I am Preston Young and this is why I shoot film
Welcome back for another interview! Today we’re sitting down with Preston Young, AKA @Wakefanatic about his feelings on shooting film, its legacy for his family and what gets him clicking the shutter when he’s out and about.
Preston, it’s over to you…
Hi Preston, what’s this picture, then?
PY: The picture is from the birth of my second child. This is the first picture I took that really moved me emotionally and made me want to take pictures. It not only captured my newborn, but it also a very strong memory.
…and I did it one handed!
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
PY: First and foremost, I am a Husband and a Father. I am blessed to have wonderful memories and experiences in this role each and every day. Professionally, I am an operations manager in a large corporation. As an operations manager I travel frequently and work with professionals from different cultures and backgrounds. Creatively, I am a photographer who loves photographing people and things around me. The travel I have in my professional career also sparked an interest in architectural photography.
When did you start shooting film?
PY: I started shooting film when I was in college. My father taught me about aperture, film speed, shutter speed and how they all came together. I enjoyed it, but my interests shifted too much to ever go beyond the basics. It was when I became a Father that I really started taking photography seriously. Now I was capturing more than just images – these were memories.
I shot film until about 2005, then I switched to digital…it seemed easier at the time. When my father passed away, he left me his cameras and I also ended up with his pictures…pictures he had taken since 1957. Looking through those many albums, I learned so much about what makes an emotional image…and I realized that my own film pictures were better than the MANY thousands of digital images I had taken over the years. They just had more “character”. So, I picked up my old film cameras and my Dad’s restored cameras and rediscovered film.
What about now, why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
PY: Film captures images so much closer to what I see in my mind. They just looks right. Colors are so nice – especially skin tones and highlights. Also, when I shoot black and white, the grain is just gorgeous.
There is a reason so many digital “film emulation” filters exist. Beyond image quality, with film, I have more of a discipline around getting the shot right before I take the image, not fixing it afterward.
I still have thousands of digital images that I took from years ago that I will probably never get around to editing. I’d rather spend the time making and capturing memories than editing them.
I want my children to have access to the memories I captured while they were growing up. Not just of them, but of the street we live on, the walking trails we frequent, the trees in our back yard that we spend so much time under.
I want to capture memories that tell something of a story that only my family will really understand.
Any favourite subject matter?
PY: Other than my family, it would have to be trees. Especially Winter trees. There is just something about the look of a “naked” tree that just draws me in. We live near a nature trail, so I am blessed to be able to capture trees whenever I want.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
PY: Kodak Portra 400. Hands down the easiest to shoot film I have ever used. You can’t screw it up! The colors are great and the skin tones are gorgeous.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of the subject matter. What to you take with you and why?
PY: For equipment, Hasselblad 500CM with a 60mm lens. This combo is capable of taking amazing images. The 60mm lens gives me a moderate wide angle perspective (around 35mm equivalent on full-frame), but with a near normal/slightly long compression/depth of field. The Hasselblad is such an amazingly reliable camera. Medium format is just a dream to shoot.
The film would have to be Kodak Tri-X and Kodak Portra 400. Two of the easiest to shoot films ever created. Tri-X gives the grittiness and Portra brings out the colors.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
PY: Easy. Washington DC. In spring time, Washington DC is such a beautiful place. I went there in the 6th grade and took pictures on a Kodak Instamatic. Even then I knew how beautiful it was.
I would love to shoot it in full color during the morning and black and white during the evening.
Finally, what do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
PY: People see over-processed digital images and swear that film is not as good. I invite them to look out the window and see which image is closer to reality. Then I show them how well film handles highlights, skin tones, and the grain in black and white… There’s nothing wrong with digital, but film is not inferior.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
PY: Film is enjoying a bit of resurgence now. We have inherited the decades of the huge R&D budgets at Kodak and Fuji and others…so the film is as good as or better than it has ever been. Cameras that cost a small fortune 30 years ago are comparatively dirt cheap.
It is amazing that so many young photographers are embracing film when they have only so far used digital. To them, film is the new thing!
Seeing companies like the Impossible Project and New 55 come form and innovate new film products (new/old) is great. Watching the MINT company innovate a new TLR that shoots Fuji instax film is also encouraging. I hope this trend continues!
The only concern I have is in the cameras. I have really nice and durable cameras, but they get the occasional CLA when needed. As time moves on, the cameras will need work and I worry that in 10, 20, 30 years film camera parts and technicians will be scarce.
~ Preston Young
“Get it done in camera” we promise that we didn’t feed Preston those words. Truly a man after our own hearts.
With so much new media to consume each day on Facebook, Twitter, in advertisements and a million other places, it’s easy to forget that photographs (not images), especially family photographs are a precious commodity and should be treasured. Photographs are meant to be printed. How many of you can say that you keep physical photo albums any more?
Time to sign off but we’ll be back soon with another look into another film photographer’s world.
EMULSIVE 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.