Wahey! It’s Ed Worthington aka “The 6 Million P Man” (that’s P as in English pence, not Mike, or the other P word). Those of you who live in the Twitterverse should be familiar with Ed, if not, settle in. This is going to be great.
Over to you, Ed!
Hi Ed, what’s this picture then?
EW: This is the sun setting over the Bristol Channel taken on the beach at Rest Bay a short drive from my home here in South Wales. I think it’s a good example of where my medium format work has been heading towards and what I hope it progresses from. It’s also the only photo my mother has seen and told me – without prompting – that she really liked it and would buy it if she’d seen it for sale.
Ok, so who are you (the short version)?
EW: My name’s Ed Worthington. I go by name “The6MillionpMan” online due to the extensive amount of metal plates and screws I’ve had in my jawline from an “incident” when I was in my early twenties – I’m like the 6 Million Dollar Man but was cheaper to rebuild.
I live and work in Cardiff in South Wales in the UK. When I say work, I mean a day job, photography is very much not my employment no matter how much I wish it was. I live with my girlfriend and my cameras and whilst I’d list that the other way around, she’d find out and be furious. Oh, and I like to shoot a LOT of medium format.
Random non-photography based facts: I have been learning Italian and am obsessed with history, which I like to combine when I go travelling.
When did you start shooting film and what about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
EW: I’m part of that generation of people who grew up just young enough to experience film as the only available medium of photography but not be able to appreciate it before digital took over (try and use that to work out my age).
Technically speaking I first started shooting film when I was a kid, but in reality I’d put my actual start date more like around three years ago. I got into photography roughly a year prior to that. I’ve not told people this before but I’d been going through a pretty crappy time mentally and felt a creative outlet would help me.
A friend of mine is a professional photographer and when I was living with him I’d help him on shoots, holding lighting stands, carrying equipment etc. When he heard I was getting into photography he suggested I might like to try using film as he’d recently been using it himself.
The other person who got me into film was my grandfather. After I showed him my first few rolls from my newly acquired Nikon FM he gave me his Canon AE-1 Program, a couple of lenses and a lot of encouragement.
He’s still the first person I like to show any images I make to, being nearly ninety it takes him longer than it used to to look through a set of prints but he’s always interested, especially if he finds out they’ve been made with his camera (yeah I’m just “borrowing” it).
As to what keeps me going now, well I think it’s the plain and simple answer most of us who like to use film always go back to.
I like it, I like it a lot. The whole process, the idea of using an incredibly complicated chemical process to create a snapshot out of thin air of something you can see in front of you, something tangible you can then hold in your hands. I mean, isn’t that some kind of witchcraft? You’d be burnt at the stake in centuries past for such magic.
Then there’s fact that you can use a whole plethora of machinery from the last 150 years or so. Some of it that can connect you directly to history, to create art, family snapshots, work, whatever you want to use photography for. Point me out a digital camera that’ll still be in a working condition in 60 years’ time – that’s how old my Yashica-D is – or even if it is miraculously working, how would you get those images anyway?
Technology moves so fast nowadays the file formats would likely be obsolete and/or unreadable anyway. Film isn’t that because you create something real at the end of it.
I think most importantly what keeps me coming back again and again to film is the therapy I get from the slow, sometimes laborious or labour intensive process of shooting an alternative technology. I can’t be the only who feels a genuine buzz when they pick up an old camera or when they fire off the shutter and hear/feel a real moving part, a wonderfully crafted piece of equipment living and breathing in their hands? That’s what keeps me coming back, it completes me.
Do you have a favourite subject matter or style you always find yourself drawn to? Why?
EW: The main things I like to shoot are street and landscapes, although I also like to document my travels specifically on film (which I have done most recently on a trip to Budapest and prior to that Italy). With street photography it’s mainly because it’s something I can just go out and do on my lunch break when I’m working, as I work in the centre of a city it’s really easy to just pop out and see what happens.
That’s one of my favourite parts of shooting street is the unpredictable nature of it, I never go out with an idea of an image in my head that I want, they just happen in front of me naturally. Of course if I see some good shadows and light or shapes then I’ll hang around until the right person walks into where I want them to be, but I’ve never told someone to do that or be in the right place, I just wait for it to happen.
In terms of landscape there is a specific subject matter I find myself drawn to a lot, that being water or more specifically the sea. Living in a city on the coast means it’s very easy to hop in the car and head down to numerous beaches, cliffs, piers or harbours and within less than an hour I can have a camera set up on a tripod and be merrily snapping away.
Style-wise this is almost always taken on medium format, my blog was mentioned a few months ago in a post by Jim Grey that got reposted on Petapixel with a pretty simple description of “Lots Of Medium Format”, which at first I thought typecast me a little. Then I actually looked through my blog myself and realised that, yeah there’s a hell of a lot of medium format being shot and shared on there. The thing I like most about shooting medium is the shape of the finished article, that big square negative (ok maybe not if it’s anything other than 6×6 but you get the idea) just looks fantastic.
The way I shoot medium is so different to 35mm as well, the rule of thirds gets chucked out of the window, everything I want is either slap bang in the middle or symmetrical. I also slow down to an absolute crawl, 35mm I’ll fire off at a rate of knots but with medium I will genuinely do the whole, slow down, think about it, properly compose etc. etc. thing. So yeah, I’ll champion the positives of shooting medium format any day.
What’s the next challenge…your next step? How do you see improving your technique or what aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?
EW: Every year I set myself a few Photographic New Year’s Resolutions which I slowly work through over the following 12 months, then there’s things that crop up as well that I tend to add on as and when. I’ve managed to tick off half of this year’s so far but the big two I really want to get onto are developing my own film and selling a print of my work.
Considering how much film I shoot I still have not got around to developing my own negatives, partly there’s the time element as I work a shift based job and when I’m not working I prefer to be out shooting than stuck at home with a ton of chemicals and then there’s the fact that I am inherently lazy and if I can get someone else to do it for me then I’ll get them to do it for me.
There’s also the fact that the lab I use, AG Photographic, do great work and I have never had even the smallest of issues with them. But developing myself is a skill I feel I need to at least try out, maybe not master but certainly try out. In terms of selling a print of my own work, that was just something a little narcissistic, if just one person wants to buy an image I’ve created then I guess that’ll make me feel good about myself. So the idea was to print up a small batch of images, put them out there and if they sell great, if not well I have some nice prints of my work and family birthday presents are sorted for the foreseeable future.
Then there’s a few personal projects I have on the go, one I’d like to think of making into a book or zine when it’s ready (whenever that may be) and another couple I have in the pipeline for later in the year when I go travelling around Italy on my own for a few weeks. Maybe not exciting for other people, but exciting times for me.
You have two minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of subject matter. What do you take with you and why?
EW: That’s actually a pretty easy question, I’d take my Olympus OM-1, a 50mm F.Zuiko 1:1.8 lens, a roll of Fuji Pro 400H and a roll of Ilford FP4 125. The OM-1 is my favourite camera, even though it’s 35mm not 120, and fully mechanical so should be able to take anything thrown at it. The 50mm is a nice standardized focal length with a fast max aperture that’ll suit the vast majority of situations and also happens to be a great piece of glass.
As for films, well Fuji Pro 400H is my favourite film of all time, I only ever treat myself to it for special occasions (such as weddings, of which I’ve been to a lot this year so my pockets are pretty empty), it’s a good speed for the majority of situations and has a lovely look to it. The Ilford FP4 would be so I have the option of black and white should it be required and there’s not much I can say about it that hasn’t been said on this site multitudes of times before, it’s a cracking film.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
EW: I’d take it all on a very long trip around Italy (yes I’m going to class the whole country as one location so there). Later this year I’ll be travelling around Italy for 18 days armed with my OM-1, Yashica D and about 30 odd rolls of film so if you gave me the option of an unlimited supply I’d do the same trip but for longer. In fact perhaps I’d never come home?
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
EW: Like I said before my favourite film is Fuji Pro 400H, so that’s what I’d choose. I’d take it to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo (see below) in Florence and make a similar image to the one at the start of this. Looking down over the city and firing off shot after shot of the sun setting over the distant hills of Tuscany as it reflects off the River Arno. It’d be on 120 and only 12 images but I think it’d be worth it.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set them straight?
EW: I think the greatest misconception is that digital can manipulate an image to look exactly like it was taken on a particular film stock and therefore film is a waste of time if you want the same aesthetic. This is frankly nonsense.
The first thing I would do is sit someone down with a decent SLR, a roll of the film they think they can emulate with their software and then show them the results once it’s been developed and printed. I’m not saying they won’t look totally different, I’m saying that hopefully that person realises that there’s so much more to photography than megapixels and Photoshop, that they come away enjoying the whole process they’ve been through and realise film is not a waste of time, it’s just a different, and often more enjoyable, way of achieving the end result.
In your opinion what is the future of film photography?
EW: I think over the next few years film photography is going to continue to grow into a rather large niche market, it’ll never get back to the heydays but it’ll return to a profitable position for smaller specialised companies, a solid return of investment for enthusiasts and become a genuine viable alternative for people wanting to experience photography in a particular way.
It’ll become like classic cars or music, living alongside the modern but as an accessible alternative for anyone wanting to try and be able to pay the price. Hopefully the future means the return or re-launch of more film stock too, if the next few years are anything like how 2017 has been then it’ll be exciting times.
~ Ed Worthington
I’m with Ed on his final thoughts about film photography continuing to grow and establishing a large nice in the wider photographic community. I’d love to see film as the mainstream photographic medium again but being realistic, this simply isn’t going to happen.
The growth and acceptance of film photography as a viable and “mass market” medium is contingent on several things happening, namely film photographers:
- Continuing to shoot fresh film
- Demanding local stock where there is none
- Making their voices heard about new film cameras
- Supporting film labs by developing and printing
It’s not an exhaustive action list but it is a start. In addition, it is the most basic set of actions needed to get attention from those vendors who have wholesale moved away from film photography over the past decade; the large camera manufacturers. Their re-involvement in film photography may not be large in terms of volume in the future but it will do something important: send a message.
Get out there, shoot, have fun and make your voices heard. At the time of writing, Kodak’s 127th birthday was just two days ago and if we want to secure another 127 years of film photography where we remain more than just a small niche, we all need to fight for it in the best way available to us: keep shooting, keep talking, keep sharing.
That’s all for now but I’ll be back with another interviewee next week, so I guess all that remains is for the 152nd time, keep shooting folks!
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