Today we’re sitting down with 20-year old Rory Power. It’s safe to say that he’s been around a bit but I’ll let him tell you that himself. He’s been shooting film since he was 16 and for the moment is still firmly entrenched 35mm film. I’m sure you’ll all have a hand in turning him to the dark side.
Over to you, Rory.
Hi Rory, what’s this picture, then?
This is home, well it used to be, Hong Kong. I had spent the day on a junk (what we call a motorised yacht, which people usually hire out for the day), with a bunch of friends who I grew up with in HK. We had undisturbed blue skies and blistering heat (I had a sunburn and peeled for weeks) until we headed back.
I just remember being in awe when we sailed towards the harbour. I sat at the bow hoping to capture the incoming storm, along with both sides of the city. It’s one of my favourite pictures, I always look back on it to get me motivated to shoot more.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
My name is Rory, I’m 20, my father is English and my mother is Korean. I was raised in Korea and grew up in Hong Kong. I started with the Diana F+, used my grandfather’s pristine OM-1 in 2014 (I bought my own second hand last year), he also gave me his Minolta 600si Classic and I recently acquired an Olympus mju-II.
I’m just about to graduate from university, studying Film Production in the South of England. I’ve specialised in cinematography, so it’s no wonder for me that photography is one of my hobbies. I am also a Billy Williams Scholar (he won an Academy Award for Ghandi and said I have a good eye!), obtaining a cinematography scholarship for 2015/16.
When did you start shooting film and what about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
The summer of 2011. I had just finished my iGCSE’s and I got a Diana F+ 120 with the whole package of lenses. I went travelling around Europe with my family and just messed around with the new gear, not really having any idea what to expect. I was about to start Film Studies for my IB course, with a primary interest in editing.
I didn’t think about cinematography until I came to uni. My grandfather is into photography, so I started talking to him more and more about it over the years. He’s given me a lifeline into analog photography, because without him I wouldn’t have known where to start.
I would probably pin it down the reason why I continue to shoot film to the process of it. It relaxes me whenever I’m going out and capturing moments (to the best of my ability). I’m always really happy to see whatever I have shot come out looking like it’s meant to, or at least being able to take credit for any cool effects that implement themselves into the outcome.
I develop my rolls for free at the university and use a DIY lightbox for scanning in RAW with my 70D. Photography lets me look back on moments and experiences and I can see how I’ve improved in my craft.
I’ve shot four short films on super 16mm, one on black and white 16mm. Every time a project revolves around film it adds a lot more pressure and stress, which I particularly enjoy (sometimes). Film makes me more disciplined with checking the equipment, lighting and composition.
I guess it implores a state of control over more elements than I would with digital, but that might just be me reacting to using a limited resource. This is how I feel about film photography and why I think composure and patience is key, rushing something won’t give you the best results.
Any favourite subject matter?
People and places. I’m still quite a novice when it comes to photography, I go out and attempt to capture moments and landscapes, whether that’s with friends or if I’m walking places. I try to stay as wide as possible, it just seems more natural for me, and only getting in close depending on the subject matter and context of the story (for film). Subject matters always change depending on what situation you find yourself in and where you are.
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?
The only way I improve is by continually photographing and re-evaluating the process/outcome. I’ve started experimenting with long exposures (question 4 & 8) and I’ll start venturing into multiple exposures as that is something I haven’t explored. I should start noting down the technical aspects of my set up, but most of the time I don’t have time to do so.
I’d also like to photograph a set, with a film lighting set up. Gregory Crewdson is someone who I’ve looked into who does something similar, he captures American homes and neighbourhoods with a documentary/dream like narrative. I’d love to capture different layers of reality within my photographs, maybe that’s the ultimate goal…
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
Probably colour infrared 35mm. I shot a roll last summer and have a second roll for when the time’s right. I haven’t seen it developed yet because I need to ship it to a darkroom in the States and I’d rather send both rolls together. Soon it will be immensely expensive and I’d love to experiment more with it before it dies out. Richard Mosse’s The Enclave (2013) is what got me interested in colour infrared.
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?
I’ll take an Olympus OM-1, a 35mm Zeiss f/2 lens, Kodak Ektar 100 and an Ilford Delta 400. I guess I’ll pack a lightweight fluid head tripod, reflector, a polariser and an orange filter for the black and white. I can fit all of that into my camera bag and still have space for other necessities for walking about for the day.
It covers most of what I would want for a day or night shoot, interior or exterior. Oh and my camera cleaning kit! I’ve seen some disgustingly bad camera maintenance, take care of your gear, please.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
Easy, space! I’d love to capture Earth from space, as well as with telescopes to capture everything else out there. I recently got into astrophotography digitally, mainly for time-lapsing, so to be able to shoot up in the stars would be amazing. Also, colour infrared in/from space would be awesome.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
That it’s hard to get into, it’s really not! You can start by purchasing a second hand 35mm camera with a 50mm lens and a roll of film for £25-40, go crazy. We’re in the age of information, anyone can learn, but not everyone is patient. You do have to be patient with film, every bit of the process requires some level of composure and patience.
It’s easy to auto-focus and snap a hundred photos of the same thing to get one good image. Once you get over only having 36 shots, you start to think more creatively for your shots and start to understand why a certain decision influences your results. Digital will degrade over time, film is permanent, and the quality of it is astoundingly magical (if kept in decent conditions).
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
Hopefully still kicking. LP’s are getting popular again (another expensive hobby I am happily trapped in), the analog age probably won’t die as long as we’re sharing and creating.
It’s a craft that has been with us for a very long time and I don’t see it being replaced by anything, yet.
The shadows and highlights have so much more latitude than in digital, it’s almost impossible to replicate the physical with the not-so-physical. Filmmakers who choose to shoot on film also drive a lot of the support to keep the analog process living, as long as Kodak carries on producing it and products such as its new Super 8 camera, I can’t see film dying out.
“…the analog age probably won’t die as long as we’re sharing and creating…”
My sentiments exactly, thank you Rory. I wrote my own thoughts on this in yesterday’s EMULSIVE 1st birthday article and completely agree with Rory on this one. If we don’t use film to create images, it dies. If we keep it to ourselves and stop sharing our work and what we learn, it dies. The difference might be a few years but the result is the same.
I really enjoy talking to new film photographers, especially those still near the beginning of their journey. When you speak to them there’s a certain passion and wide-eyed awe that sometimes gets lost or chipped away. On a personal level it has quite an invigorating effect and – more often than not – in the days that follow those encounters, I find myself thinking back to my own beginnings and wonder which of my edges have been dulled and tarnished with time.
Thank you, Rory.
We’ll be back soon for interview #85. In the meantime, why not stay out of trouble by checking out one of the recent camera reviews? You know you want to…
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