Welcome to another fresh EMULSIVE interview, this week with New York based tech journalist David Imel. Regular readers might remember David’s flagrant disregard for the sanctity of 5 Frames… with his 9 Frames / 3 Triptychs from last November and I’m glad to say he’s back with more — frames, not triptychs that is.
To minimise the risk of putting you off any further, I’ll pass you straight on to the man himself.
Over to you, David!
Hi David, What’s this picture, then?
DI: It’s a photo of the mountains in Nikko, Japan. I was taking a train up through Japan and stopped in this small village. It’s taken with my Fujifilm TX-1 with the Fujicron 90mm f/4 lens and Fuji Superia 400 X-TRA.
Ok, so who are you? The short version, please
DI: My name is David Imel. I’m a technology journalist based in New York City, but I’m equally if not more fascinated in photography, specifically photographic film. I’m from the Lake Tahoe national forest in Northern California, and I’ve been traveling the world full time for the last three years. I just recently moved to New York for a new job, but I try to get out and shoot as much as possible.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting today?
DI: I started shooting film about two years ago. It’s probably a generic answer, but I’m entranced by both the process of film and the unique look you can get from images.
I love the delayed satisfaction you get from shooting a roll of film over multiple trips/weeks and then developing a ton of film at once. It hits you in the face with memories you wouldn’t get otherwise, and the texture, color, and look just feel special. I keep telling myself I should shoot more digital again — and I do for work — but there’s just something about the variety of film cameras and the process that makes me appreciate it so much more for my personal photography.
Medium format film is also much more accessible than medium format digital cameras, and the texture and depth you get from medium format are hard to match.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
DI: Jonas Rask has probably been the most influential person in my photography career. I bought my first digital camera because of him, and a couple of years later I bought my first film camera because of him.
That was the gateway point to the world of film, where I pretty quickly got obsessed with the mechanical nature and sheer variety of film cameras. Now I follow a huge number of film photographers, though I wouldn’t say any of them particularly influence my work. I don’t have much of a consistent style, but I just love color, and I try to keep my images feeling really natural in tonality.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
DI: Technically yes. For work, I’ve been shooting digital since around 2017. I did a lot of digital work for those few years, but all my favorite photos have been on film. I’ll generally have my Fujifilm X-T3 with me alongside a couple of film cameras, but most of the time I shoot with a 35mm or medium format film camera.
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?
DI: I particularly love landscape photography, but the pandemic has kept me from traveling much. I’m hoping to do that much more this year, especially now that I bought my first car in a decade. I’m also looking to get into large format photography.
I’d particularly like to start doing astrophotography on film. I’ve seen some incredible stuff on positive film and I’d love to do it on large format, then use the physical positive in a frame with a backlight.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
DI: Generally landscape and environmental photography. Being from Northern California I love being outside, and photography is a good reason to travel, hike, and see the world. I love landscape photography because scenes are unique to the light, season, and particular day. There is so much beauty everywhere in the world that can look completely different depending on how you frame it. I also tend to shoot beaches and sunsets a lot. I really love the punchy color and variety you get from those two scenarios.
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?
DI: A Hasselblad 500CM, the Hasselblad Planar 80mm f/2.8, Kodak Portra 800 and Fuji Velvia 50. Ground glass evokes a very specific feeling for me, and the 500CM is incredibly modular to allow for a prism viewfinder if you need to shoot portraits. Portra 800 is great for nearly any situation, and my favorite film is Fuji Velvia 50. If the lighting is good enough Velvia would be my ideal stock in almost every situation.
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?
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I would go to Norway. Is the entire country ok? If not, the Lofoten Islands. It’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and I could shoot there forever. It also keeps your film cool naturally! Big perk.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
DI: Fuji Velvia 50. I’d probably shoot it in Norway or Iceland. The further north you go the more beautiful the landscape becomes in my opinion. I love water and forests, and Velvia brings out the best colors in everything.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
DI: That film is only for hipsters. I think it’s become a bit of a meme that film is only for people that want to use film cameras as fashion accessories, or that they want to seem edgy and cool for using “outdated” technology.
It’s true that film takes a lot more effort and time than digital photography, but there are so many more reasons to shoot film than just trying to appear cool. Film images have touched my soul far more frequently than digital, likely due to the memory-like feelings they evoke.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
DI: I think film photography has a bright future. It’s getting exponentially more popular, and the market has been getting more expensive by the day. I think the biggest benefit for the future of film photography would be to make good quality home scanning more accessible.
The Epson V600 is great for what it is, but most dedicated film scanners are either not great or extremely expensive. They also mostly use outdated software, and I feel that this industry is wide open for disruption. If someone would sell a new film scanner with updated software, it would sell like gangbusters.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone just getting started, or thinking about jumping into film photography?
DI: There are way more camera options to choose from in film photography vs digital. There are a set of extremely popular cameras that have gotten super expensive, but I’ve seen some of my favorite images ever taken on the Canon AE1 or a point and shoot. Buy what fits your budget and interests and just go shoot.
David’s route to film photography via digital as his gateway drug is not a unique story but jumping almost straight into wide format photography with a Fuji TX-1 (aka Hasselblad XPan) isn’t your run-of-the-mill dip into the world of film.
David’s photography — regardless of medium — varies broadly and it’s the quality and thoughtfulness demonstrated across a diverse range of subjects, styles and mediums that attracts me to his work the most, I think.
Whether it’s the story told by his final frame above, the symmetry or so many others, or the motion blurred metropolitan rail frame from the “mixed media” question, I find myself scrolling back and jumping between photos to sink into each one time and time again.
There more, of course, on David’s Twitter, Instagram and website (and even more social links on the latter). All I ask is that you give him a follow and ask him to share more of his work and words here on EMULSIVE. Deal? Deal.
I’ll be back again next week with another fresh interviewee but in the meantime, please stick around and see what you’ve missed since your last visit. I’m sure there’s something that’ll grab your attention.
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.