EMULSIVE | Sep 26, 2018 | 8
EMULSIVE interview #105: I am Jasjit Singh and this is why I shoot film
It’s that time of week again, time to sit down with another film photographer and find out what makes them tick. Today I grabbed some time with Jasjit Singh and boy, does he get around; India, the UK and now Poland. Thankfully, we managed to find him on a quiet day so before he rushes off again…
…Jasjit, it’s over to you.
Hi Jasjit, what’s this picture, then?
JS: This is a picture of Christmas decorations at Oxford Street in London, 2014. I took this picture never knowing how it would turn out.
When I received my prints of this roll, this picture became my favourite. I think when you can get results like this why wouldn’t you shoot film?
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
JS: I am an experimental, creative thinker. My name is Jasjit Singh. I grew up in India, studied graphic design in England and recently moved to Poland. I use photography to document wherever I am.
When did you start shooting film and what about now? What drives you to keep shooting?
JS: I lived in England for five years, that’s where I got hooked on photography. In those early days, I had a big crush on DSLR’s and my cousin’s Nikon D50 was one in particular. I borrowed that camera a few times for college projects and sometimes for personal street photography walks.
It was OK for college but for personal use, I just wasn’t satisfied with results. I find those pictures without soul, like it was really easy to make a picture and forget about it.
It can be subjective talking like this because cameras are just medium but feelings about making an image are not, in my opinion.
One day while browsing Flickr, I saw a portrait in the snow shot with Ilford Delta 400 Professional pushed 2 stops. It was the grain in that picture which inspired me to get into film photography. After looking at the picture for a long time I noticed the camera used was Yashica Minister D.
Without thought, I ordered the same camera and the same film from eBay; that was May 2012.
I shoot film because when I have a film camera with me, I don’t have anything else in my mind: no stress, no worries. For some personal reasons, I had a lot of stress for months on end and only recovered because I had a film camera – a fully manual one – with me. I felt free using it, only thinking of the Sunny 16 rule.
There was no past, no future involved when I pressed the shutter button, I only cared about what was in my viewfinder. When I got my negatives back, they inspired me every time. I am a photographer now because of film: it helped recover me.
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?
JS: My next step will be getting into medium format, as I have been using 35mm film until now. Now is the time I really think I need a medium format camera. You cannot beat those big negatives, that detail and that bokeh. I do love 6×6!
Maybe I’ll get a Yashica Mat 124g (which will accompany my Yashica Minister D nicely!)
There are a few projects I want to start in India. I didn’t have enough time left here before I flew to Europe and I cannot wait to go back.
Also, I would like to start developing my own films.
Any favourite subject matter?
JS: Anything and everything. People, City life, Sea Shores, Landscape, forests, Tree trunks.
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?
JS: I will choose my Yashica Minister D. I am so comfortable with this camera and personally attached to it, it just feels like it’s part of me.
I love that leaf shutter – with no noise at all – and because it’s a leaf shutter, flash sync can be at any shutter speed. The films will be Ilford PanF+ and Kodak BW400CN. Both are black and white films but they are very different to each other in terms of speed, tonal range and contrast.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll and why?
JS: That would make me very upset, I hope we don’t see that day.
Still, if there is that last roll that will be ILFORD Delta 400 Professional. I started Photography with this film, it inspired me with everything it had.
Even though my first results were massive light leaks, that last roll will be Delta 400 Professional.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
JS: No question, South Asia.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
JS: Everyone is changing with a time. People need the best of the best. In photography, something similar happened. Which is a little sad. This is where photography lost its charm.
I believe there are two misconceptions about film photography.
- It is time-consuming. It is not instant. It involves a long process. People cannot check their pictures straight away. The worst part for them is that they cannot share those picture on social media a moment after they were taken.
- Shooting Film is expensive.
Yes, film photography is time-consuming and the process to take a picture, then developing to prints its long. But this is where satisfaction is. The process itself is an art.
When you get your exposure right or the on the day when you will be going to get your negatives – that feeling is like nothing else (even if you develop your films by yourself).
You have to put your mind and thoughts to create an image. Even by chance, it does not turn up you want, You will still like it.
Digital photography is limited to digital screens. The real experience of joy is when you hold a physical image. You will look at it million times still won’t get bored of it.
How expensive is film photography?
This link shows cameras and some of the lenses used by Getty Images at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The photographer must have carried about $42,289 worth of gear, as they stated!
And now check out this link: Nascar Daytona 500 – Expired Film – Nikon FM + FE-2.
The photographer used film, two bodies and two lenses. That setup is ~$650. Shooting 100 rolls of film and developing will not cost more than ~$2,000 and there will be 3600+ images.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
JS: We see some good films getting discontinued. Camera manufacturers are not investing in film cameras anymore. In fact, they do not support film cameras anymore. They have flooded the market with digital equipment.
On the other hand, there is still film in the market. Companies over 100-years old like Kodak and Ilford are still running, which is very good. New films are coming on shelves. Does it look like film is dead?
We cannot buy film cameras brand new but we don’t need. (Yes! We can buy Leicas). Less than $100 camera setup produces pictures that can beat digital.
In the last couple of years, we’ve found 50+ year old unprocessed films. The results are mesmerising. Film is film, It will be always alive. Digital has its own use: Fashion, Journalism etc.., but can you still access those digital files in next 20 years?
Film is not dead. But to save film it is our duty to share the right words. It’s not a hipster thing. Film Photography is a lifestyle.
– Jasjit Singh
A huge thanks to Jasjit for his time, thoughts and images. He really is a busy man these days and it’s very much appreciated.
The analogue vs digital (cost) has been raging since before digital cameras were even a reality: hey look, if we can digitally record and distribute images, suddenly the images are free. Sorry but that’s absolutely not the case for the majority of photographers locked into upgrade cycles of (at most) two years for their gear. The allure of digital photography is also it’s problem – to have the “best images” one needs the latest gear and each iteration is naturally “the best”. That’s total bullshit.
I’m going to stop this from becoming a rant and descending into a one-sided argument about asking people to learn to shoot with what they have and appreciate that what they currently use is not only adequate for their needs but more than capable of creating the work they desire.
With that in mind, I’d like to extend another big thanks to Jasjit and wish him all the best with his new life on the Continent. Let’s not mention Brexit for the moment, it’s still a touchy subject for me. You can find Jasjit lurking with purpose over on Twitter – go give him a nudge, he won’t bite.
We’ll be back again very soon with another film photographer for you to dig your teeth into. All that’s left to say is the perennial, keep shooting, folks!
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