Today we’re sitting down with Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin, one half of the co-founding team of LA-based Snapshot Galleria.
Kwasi has been documenting the (changing) urban landscape of Los Angeles for more than decade; either walking the streets or cycling around to find and capture the small things, which make the vast and sprawling neighbourhoods of his city unique and distinct.
We managed to grab some time with Kwasi to ask him about his photography and why he shoots film. So….over to him.
Hi Kwasi, what’s this picture, then?
Shot in a rapidly gentrifying area of Downtown Los Angeles, I think this image is a prime example of the widening divide between old and new in the city.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please).
I’m a photographer from Los Angeles documenting my old neighborhoods and other parts of the city before they are lost to gentrification/redevelopment.
My website, The Los Angeles Recordings, has photographs of the city going back a decade.
I also run a film photography ‘zine called Snapshot Galleria with my good friend Erwin Recinos.
When did you start shooting film?
I started shooting film about when I inherited my father’s Olympus Pen F after his passing. This was about 20 years ago and film was really the only option, since digital photography was still in it’s infancy.
Since then I’ve shot digital as well but I reserve my most important work for film.
What about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
I take better photographs when shooting film, it’s really that simple. I don’t have to worry about filters or RAW files, I get to just wander and create.
That is why I shoot all of my fine art/documentary work on film; the slowed down workflow and unique aesthetic forces me to think and create without the distraction of instant gratification.
The fact that film produces a physical negative is also really important to me as an artist.
Any favorite subject matter?
My favorite subject is the city of Los Angeles. Landscapes (specifically the urban environment) are a source of endless inspiration for me. I also enjoy photographing my beautiful 2 year old daughter.
You can never use flm again. What’s your last roll?
Fuji Pro 400H. Hands down my favorite stock. I love the color that 400H produces, especially when it’s overexposed by a stop or two. The overall palette tends to be cool (as opposed to the warmer tendencies of Kodak Portra, which has it’s place as well) and I think those tones fit the subject matter that I tend to shoot.
I do enjoy using other colors films (Kodak Portra and Agfa Vista particularly) but if I had to choose, 400H would definitely be the one.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of the subject matter. What do you take with you and why?
My Contax, a roll of Agfa Vista 200 and a roll of Fuji Pro 400H. I’ve been using the same Contax T2 for over a decade and it yet to let me down. Agfa Vista 200 and Fuji Pro 400H give me the range I am likely to need for any possible lighting conditions.
You might be interested in...
The Contax T2 is the camera that I am most comfortable shooting with in any situation. I’ve had mine for about 12 years now and it is the most reliable piece of hardware I have ever owned. From a creative standpoint, the lens is one of the best I’ve come across and because you can select the aperture, I have the control that I need to shoot freely. Although you can focus manually I love the autofocus system. It is definitely not a camera for action photography but the ability to lock focus and recompose is excellent. But the primary reason that I would choose the T2 over another camera is that I’ve probably shot 60% of my portfolio with mine and it’s really helped me refine my photographic approach.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
Tokyo, Japan. I’ve never been but as a photographer whose work is primarily urban landscape, that would be the ultimate city to shoot.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
So many people think that just because you’re shooting film you are trying to be “cool” or that you’re entranced by the nostalgia of the process.
Most people I know shoot film because they prefer the results that film gives them. Personally, I try to set it straight by just producing great photography. That’s what it’s all about for me.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
I believe film photography will continue to coexist with digital imaging as an alternative process. Personally, I’m pretty ok with that future.
~ Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin
And there we have it.
When I say that many people head to the great outdoors when they want to find and shoot something monumental, or inspiring, I am of course talking in massively general terms. That said I stand by those words. Nature, in all it’s small wonders and wide vistas is amazing but give me the choice of shooting a valley, or a decrepit urban scene and I’ll always go for the latter.
Urban environments show life both past and present and they have always fascinated me. The effect people have on their urban environments, how we use our living and working domains; and how these environments diverge from even the most stringent and well thought-out urban planning is an endless source of curiosities and wonder for me.
Hey, I like trees but I seem to like concrete and muck a bit more.
This is one of the reasons I was drawn to Kwasi’s work – that shown here, as well as his various websites and social media platforms – he’s been lucky enough to capture a period of considerable social and architectural change in Los Angeles and I’m hoping that he’ll get his act together soon and give us a nice fat book with both his images and his thoughts on the transition he has witnessed over the past decade.
Please take out a few moments to hunt Kwasi down on Twitter; as well as giving his website a long, thoughtful look.
We’ll be back again very, very soon. In the meantime, why not take a wonder around where you live and shoot some of the small things you take for granted whilst trundling around in your car…?
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.
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