One must keep on one’s toes when talking with the Welsh. Don’t mention Tom Jones, never make the assumption that all Welsh men have amazing singing voices and absolutely don’t ask why there’s not a simpler spelling for “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch“.
What I’m trying to say that that one must tread very caerphilly.
I make absolutely no apologies for writing such a long lead-in simply to make a pun only lovers of cheese would admire. Anyway, now I’ve satisfied myself and one other reader, on to business.
You may have seen some of today’s interviewee’s work flying around the internet for a while now. It’s beautiful, distinctive and occasionally has a ghostly beauty to it. I am of course talking about Tim Dobbs, our man in the Welsh valleys.
Let’s see what tim has to say for himself.
Hi Tim, what’s this picture,then?
This is a photo of my Dad that I managed to capture a year or so ago.
I don’t have many pictures of my parents as both of them absolutely hate having their photos taken. They are both getting on a bit now (…so am I), so everytime we visit them I try to take some candid shots of the both of them.
I know I could easily take digital images and that they would be fine but I find that film gives my quickly taken snapshots a much more timeless feel and shows my parents how they are in my mind rather than an exact depiction that digital gives.
OK, so who are you? (the short version, please)
I’m Tim, I live in the beautiful South Wales Valleys. I am a printer by trade and photography is an ever consuming passion.
I collect cameras and vinyl records (you can see a small selection of the former below!)
There is something special about holding and shooting with an old SLR. It’s quite hard to explain but I get more enjoyment out of using my FM2n than my D600 – a superb camera, which produces stunning images – but FM2n feels like a proper camera to me.
I have quite a few digital cameras and have nothing against digital shooting, in fact I love shooting my Fuji X-pro alongside my film camera.
I am the official photographer for my local rugby team Pontycymer RFC and would hate to try and shoot a game on film, so digital is a lifesaver.
When did you start shooting film?
Most probably when I was 14. I had an art teacher who loved photography and he set up a darkroom in school and let a few of us help out.
My first real photographic experience was with his Olympus and a roll of Ilford FP4, that we learned to load from a bulk loader.
I loved developing and printing probably more than the actual shooting back then. In fact, most of my images were just snapshots taken quickly so that I could get back to school to process and print!
When I left school and began my training as a printer it was all darkroom based (DTP and computers were just emerging). All of the people I worked with were big camera geeks and it wasn’t long before I joined them.
What about now, why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
I must admit that when DLSR’s became affordable I jumped in head first. I loved the instant feed back and versatility that digital gave. Although I still kept hold of my film SLRs, I didn’t use them for quite a few years.
In fact, it was only when a friend gave me a box of about 30 rolls of expired film that I was drawn back into shooting film again.
Once I shot and processed that first roll, I was hooked again. I find that the way that I take images when using film has become far more deliberate than when shooting on a digital device. It really makes me look and think before I click the shutter.
Obviously the look that film gives me is also very important! Digital has its place for sure but compared to film its is way too sharp and clinical.
I love grain and contrast and as I develop and print myself at home I have complete control over both of these factors.
I always have a camera or two with me…usually my Fuji x-pro1 and also a film camera.
Over the last few years I have managed to buy virtually every camera that I yearned for when I was younger, so each time I pick up a new (old!) film camera it’s a thrill to get out and shoot with it. I will never get tired of loading up a roll of film, shooting it then getting home to see what I got.
Any favourite subject matter?
Most probably where I live, the beautiful Garw Valley here in the South Wales valleys.
The landscape is great to shoot in all weather and with the combination of different looks I can obtain from 35mm, medium format, color, black and whitefilm, I’m afforded the ability to shoot the same sort of subjects repeatedly!
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
Without a doubt it would be Ilford HP5, it is such a versatile film. I love the grain and contrast and mainly shoot it at 800 ISO but have pushed it to 3200 and the images still hold up well.
Hopefully Ilford will go from strength to strength and I won’t have to be forced to use a “last roll”.
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?
That’s a hard one!
I have so many cameras its hard to pick when not knowing what I will be shooting.
I love shooting with my Mamiya 645 or Bronica SQai but that would be no good if the assignment didn’t let me take a few hours to shoot.
In that case, I would most probably use my Nikon FM2n with a 35mm f2.8 lens,。 It’s totally mechanical and built like a tank, so it shouldn’t fail me.
Film-wise, it would have to be a roll of Ilford HP5, as I know I can push it to 3200 ISO if the situation demands it. I’d also take a roll of Kodak Portra 400, which is also a very versatile film. I know that I’d be able to play about with the exposure and still get a good negative.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
I love street photography, black and white, contrast and grain so it would most probably be New York. I love looking at images shot there, be they people in the street or the landscape and architecture.
Its always been an ambition of mine and my better half to go there and seeing as it’s our 25th wedding anniversary next year, there’s no better time! 🙂
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
When I am out and about I get quite different reactions from people asking why I have an “old” camera and still shoot film. Some people didn’t even think film still existed.
Some are fascinated and intrigued and these are the type of conversations I love; explaining the reasons why I love to shoot film and why in my opinion that more people should give it a go.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
I don’t think that film will ever die out, even though there are only a fraction of the film stocks that there once were.
Film shooters are increasing in numbers and more youngsters seem to be embracing it too…maybe as a novelty at first but I am sure once they shoot a roll of film and get it processed and printed properly (or scanned!) and see the results they will be hooked.
We need websites like this and companies like Ilford that promote and grow the market for film photography and things will just get better and better…
“Spread the word …. FILM is not Dead …. Believe in Film”
You can catch up with Tim via Twitter, or view more of his wonderful work at Using Film, or Tim Dobbs photography.
The community 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.