.
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You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location for the rest of your life. What do you take, where do you go and why?
RS: As lame as it sounds, I would probably pick Southampton. I have been documenting the city for 5 years now, and yet I still find more and more places with shoot within it. I have about 500 images in my Southampton series so far, and yet it is far from finished.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
RS: I would have to choose a roll that has 36 exposures, which means I could savour the moment for longer. It would be 35mm film, as I would want to use my trusted Yashica Zoomate 70. My film journey started with that camera and I would want it to end with that camera.
I would expose it at box speed.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
RS: The biggest misconceptions about film photography are the ones that I held before I was educated. The biggest one is probably that it is a redundant format, which is inferior to digital. Digital, despite its strengths, cannot replace film. Film is completely unique and irreplaceable.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
RS: I think that film will continue to gain popularity. I do not think its ‘comeback’ is a trend.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone just getting started, or thinking about jumping into film photography?
RS: I would advise beginners to first be confident using the manual setting on their digital camera. If you’re unsure about ISO settings, shutter speeds and aperture settings then you’ll have a hard time shooting film – even if you’re using a point and shoot film camera.
A massive thanks to Bex for stepping up. It’s always a pleasure to be able to share the work of young photographers, especially someone as talented as her. Please do check out Bex’s website and if you’re on there, please give her a follow on Instagram while you’re at it.
I’ll be back with a fresh interviewee at some point towards the end of November. In the meant time, please stick around and check out some of the recent articles here on EMULSIVE.
Until next time, keep shooting, folks.
The community 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.
Love it! The work is gritty and real, I love that film makes us feel like we can be less polished. I know in the rare instances I pick up a digital (like once a year) that’s always the look that happens really without trying, clean and neat. But film, ah man that’s where grit lives! Beautiful work, and wonderful documentation of your surroundings.
Thank you so much for your kind words! – Bex