EMULSIVE | Aug 8, 2018 | 5
EMULSIVE interview #93: I am Bobby Kulik and this is why I shoot film
If you believe when today’s photographer says he’s only been shooting film for the past four or five years, you’re in the minority. His work is beautiful, uncluttered and brings me wonderful feelings of peace.
There’s more from the man himself below, so over to you Bobby.
Hi Bobby, what’s this picture, then?
BK: This is a photo I took with my then newly acquired Bronica ETRS. It had been raining on and off for while and I had no cover available, so I stood under the largest tree I could find around. When the rain stopped, I just turned around and saw this scene right in front of me with a bit of mist left over from the rain. I had a #15 deep yellow filter on and took a quick reading,composed and fired. The film was Tmax 100 if I remember correctly.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
BK: My name is Bobby Kulik, I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I was born in 1962. I moved to North Carolina in 1994. In 2001 I moved to Florida for almost 5 years before moving back to N.C.
When did you start shooting film and what about now? What drives you to keep shooting?
BK: I’m a late comer to film at my age. Around 2011 or 2012 , I “discovered” film. I had been shooting only digital for several years as an “enthusiast”. Just while browsing the internet for photography sites and such I ran across some photographs made with film. Like most people I was a bit taken aback that so many people even still use film. I began to read more and more and discovered film cameras were very inexpensive in comparison to digital.
I found a Chinon DSL with 3 lenses at Goodwill and there I was, starting my journey into film. I found a fairly new group online, Film Shooters Collective. I had virtually no experience in film but requested membership and was accepted. It was there that I learned about shooting film, what cameras I decided to use and what film choices there were and so on.
I prefer to keep shooting film because to me there is just something simply fulfilling about the whole thing. Something I never felt with my digital work. A satisfaction I get just in holding and firing a film camera whether a box camera, one of my Bronica’s, SLRs or my 4×5. I can’t explain the feeling of pulling a roll out of the developing tank or a 4×5 sheet from a tray and seeing an actual image. I guess it’s the whole mechanical nature and hands on process about it that moves me to continue shooting film.
Any favorite subject matter?
BK: My favorite subject is nature. That’s why I bought a camera in the first place, to be a nature and wildlife photographer. It didn’t take long to figure out that wasn’t going to be an easy task. I’ve given the wildlife aspect altogether, especially since using film.
I’m not much for street photography but I do try some indoor still life when I’m unable to get out due to rain or some other reason. I photograph almost any subject really but nature is definitely at the top of the list.
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?
BK: My next challenge or goal is to make my own prints. I currently use my bathroom for a darkroom so space is limited. But I plan on building one in the near future so I can try making contact prints and maybe find an enlarger too.
I’ve tried contact printing but I am still very much in the learning stages with a little bit of success but nothing major. I am planning to build some sort of 8×10 camera in the not too distant future. I made an 8×10 pinhole camera that came out pretty decent considering I had no work bench and just a few basic hand tools and a circular saw and drill.
I would like to work on my large format work much more and to also concentrate more on just a couple of 35mm and MF cameras. I have over 30 cameras currently and need to find the ones that I feel most at home with and try mastering each one, maybe just downsizing in general.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
BK: Tough question. I would have to think about either Kodak T-MAX 100/400 or Ilford FP4+. These are my favorites but I guess it would be the T-MAX 100 in the end.
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?
BK: Another tough question especially given the variety of cameras I have. But on the fly I’d have to say my Minolta SRT 201 with MD 50mm 1.7 Rokkor, a roll of Kodak T-MAX 100 and a roll of Kodak Ektar for color.
The camera because it would be easy to handle on the go, requires no battery and is just simply reliable. The lens is excellent as well. The T-MAX and Ektar because I could then decide whether to shoot the scene in color or B&W and I know either one will give me good results with that camera/lens. And either of them are good for just about any subject matter.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
BK: I’d love to say out west to Yosemite or some similar place but in reality, I would most likely go to the nearby Smokey Mountains here in North Carolina.
I think this area has not yet been fully recognized photographically, at least not on as large a scale as places out west. My second choice would be the Adirondack Range in upstate New York.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
BK: It’s been my experience that these days most people never give film as much as a thought when it comes to photography. Certainly not for general family and vacation pictures like when I was a kid. Convenience, computers and smartphones are what most people are into these days. I’ve had people ask that inevitable questions “do they still make film” and “where do you get that developed?”
Most people these days just don’t know how popular film still is and not only that but how relevant it is for many people either. It’s all about whipping out the smartphone, fire off way too many pictures and maybe look at them a few times, post them online and forget all about them.
I have had some younger folks look through my ground glass and wonder how there is an image and yet no electronics at all. I try to explain to people that film and digital both have a place in today’s world and why not go get a cheap film camera from the thrift store or online and give it shot.
They would be amazed at how many still shoot film, how many are just discovering it and just the simple fact that you will always have a copy of a favorite shot as long as you never throw away the negative. I do try to show and explain the feeling and enjoyment of slowing down a bit and I hope I’ve reached at least a few.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
BK: I would like to think film photography will have a giant rebirth and in some ways it has. Despite some films becoming extinct or hard to get, and in some cases becoming pricey, there are at the same time a few places that are trying to bring in new film and keep it alive.
The fact that film cameras can be bought and or repaired for far less than a new digital camera hopefully will inspire people to try film. But in the end of it all, I don’t think fill is going away at all. In fact I think it’s popularity has grown quite a bit in the last few years . It may never be the “thing” again but film will always be around and we as film photographers have a job to pass it on to those younger than us.
~ Bobby Kulik
“Most people these days just don’t know how popular film still is and not only that but how relevant it is for many people either. It’s all about whipping out the smartphone, fire off way too many pictures and maybe look at them a few times, post them online and forget all about them.”
This, right here.
I’ve got 7901 photographs on my phone and pretty much only root through them to find pictures of food I’ve eaten – yes, I’m one of THOSE people. Granted, it doesn’t help that these past few months my phone has only been able to focus at objects closer than 30cm but I digress.
Photographs are meant to be seen and not simply on a screen as you see here: they should be printed. After all, they’re real, living objects representing not only what was captured on the day but also how the medium was transformed by the interaction between it and they physical world (I’m talking film here, in case you’re wondering).
I’ll freely admit that my darkroom printing is somewhat lacking in this regard but I do print my work, be it digitally, or by requesting the services of people better suited to create a darkroom print. To Bobby, I hope that this year really does see further darkroom printing developments and for the rest of us, I hope we can continue (or start) to print our work and appreciate it the way it was meant to be seen.
We’ll be back again very soon with a look at another film photographer’s words and images. In the meantime, keep shooting, folks.
Write for EMULSIVE
The driving force behind EMULSIVE is knowledge transfer, specifically creating more of it in the film photography community. You can help by contributing your thoughts, work and ideas to inspire others reading these pages.
Take action and help drive an open, collaborative community: all you need do is read this and then drop me a line.
Lend your support
Like what you see here? You can support EMULSIVE by helping to contribute to the community voice on this website (see above), or by heading on over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page and considering financial support from as little as $2 a month.
As if that’s not enough, there’s also an EMULSIVE print and apparel store over at Society 6, currently showcasing over two dozen t-shirt designs and over a dozen unique prints of photographs made by yours truly
In short, I want to continue building this platform and I’d love your help to make that happen.