Welcome to EMULSIVE interview #202! Today I’m featuring the work and words of Wendy Gunderson, lawyer, photographer, community builder and serial website creator to name a few. There are some wonderful photographs and insights here, so please settle in and enjoy.
Over to you, Wendy!
Hi Wendy, what’s this picture, then?
WG: This was the first photograph I created that I thought was really beautiful. When my daughter was born in 1997, my husband gifted to me a Canon EOS Elan II. I had always had a camera in hand since I was a child, but this was my first “real camera,” one which required more than just pressing a button.
This photograph was taken in 2003. It really captured my daughter on her first communion. She probably looks a bit older than her six years at the time, but she was always mature for her age. This was the first image of mine which I hung in my office, and it has been hanging in my office or my home ever since.
It signifies the beginning of my desire to get serious about creating images, rather than just snapshots. It is quite unlike what I shoot now, but it really represents where this love affair with photography began.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
WG: The short answer is that I am a lawyer, as that is what I was educated to do and what has been my profession since 1990. Luckily, that’s not all I am. A colleague at work encouraged me to get involved with a Flickr group of local photographers which had monthly photowalks.
I then became involved in the Coalition of Photographic Arts here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and exhibited during their membership gallery shows. I moved from Flickr to my own website, and then I started My Irie Time, which was devoted to Caribbean travel. In 2014, upon returning to film photography, I started Film Road Trip, focusing on shooting film and travel.
I have since joined the North American Travel Journalists Association and am learning more each day about travel writing and photography. Never really leaving the law far behind, my husband and I started a website, Law 4 Photographers, developing form contracts for wedding and portrait photographers based upon our many years of representing local photographers. I also speak to various groups about photography and the law. And I’m not done yet.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting today?
WG: When I started in photography, film was the only choice. I always loved taking pictures, started digging into the craft with my first SLR, and continued to teach myself more and more. What I love about photography is that you are never done learning. There is always a new (or old) camera to master or technique to try. There is a big world to explore and capture differently than anyone did before. That endless supply of challenges keeps me shooting.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
WG: The people who influenced me then, and now, are not famous. They are the people around me. My friend, Mike, first helped me understand my SLR and introduced me to our local Flickr group, Cream City Photographers, where he organized local photowalks.
I learned from those photowalks how a group of people could all interpret the same scene in such different ways. When my daughter started shooting with me, I had the chance to see everything through her eyes with a fresh perspective, and we were able to share something we loved together. I attended, and then organized, photography workshops to bring photographers to our community and see their perspectives.
In the online communities I have joined over the years, I have been influenced by many photographers shooting everything, including weddings, portraits, travel, landscapes, and even boudoir. These aren’t famous people, but they are all skilled and passionate about what they do, and I can’t help but be driven by the creativity of talented people around me.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
WG: I moved from film to digital in 2007, but returned to shooting film in 2014. I now shoot both, although I am shooting more film than digital presently. I don’t regret moving into digital photography, and in fact, I value it. I learned much more quickly with the instant feedback, and digital allowed me to get involved in local and online photography communities.
I returned to film for a variety of reasons, primarily because I could not replicate the look of film shooting my digital gear. Shooting film has made me a better photographer. I shoot less, but I make better images. I take the time to compose the shot properly and think about the exposure before firing the shutter. I feel more creative, using different film stocks in combination with different cameras and lenses.
…and I love the surprise of seeing my images when I develop the film or when I get my scans back from the lab.
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?
WG: When I started shooting with an SLR, I learned how to develop black and white film and make darkroom prints, and loved seeing the images come to life before my eyes. I never dipped into color (either developing or prints) because I could not control the temperature.
In 2015, my husband purchased a sous vide for its intended purpose, so I picked it up and tried my hand at developing color film. Despite that success, I never made the leap to making color prints. Last winter, I was browsing through the online Goodwill store looking for bargains, and saw a listing for a Beseler color enlarger for $12. After a 6-hour drive, it was mine, and I gathered together the supplies to try my hand at color prints.
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We decided to get a Golden Retriever puppy, so my winter project is stalled a bit, but that’s my next film endeavor. Also, I shot some Super 8 for the first time with a Canon 814 AZ on a recent trip to the Caribbean. I would like to keep working at that to see if it’s right for me.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
WG: Overall, I like fun, colorful, comforting, and happy images. I like my subjects to be like my movies. I hate dark, dramatic, and scary. Life is dark, dramatic, and scary enough. So I watch a lot of comedies. Photography, like my movies, needs to be fun!
Also, my goal in shooting is to capture the feeling of being there as much as the subject I’m there to shoot. This was a large part of the reason for my return to film. I was never a pixel peeper with my digital gear. I preferred to capture the scene and come as close as possible to feeling the sun on your face or smell the salt air. I was struggling to capture that feeling with digital. I felt it was almost too perfect, capturing every pore on a person’s face, but missing the emotional response. Film helped me capture that feeling.
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 to you take with you and why?
WG: I would grab the Canon EOS 1V, the Canon 50mm f/1.2, and rolls of Ektar 100 and Fuji Provia RDP III 100F. Please don’t send me to a dark wedding venue in the middle of winter! I love the look of these film stocks and they suit the subject matter I love the most with their awesome saturation of color.
As for the camera and lens, I like to try different cameras and use a variety of them, but I am so comfortable with the 1v that I rarely think twice. Anyone who has owned the 50L will tell you it has a special look that you just can’t duplicate or describe well in words, which should be evident to those reading this description!
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?
WG: I am definitely in Anguilla, my favorite Caribbean island, with an unlimited supply of Ektar 100. Anguilla is the picture-perfect Caribbean island surrounded by gorgeous turquoise blue water.
The island is so vibrant that Ektar suits it perfectly. I would shoot every person on the island, every place of worship, every baby born, every festival, the school children playing, the people working, and of course, the gorgeous scenery. Even on a small island, I could find images to create for a lifetime.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
WG: I would shoot my family, and can we go to Anguilla to expose it? That would be perfect! However, I would probably use Portra 160 shot at box speed or Portra 400 shot at 200 for the flattering skin tones.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
WG: People think it’s hard. They fear failure and are reassured by being able to chimp on their DSLRs. It is amazing how their confidence would grow if they picked up a film camera and gave it a try. And I’m pretty sure they would catch the bug to keep shooting film in the future.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
WG: I am encouraged by the current revival of interest in film photography. I have to admit that I felt like I was one of the last people moving to digital in 2007. I loved the look of film, but was convinced of the “handwriting on the wall” that the days of film photography were short. I love that it has grown since those dark times, and I am hopeful this will continue into the future.
I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with a fresh interviewee but in the meantime, why not stick around, scroll back up and have another read? When you’re done, you can check out some of the articles you may have missed since you were last here.
Thanks for reading and keep shooting, folks!
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