EMULSIVE | Sep 26, 2018 | 8
I am Unsavoryandgrouse and this is why I shoot film
Today we’ve got a little treat for you in the form of Nik, aka unsavouryandgrouse. Nik’s a relatively new film shooter and based in Australia. He’s got a lot to share, so I’ll zip up and let him do the talking.
Over to you, Nik!
Hey Nik, what’s this picture, then?
N: This is a photo from a trip to Bondi Beach, Sydney in early 2015. I shot around 10 rolls of colour film and every single photo just had such beautiful colors! I just love the place. I even managed to expose some slide film while I was there.
I’ve managed to rope in my family to watch it on my Kodak Carousel about 3 times, so I have to say slide film has been very rewarding!
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
N: In short I walk on two legs and can hold a camera. Currently I’m studying at University and eventually plan to enter the workforce (not looking forward to that day!)
When did you start shooting film and what about now? What drives you to keep shooting?
N: I started shooting film in 2014 during my undergrad degree after coming across a Holga in a thrift shop where I volunteered. Previously I had shot film as a kid and still have my Minolta Dynax that I bought as a kid. I never got into photography back then because it was expensive in the 90’s to develop and print. Looking back I don’t regret not shooting much but it makes me think that I always had an interest in it.
I actually still have the Dynax and I did take it out with me about 6 months ago, but to be honest I haven’t shot it that much. When I got back into film photography I shot it a little bit but I wasn’t that impressed with it. I think that was mainly me lacking in experience more than anything else. I actually reckon I might give it a spin since we started talking about it!
Around 3 years ago I actually got into photography with a Nikon D3100. It was pretty fun at the beginning, but slowly the novelty wore off. I can’t explain what it was but there was just something unfulfilling in shooting it. I got into using it for holidays (for which I have no images as my computer died on me earlier this year) and it was good for that. Then mid last year I wanted to buy a Fuji GA645, but given I had a few film cameras I needed to part with something to justify the purchase. So I decided to sell the DSLR and I haven’t looked back since. Ironically I sold the Fuji as I didn’t like it – that’s a story for another day!
Now if I need to use digital for something quick I just use my iPhone, which takes a decent photo! This is a very long winded way of saying why I shoot film, but the answer is basically I enjoy the excitement of not knowing the results immediately. There is something unique and special about the image because of that delay. I also try to push my own boundaries with photography when I’m using film because every image counts!
I also love black and white film because I can develop it at home and see the negatives soon after they come out of the tank. Currently, I’m driven to keep shooting film for some projects. The main project I’m working on at the moment involves capturing the portrait of strangers on the street with their permission.
It has led me to have many interesting conversations. One of the best so far would be the gentleman who has now invited me to come over to his house to photograph him wearing his traditional Turkish outfit. I will definitely be taking him up on that offer!
The story behind the photograph has become very enjoyable for me and actually combining two passions, a love for talking with others with my love for film photography has been great!
What’s the next challenge…your next step? How do you see improving your technique, or what aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?
N: I think the next step for my photography is to really nail down a particular style and stick with only a couple of different types of film. I like to chop and change film emulsions i.e. interchange between Ilford HP5+ and Kodak Tri-X 400, but they both have distinctive looks. So I need to really stick to one to produce a consistent body of work.
I’ve been watching a lot of videos my Matt Day to see if I want to make the complete switch from HP5+, but I’m still a bit unsure. So I’ve been shooting a couple more rolls of HP5+ at the moment to see what I prefer. The image below is one example of HP5+, which I liked particularly because of the grain structure, which is different to Tri-X 400.
I am also spending a lot of time shooting with my Mamiya C220 TLR, as I find square format very rewarding, slow and requires me to think. This is probably attributable to the fact that you only have 12 photos per roll, whereas with my Leica M4 I have 36 frames so I often get trigger happy.
Like I said it’s probably really important for me to work on sticking to one film type. Another thing that would be helpful is focusing a lot on composition, which will mean I produce more quality images on a single roll.
Any favorite subject matter?
N: Like I said earlier some of my favourite subject matter is people smoking. I also have an interest in documenting interesting faces, which is something I have been working on with the Mamiya C220, as it takes beautiful portraits!
Nearly every week I get fascinated by new subject matter so it’s really hard to nail it down to just a few. I’m also venturing into long exposures at night, but I’ve only shot a roll or two that way. You can see that image below.
I used Fuji Acros there and I have to say it is a beautiful film! See what I mean – I chop and change between too many different types of film!
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
N: It would have to be Kodak Tri-X 400 exposed at EI 800. I love the contrast it produces and its ability to cope with changing light conditions.
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?
N: It would definitely depend on the assignment, but I’d probably take my Leica M4 and Zeiss 50mm f/2 with two rolls of Tri-X 400. I think that the Leica allows me to be fluid and capture the moment without worrying about focusing.
The 50mm lens gives me a more intimate frame and gives me some lines to ensure I have good composition. Finally, the Tri-X 400 allows me to operate in a variety of lighting conditions ie low light and strong light as I can push or pull the film.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
N: Given I live in Australia and have not adequately explored the outback I would definitely want to go through the central part of Australia and document the harsh landscape.
That’s a project that I am currently thinking about, but I would probably use colour film for that trip.
Most of this stems from a trip I did to the Tiwi Islands in the Northern Territory of Australia earlier this year, where I experienced local Indigenous culture. It was a great opportunity to learn about culture and see the vast untouched landscapes of the Tiwi Islands.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
N: The biggest misconception in my opinion is that people think film is not affordable. It is definitely affordable from places like B&H Photo, where you can get rolls for as cheap as $3USD.
Also, in Melbourne it is quite easy to find places to develop and scan your film at a reasonable price.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
N: Film has a particularly bright future, as Ferrania are working on producing film (hopefully this year), Ilford has been doing well and even Kodak is turning a profit.
I think it will have a place alongside digital photography, even if it does not return to the heyday!
Every year seems to have its own “flavour” and for me, 2016 in the film photograhpy community has been one of finding a photographic style.
Spend any appreciable amount of time with the film community and you see certain threads being pulled. Some more often than others. Sure, there’s popular gear (and 2016 seems to be the year of the Pentax 67 in that respect!) but the one thread that’s stuck out to me has been of people talking about finding their style; which also goes hand in hand with cutting down on variation by sticking to only one or two film stocks.
Personally I think this is a great thing and to me shows the community at its best – in a constant flux of introspection, reflection and improvement. For young and relatively new film photographers like Nik, this type of debate (internal or external) is critical but we can all learn from it. As has been said (time and time again), it’s not the destination but the journey that counts. At the end of it, Nik may find that his own style is the one he left behind – one that was there all along – by equal measure, the process of discovery may lead him to find something that no-one else has done before, either in style or content (as more than a few past interviewees have!).
Either way, he won’t know until he tries or tries again, or again, or again.
The same can be said for all of us.
Thanks for reading and thanks again to Nik for stepping up and talking about himself and his work. You can catch up with Nik over Instagram or Twitter, so please take the time out to look him up and say hello.
You only have to wait another week for the next EMULSIVE interview and when I say it’s been a long time coming, it’s been. LONG TIME COMING.
As always, keep shooting, folks!
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