Welcome to today’s EMULSIVE interview. We’re sitting down with Oliver Liria, Spanish native, now ensconced in London, England, Oliver started shooting film just three and a half short years ago and finds himself well…finds himself rather burdened with the difficulty of choice.
More on that a bit later but for now, it’s over to Oliver.
Hi Oliver, what’s this picture, then?
I took this at a local bar whilst enjoying a beer with a friend. The reason why this photograph has some meaning to me was because along with a few other photographs from around this period, they were the ones that made me realise what I wanted to photograph. I started seeing my surroundings differently around this time.
OK, so who are you?
I am a Spanish born photographer but I have lived in the UK for 16 years. I think that living in a country where I didn’t grow up has had a lot of influence on my photography. From the subject matter, to why I started doing it on the first place.
When did you start shooting film?
I shot my first roll about 3 and half years ago. I started taking photos around 4 years ago, firstly with a digital camera but I have shot only film since that first roll.
What about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
There are many reasons why I shoot film exclusively now, some about the medium itself and some more personal but I guess that the most important one is the way it looks.
It’s very difficult to explain what it is about it and I guess that some people don’t even see the difference but for those of us that shoot film it’s pretty obvious what I am referring to.
On a that personal level, it just suits me better. If I have with me a camera that I’m comfortable with I can totally forget about it.
I worry sometimes that I am missing out on life because I am too busy photographing it, I find shooting film helps me with this, I find shooting film more innate therefore I find it easier to be in the moment.
Any favourite subject matter?
I photograph as I go along with my normal day. I very rarely set time aside to go and take photos. Because of this, I guess my subject matter is everything around me.
What I try to do to this vast subject matter and how I try to make it my own in regards to what I want to say. It’s trying to find certain similarities and creating a constant vision that is present in all my work.
Some are things that I am attracted to and I find really difficult not to photograph if I walk past.
Colour coherence or disharmony is one of those things. Also how angles interact is something that the most I photograph the more my eye seems to scan the scene looking for them. Someone recently pointed out to me that it seems to be some sort of decay in a lot of my work, I had not notice this until they told me but I agree It must be something that I am subconsciously attracted to.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
I only shoot colour negative and I don’t think it’s time to start experimenting on my last roll, so I would have to stick to what I know.
It would have to be Kodak Gold. I love the colours that it gives. I think it’s a very underrated film and it gets a lot of hate. It’s really versatile and it gives me the closest representation of what I want the final photograph to look like.
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?
This is a tough one because I very rarely leave the house with just one camera, there are currently three in my camera bag.
I would have to take the one that I am most comfortable with an that is the Olympus OM2n. It’s the camera that I have probably shot the most on, so it has become really intuitive to use.
I can forget about the camera and totally concentrate on what I’m doing.
As for a lens, I would take the 35mm f2.8. It just feels right. Every photographer has a different favourite focal length, and to me 35mm just translates and represents what I am by “seeing” to the final image most accurately.
Film-wise I would take my trusted Kodak Gold. I know what I can get from it. Perhaps some Kodak Portra 400 too, just in case the assignment involves photographing people, so I can get those amazing skin tones.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
I have thought about and discussed with other photographers about the importance of knowing or being familiar with a location to get the photos that you want.
I definitely take more photos if I am somewhere where I have never been before but I think that I take my best photographs in places that I frequent regularly.
So although I love to travel and there are many places I would love to photograph. If I had to pick a favourite location, it would have to be (as I said!), the places that I frequent the most.
Maybe my neighbourhood, a local bar, or where I walk my dogs. I get a real kick out of seeing something for the first time in a place that I am very familiar with.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film and how would you set it straight?
I guess that the biggest misconception is that because technology gives the illusion to be an ever forward-moving motion, people just assume that newer means better and disregard film itself – and film cameras – as antiquated equipment that can not get the results of its modern counterpart.
I try to encourage everyone that has an interest in photography to shoot film, and I am willing to lend them one of my cameras. I think that once they see the results they will understand that things like image quality or the shooting experience itself have nothing to do with why film as a medium lost its popularity when it did.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
I feel positive and hopeful about it.
I see more and more people shooting film and there are new magazines and websites dedicated to it. I hope its one of those things that never goes away because it just makes sense the way it is.
~ Oliver Liria
…and there we are, thanks Oliver.
Oliver raises an interesting point and surprisingly, it’s once I’ve not seen voiced in quite this way here before:
“I try to encourage everyone that has an interest in photography to shoot film, and I am willing to lend them one of my cameras. I think that once they see the results they will understand that things like image quality or the shooting experience itself have nothing to do with why film as a medium lost its popularity when it did.”
In world of hover boards, power laces and flying cars that is 2016, it’s easy to look at popular photography and explain away the digital medium as a response to the unpredictability, poor handling, troublesome processing and finicky nature of film.
In fact, it’s even easy for us (as members of the film photography community), to casually conclude that these were the driving force behind the creation of the digital platform. The truth is – and we know it – that it wasn’t.
It was all about delivering convenience as a way of selling more kit.
Yes, I understand that there were other reasons behind it but let’s not forget that for every passionate engineer mapping out a new technology, there are at least three suits sitting a couple of floors above looking at the bottom line and considering shareholder value.
Truth is that image quality and shooting experience were nothing to do with the rise of digital. It was purely an evolutionary step that needed to happen and whilst yes, there are fewer film stocks and fewer companies manufacturing new film photography equipment than there were twenty years ago, the fact that people like us still make the choice to shoot and develop film, as well as spend hours in the darkroom making prints, should be enough to show that newer doesn’t always mean better.
I mean, just look at Footloose, Arthur and Blues Brothers 2000…
You can catch up with Oliver over at Facebook and Flickr, so please make sure you give him a nudge and some encouragement. We need more people like him spreading the word.
We’ll be back very soon with another interview. In the meantime (and as ever), keep shooting, folks.
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.