Jae Song | Oct 16, 2018 | 2
EMULSIVE interview #119: I am Daniel Tim and this is why I shoot film
Welcome one and all! Is it cold outside? If so, get wrapped up, grab a cup of something warn and settle down for a Finnish episode of the EMULSIVE interview – number 120, no less!
Are you stilling comfortably under your blanket? Great, it’s time to hand over to Daniel Tim!
Hi Daniel, what’s this picture, then?
DT: This is a picture taken in Lauttasaari – a district in southern Helsinki situated on an island with the same name (“Saari” means island in Finnish). The place is of a huge significance to me, because I’ve been living there for a few years and many personal stories, good and bad, happened on that island.
This photograph has everything I love the most: sea, cliffs, dry dead trees and a little bit of humanity thrown in. It reminds me of a place where I’ve grown up – a distant, northern taiga forest with lakes, mounts and rocks everywhere. I find this family sitting and staring at the sea very beautiful. This is what Nordic people do, you know.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
DT: My name is Daniel, I live in Helsinki and I make photographs – that would be my VERY short version.
If I expand it a little bit, I can tell you that I am of a mixed descent but I identify as Karelian, which is very close to a Finn. I am currently studying social sciences at a university, and planning to move to South-East Asia in the future, hopefully to work and continue a research on social issues.
I photograph mostly here in Helsinki, or at least my main photographic work is here.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
DT: The first time I shot film was with my uncle’s Polaroid camera about 23 years ago. I’ve never ever held a Polaroid in my hands since then, but starting at the age of 13 I always had a camera – first a Pentax film point and shot, then a bunch of digital cameras when the digital era kicked in. That period in my life progressed from Canon PowerShot cameras to fully professional DSLRs.
My motivation for shooting grew from just making photos of my friends and family, to learning more about photography and start shooting professional gigs…only to realize I didn’t want to be professional at all and what I actually wanted to do was just capture what I see via images – images that lead me back to film, I believe.
That’s what drives me today – the art of photography itself. The ability to capture a moment/subject that is just there. The moment will never be back and it’s magic that one can capture its feeling, its atmosphere with a photograph.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
DT: I suppose in general, my whole life influenced my photography, not a single person or an event or anything like that. The biggest influence from other arts was always cinema.
I am a “filmifriikki”, a “film freak” as it is called in Finland – nicely enough, the term can refer to both photographic film and movies. My favourite movies are typically Japanese, and I love Hong Kong cinema as well. Have read probably dozens of books on history of cinema and zero books on photography.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
DT: No, at the moment I am very happily 100% a film photographer. I enjoy a journey with film; the process of shooting, then developing film, then having a final result. I am currently learning the darkroom process. This is a full circle, in which it becomes almost irrelevant what the result would look like – the process is more important. But of course if good photographs are born in the end – it’s a huge plus.
I don’t frame my photographs, even the ones I consider my best (or my favourite, anyways). I try not to look at them much once the process is over. Instead, I need to make more and more photographs. I need to start giving prints away soon, because now I started making them regularly and I don’t want to stock thousands of prints at home, as I am not a “things” collector.
What’s your next challenge…your next step? How do you see yourself improving your technique? What aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?
DT: Technically, I want to learn to process my own E-6 film. It’s mainly because I never fully enjoyed colour photography. I recently (finally), tried Fujichrome slides and I was actually shocked how much they looked exactly like I envision the scene. Never been so satisfied with colours.
In general, I would like to expand as much as it’s necessary into colour photography. It will never be my preference to shoot colour, because I have been a fanatical black and white person for as long as I can remember. But…I want to be able to make images that will have, say, the right balance of certain tones, just like I usually see it in black and white.
To put it simply, I don’t understand colours and I want to learn to deal with them ☺
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
DT: Until only couple of years ago, my favourite subject was either nature or urban architecture. I think it changed with some personal changes in my life, and currently my subject is usually people in urban environment. Or people in general.
Explaining why is much more difficult than just stating it. I really don’t know why. Coincidentally, it happened around the same time I decided to try shooting film after around 13 years of not touching it. I’ve made perhaps 7000 candid images of people on the streets of Helsinki in the last two years (approximately, judging by how many “street” rolls I have in my files). I used to be tired of people I suppose, and always tried to get alone and be somewhere shooting long exposures, and recently just somehow found myself connecting to humanity again.
That is not to say I shoot only people or there has to be a human element on every image I make. I also enjoy shooting motorcycles, for example. Could shoot motorbikes and scooters all day long on black and white film!
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an unknown assignment. You can take one camera, one lens, two films and you have no idea what you’ll be shooting. What do you take with you and why?
DT: Camera: Canon EOS-1 – because it simply doesn’t fail. Ever.
Lens: EF 50mm f/1.8 STM – it’s a cheap, light but trusty metal mount lens, too good for its price optically and very small. Very versatile and fast, too!
Films: ILFORD Delta 100 Professional for a high quality black and white, pushable up to EI 800 if needed, and a roll of Fuji Provia 400F (of which I am lucky to have twos roll lying in my fridge right!)
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location for the rest of your life. What do you take, were do you go and why?
DT: That’s easy – I go to Hong Kong.
It is my usual destination for traveling. Haven’t been in HK for almost 2 years now, and I am aiming to work there in the autumn of 2017 – got a grant from my university for a practical placement. I’m from a small town and maybe that explains my attraction to big, bustling cities.
Easily could shoot 3-4 rolls of film every single day there, the only problem would be to comprehend the amount of images! So answering the question “why?” – well, I like sea, mountains, skyscrapers, narrow long streets, bridges, neon lights, crowds of people… love Asia and Asian cultures, cuisine and heritage. What do I take? My Canon A-1 and Mamiya M645 Super, and A LOT of black and white film and slides.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
DT: ILFORD Pan F Plus – this is my personal favourite film and by now I think nothing can change it. It is actually the very best film ever made ☺
If it would be my last roll, I want it to be Pan F Plus and in 35mm format, the most nostalgic and the most relevant format at the same time. Where I expose it and how… I think I would visit my family and make portraits of my parents and our cat. That would be a perfect last roll of film. Oh and maybe couple of long exposures.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
DT: First one is that it’s very expensive. Well, it might be true if you don’t know how to order online. If you know it, there’s always some cheap film around. Processing your own film cuts expenses significantly, and If you can find a way to make prints – say, set up your own darkroom or find a cheap one to rent – well then film photography is not expensive at all, not by any possible standard.
Second misconception is that you’d have to shoot exactly at a speed prescribed at the box and if you rate one exposure higher or lower, then you push or pull a whole roll. This is what one hears all the time. Perhaps it’s somewhat true concerning slides, and yes I prefer to push a whole roll to the same speed, but in black and white you can actually bracket within an impressive range of indexes and then do a stand development, for example – and film’s exposure latitude will help to have acceptable and good images within that range.
It is actually same with digital cameras – every sensor has its base ISO setting and everything different from this base ISO is a digital pull or push. Yes, digital will give you a wider range of indexes to work with (but not necessarily all of them would be actually usable), but it’s not like film is a limited, clunky old medium always to be exposed in a restricted way.
Film is the chemical grandfather of a RAW file!
Learn to use it, from developing to printing, and it can surprise with its potential. And the learning process is very rich and long.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
DT: I won’t be original and say that the future of film is a strong niche product, mainly for enthusiasts and fine arts photographers. Around 10-15 years ago, I was involved in a vinyl trading, and had an underground records distro. Back in ’99, for example, I could get vinyl records for peanuts at second-hand stores, because everybody were dumping their LPs and EPs and buying CDs.
But then at around 2004-2005, people started to get tired of this digital revolution, and with the whole MP3 thing the CD was dead and people started lacking and missing the album art, the physicality of analogue record, and its sound. Thus the vinyl started making a massive comeback about 10-8 years ago, and now we are having new albums made on vinyl and sold in popular music stores.
It is a niche now.
Film as analogue media is not directly comparable to vinyl, but I see somewhat of the same trend of some older generation photographers going back to film, whether its 35mm or a larger format and younger generations discovering film for the first time in their life.
Film has a fantastic quality to it, it offers a journey, an experience, and if you add darkroom craft or scanning techniques to it, it’s an incredible art form and can be a great hobby, too. In the last few years it goes through the same renaissance as vinyl records, and it is far from being dead. We have films sold at kiosks at the central railway station here in Helsinki these days.
The only next step I’m awaiting is production of new film cameras on a massive scale. It is something very necessary for film’s future. It will happen at some point, I’m sure, somebody just needs to take a risk and invest in this kind of enterprise first. Not only Instant film cameras popular today, but I would hope for new and affordable cameras for every format.
Old cameras, especially mechanical ones, can probably work for many years and decades to come, providing they are served from time to time. But new production is essential for a total resurrection of film photography craft.
~ Daniel Tim
I’ve gotten to know Daniel through various conversations on Twitter and as a result of featuring his thoughts on pushing ILFORD HP5 PLUS. He really is a diamond and one of those photographers who is always pushing himself to do better and try new techniques and films.
Whilst working on this interview I was lucky enough to see his color work for the first time and it got me thinking: with results like that, why isn’t he shooting more? Of course the answer for all to see is that he will be but still, is it the unknown results that have been stopping him? Perhaps it’s that black and white film represents an all too familiar comfort zone?
I’m not picking on Daniel specifically here, as this is a bit of an introspective question. I’ve been living under the impression that I’m an agnostic photographer when it comes to choice of film stocks but looking through this year’s rolls, approximately 70% of my entire haul has been black and white film. Where colour has edged in, I’m seeing more slide film than negative and strangely, it’s only this past month that 35mm color negative film has started creeping up the ranks, accounting for nearly half my film shot over the past four weeks.
It seems to me that I’m more of a black and white shooter, which follows my own thoughts of being someone more interested in contrast and tone, rather than color and hues but now that I’m aware of my bias I’ll be taking a leaf out of Daniel’s book and making an effort to try to even up that split. It’s not something I’m actively trying to do but you never know, I might even “find” myself in the process.
You can find Daniel over on Flickr but I for one would recommend catching him on Twitter, where you’ll find him as @Dani_Timo.
That’s it for another interviewee but don’t fret, there’s one more lest for 2016 and it’s been a while coming. Until next week, my lips are sealed!
As always, keep shooting, folks!
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