Welcome to this week’s EMULSIVE interview, featuring the thoughts and photography of Chris Wood, recent convert (is that the right phrase?), to film photography.
Over to you, Chris
What’s this picture, then?
It’s one of my happiest experiments. Sealife centres are fantastic for a little day out but absolutely whack for film photography, unless you’re pushing some seriously fast film.
Most of my shots were blurry from 1/15th shutter, or just too dark, but this was the perfect set up, a Jelly Fish tank with a rotating light display. Four exposures later and here we are.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
Graduate in filmmaking from Worcester (the place where they make the sauce) started off on digital but never really fell in love with photography, despite my brother being a photographer for about a decade.
I’m 25 and still have so much of the world and England to explore, so I’m glad I have discovered analog to take the very best pictures of my memories that I can!
When did you start shooting film?
Around summertime 2015. My buddy brought his camera round. He put it in my hands and as I was giving it the once-over and formulating an opinion of it, my friend snapped a shot of me. You can see the exact moment on my face that says “Yeah I want one of these” (ft. Extremely Ginger Beard).
The first roll I shot was on a Canon AE-1, which I got from eBay. Its light seals were shot, so hello orange streaks! But it still looked great and I kept it up with a new and improved AE-1 from my local vintage shop (and this one didn’t smell like old people, which was nice).
Today, I’m left with AE-1 “Light Leak” and AE-1 “Good”. I took AE-1 Good to Spain where it inexplicably broke. It’s very sensitive trigger would fire when I tried to meter light. I also took the good one to Budapest, where I had some problems with the camera moving film through the spool. Long story short, I ended up shooting a roll of Kodak Portra 160 but not actually taking any pictures…
That wasn’t fun and it really soured me to the frailty of the 1970’s cameras. I opened both cameras up (NEVER DO THIS) to try and take the good parts from Light Leak and replace the broken parts of the previously Good AE-1…it didn’t help matters.
So in the end I just decided to drop some cash on a mint condition Canon EOS 3. Now let me tell you, THIS camera, ladies and gentlemen, is a fantastic modern 35mm film camera. The sound it makes when the mirror and shutter work together is music to my ears!
What about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
I just love spending the money! Baha. No, I love how easy and cheap equipment is. I love telling people it’s better…and then not doing a succinct job of explaining why. Let me try…
There’s just something about film but it’s really hard to put into words. Compared to digital, the whole process of getting a photograph — and not just any photo, but a photograph with artistic merit — is so much harder. It’s not just about shooting 20 RAW digital shots and then adjusting levels in Lightroom or Photoshop. You have to account for all that as you’re there, shooting…and you don’t get many chances.
In terms of how the image looks, I could try and explain why it’s innately more pleasing to look at an analog photograph than a digital one. Maybe it’s the natural grain as opposed to the artificial noise of a digital sensor…or the incredible depth of colour.
I also love the juxtaposition of my only camera strap – a Canon Digital – being attached to my firmly analog cameras from 1976!
Any favorite subject matter?
Right now it’s locations and friends. My Girlfriend is ridiculously elusive. I’d have better chances snapping Bigfoot. But in the near future I’m going to be moving into shooting models.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
Oosshhhh. Poundland 200. Think it’s called Agfa Vista.
Hey. For a quid (one of the Queens Great British Pounds), there isn’t much better. That or Ilford Delta 400 Professional.
That shot very well. Kodak Ektar is fabby but it’s so temperamental.
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?
I’ll have to go with the AE-1, 50mm 1.4, 70-210mm macro, a roll of ISO 800 black and white and some color 200. I’m familiar with the camera, the 1.4 is on my wanted-list and any improvement to the 50mm 1.8 is bueno.
The fast film in case we’re shooting in the Sealife Centre and the colour film (probably Gold 200?) in case we’re shooting people. Oh and the 70-210 because my housemate bought it for me and complains when I don’t use it.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
I’m gonna have to go with some kind of forest, like Forest of Dean. Somewhere really scenic. Then you can hit me with Kodak Ektar 100. Ohh baby those saturated colours!
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
That it’s irrelevant!
Just show them how large format photography is used for so many professional purposes.
In truth, the medium of film will be difficult to completely go out, you have professional photographers and filmmakers vying for its continued production.
Kodak just released a new Super 8 camera… Who saw that coming? But really it’s a shame that when people think of “photography” the vast majority will be thinking of the camera on their phone, rather than photos of light altering silver halide crystals…
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
Further relegation in the face of digital. I’m sorry, but that’s being a realist.
Digital technology is the only one that’s really advancing. However, I’m doing my part to keep it going, so I am very grateful for the interview opportunity.
I can see film photography further moving in the “hipster” direction. Like the guys who only buy and listen to vinyl because it’s so much superior. While that may be perfectly true, it’s easier to carry 10,000 weightless MP3’s in a portable music device than a clunky record player and stacks of shelving.
The same principles apply to film photography. We have our loud, mechanical cameras and our extensive development and refining process. Then we stuff our negatives into an archive and scan them to show them off.
Personally, for photographs, I’d have it no other way.
~ Chris Wood
Take another quick look at the third image from the top. It make’s me want to start a portrait project capturing people holding film cameras for the first time (or first time for a long time!)
I love the look of Chris’ photographs and there are a few standout examples amongst those he’s chosen to share. “Old Jag” and the second “Untitled”, in the guitar store are outstanding in my humble opinion.
One area I unfortunately didn’t get to explore with Chris was how his experiences studying (and practising) filmmaking have informed his photography and how his photography — especially since getting into film — has, in turn, informed his filmmaking. It’s an interesting question for me, as one can’t conceivably do both without some creative bleed-through.
The importance of people like Chris to the future of film photography should not be underestimated. Their Infectious enthusiasm and lust for experimentation have a habit of rubbing off very quickly on others – always a good thing. In addition, and equally important on a personal level, is that the world of film photography contains a treasure trove of moments of self-discovery, as well as an almost limitless source of a feeling I can only describe as “the pleasure of finding things out”.
In short, it’s easy to start out but challenging to master and provides a lifelong source of enjoyment and realization.
My hat’s off to Chris for getting stuck in.
Time to sign off from EMULSIVE HQ but in the meantime, keep shooting, folks.
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