I’ve known today’s interviewee online for a few years now, and even had the pleasure of meeting her back in 2018*. I’m so, so happy to be able to share her words and work with you all today.
You might know her as Derpinsel but to me and a whole bunch of other members of the community, she’s known as Angela Solis.
Over to you, Angela!
Hi Angela, what’s this picture, then?
AS: This is a photo of my then newborn niece (my cousin’s daughter) back in 2012, framed by my mother’s back. She was born with several complications which resulted in her spending a good amount of her early months in the children’s hospital. This was taken one evening when the whole family was in the private ward visiting her after work.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
AS: I am mostly known in our tiny film photography community as Angela. I am a Human Resources professional by trade and been working in the Sports and Recreation industry for around 6 years.
I am also a 1st generation immigrant, born in Southeast Asia and moved to North America with my parents and sister more than a decade ago. I resided in Western Canada but have recently moved to the mega-metropolis of Toronto shortly after getting married. As part of being a film photographer, I own a sizeable amount of cameras and a couple of wine fridges to store my film. I just recently got hooked with travelling!
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
AS: As a child growing up in the 90s, film as a photographic medium was my only option at the time. My parents were no artists, however photography was given importance in our household, as a way to document memories and milestones. My father was an expat for almost two decades so it was only natural for our family to take lots of photographs to send to him. My mother was also dedicated in maintaining photo albums; we brought majority of its contents during our big move.
My interest in photography did not spark until in my later years in high school prior to migrating. I knew that time that we are leaving, so I took a bunch of photographs of myself and my friends in school to keep as a memento. I used my family’s Canon Autoboy II up until 2001 and transitioned to Canon BF-Prima 800 shortly after. Somehow I found myself shooting even after arriving in Canada. I was 17 and didn’t know anyone around me, not to mention being extremely overwhelmed by the changes around me. I thought writing and taking photos will help me adjust and transition, and it did.
Somehow photography took a bigger “stage” and I found myself just taking photos instead of writing. It evolved further when I joined my university’s photography club and got introduced to the basics of film photography. I never looked back and here I am today.
Given that brief personal history I believe photography is not just a past-time for me, it’s a part of who I am and how I live my life. I am not sure if it’s correct to say that the “drive” to shoot is always present; I think it’s because photography has been a very personal experience to me that it’s almost part of my nature, like eating or listening or reading.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
AS: It’s always been my family and friends. I grew attached to the photographs that my mother took of me and learned the value of photography when my sister was born years later – I ended up being the one documenting her childhood. That also became an influence to the numerous photographs I took of my friends. Now it’s my spouse who is an influence and a film photography companion to me.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
AS: Yes I am! When I got my “serious” head start in photography I used a digital camera primarily to ease the speed of uploading photos in my blog. I transitioned to using both film and digital sometime in 2007 after joining my university’s photo club.
I am still using digital especially if I get my occasional photography gig or attending any family events – “Please post it on Facebook right away!” – but recently I found myself shooting more film than digital, especially during my trips. I think I have become more comfortable with the analogue medium which greatly contributed to my choice of shooting it more and decreasing my reliance on digital format.
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?
AS: I have been meaning to set up a wet darkroom in our modest condo unit, but there have just been so many things going on that I never had an opportunity to start! A friend of my spouse has given us a spare enlarger and some supplies. The last time I printed my photos was in 2011 and even during that time I wasn’t really good at it, so it’s something that I wanted to go back to and re-learn again.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
AS: People and Places. With people, it’s almost always a given as my family has always been my subject and my close friends who have indulged me with taking their photographs.
With places, I got hooked with travelling shortly after I got my first full-time job and I enjoy the idea of learning about countries, (re)visiting their history, discovering their culture and the local food scene… and what a way to remember these by taking photographs.
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?
AS: If it’s an assignment with unknown variables I will choose a camera that it requires minimal maintenance and is very reliable regardless of the condition. It would be my Nikon FM2n – and perhaps stick with a lightweight lens like my Nikkor 28mm E-series lens. I need to also ensure that the battery is fresh. For fresh film stock, I will take one roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 and one roll of Fuji Superia X-tra 400 as I have used these several times and have never faltered when I needed these the most.
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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?
AS: I would like to have an unlimited supply of Fuji Superia X-TRA 400, please! One of my favourite countries to visit is Japan, as I studied its culture and history at university. I would like to take the opportunity to explore the whole country. The film photography scene is thriving there so I won’t have any issues developing my films!
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
AS: Oh I wish this would never happen! It’s going to be a huge blow to my photographic workflow, for sure. But to answer this question I’d use a roll of 120-format ILFORD HP5 PLUS using my Rolleiflex 2.8E (a wedding gift from my spouse) and take photos of my family. I will then develop the film myself to complete the experience and go full circle. Hopefully, be able to print it too.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
AS: A lot of people that know me are still surprised by the fact that film is still readily available (with the exception of Fuji Instax). I just show them a photo of my film fridge and somehow they don’t even bother asking anymore… 🙂
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
AS: I think the future of film photography is bright, but only if its business side is handled properly.
Realistically-speaking I do not think all of our demands as consumers will be met, as digital photography will be here to stay. I also think there will be some film stocks that won’t be here for long, which is unfortunate for us. I think the best approach is to treat film photography as a niche market and have specific products and quantities created in order for the industry to be sustainable. I know this sounds too business-like, but we shouldn’t ignore this part in order for us to have continuous access to products and services.
* In the interest of full disclosure, Angela and her husband K’s gifts of maple syrup and chocolate did not sway my opinion one way or the other. Maybe a smidge.
One of the most common themes photographers featured on the nearly 200 interviews I’ve done over the past ~4 years have in expressed is the belief that film photography is an integral part of their being. Not just something they do, a full-fledged, deeply rooted part of their psyche, an extension or fundamental aspect of who they are.
Whilst the act of taking photos might be something shared across digital/analogue mediums, I’ve yet to get the same feeling of an embedded drive and connection with hardware from shooters of 1s and 0s. If anyone reading this does, please let me know, I’d love to learn more.
Thanks to Angela for stepping up and if you’re not already reading or following, please to catch up with her on her blog, or over on Twitter. You’ll find her lurking over on Facebook, too but you’re going to have to find her for yourself.
Interview 199 will be out in a couple of weeks and then there’s 200. I can’t wait for you to read both!
Take care and as ever, 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.