Over the holidays I spent a week back home with family in Arizona. This was the first time I was back home since I started shooting film, you could say I was pretty excited to get shooting in a new landscape and soak up some sun – Vancouver is so grey in the winter.
For this trip I brought down my trusty Olympus OM10 and my Olympus Stylus. I’ve recently gotten into a habit of exclusively loading black and white in my SLR and color in my point and shoot. I’m finding more and more that when I shoot on my SLR I’m challenging myself as a photographer and on the other hand when I’m using my point and shoot I’m capturing a moment with less worry on the shot itself. Not reinventing the wheel at all, just something I’ve done recently.
In the Olympus OM10 I had some Delta 400 and was shooting at 200. I’ve never overexposed black and white before but I thought it’d be fun to capitalize on the sunny weather and shoot for the mid-tones. I was shooting the desert so I didn’t want the contrast you might look for when you’re doing street photography. Next time I’m in that setting I’d go for a contrast look to experiment but I couldn’t get out much over this holiday so I had to stick with one plan.
I can’t give Delta 400 the justice it deserves but I did some reading on it before the purchase and wanted to give Casual Photophile a shoutout because this blog is very well written and gave me a good context before going with this stock of film. It’s a softer stock than what I normally shoot, HP5 or TriX but I like the look and I think it performed well at 200.
As for the Stylus I had a roll of Portra 400 loaded in there. It’s my go to when I want to get the best results with a point and shoot. This little guy never really fails me and as I get more comfortable with how it fires I can get good results in a variety of settings.
All the black and white shots were developed (Ilfosol 3) and scanned by me, color shots were developed my Kerrisdale Cameras in Vancouver.
Following a conversation with a friend, I realised that I kept painting myself as the victim and didn’t take any responsibility for my own well-being. This body of work mirrors the way I began to hold myself accountable in order to aid my own mental health recovery. The phrase ‘you’ve made your bed, now lie in it’ is one that has echoed in my mind throughout the creation of this project, and I feel that these images rebel against that. We are able to take autonomy over our own actions and we do not have to lie in our own mess.
I have used my own mental health as a muse in my photography before. Documenting the bad days. The ones where doing the simplest of tasks felt impossible. This time, I wanted things to be different. This project was the result of a change of mindset, an epiphany if you will.
One major source of inspiration for this project was a painting by Sir John Everett Millais named Ophelia. It depicts Ophelia, a character from Shakespeare’s Hamlet who was driven mad when her lover, Hamlet, murders her father. As Ophelia was picking flowers, she falls into the river and slowly drowns, singing all the while. Her face looks hopeless as she lets herself sink into the river. I could see myself reflected in the painting, which shocked me a little. It acted as a wakeup call that I didn’t have to let myself slip, that I could help myself.
Recovery is a long and tiresome process. It requires you to constantly challenge negative thought patterns and behaviours. Therefore, I wanted to use a method of photography that I felt gave this process justice, one that would require me to slow right down and think about each composition in detail. Hence the choice of medium format analog film. I had never successfully used medium format prior to this project, so the prospect of doing so conjured feelings of both excitement and anticipation. The weeks building up to my planned shoot date, I spent time getting to know my camera, a Bronica ETRSi that I had borrowed from college. It was a small, lightweight and easy to use. A nice introduction to the world of medium format. Then came the time to shoot, a warm early evening in June. The act of setting up the tri-pod in various locations, getting a light meter reading and composing each frame felt cathartic, as if the very process of photographing mirrored what I was trying to portray in the photographs themselves.
I wanted these photographs to be a reminder to myself that I am in control of my own recovery. It’s strange to look back on in retrospect, as a few months have passed since the creation of this project and I still find myself dipping into old habits and ways of thinking. But I am still a strong advocate that the process of making photographs can act as a form of therapy, a way to ground yourself and connect with the world around you.
To keep up to date with my work, you can find me over on my instagram page.
A couple weeks ago I developed my first roll of film. This is something that has been a goal of mine since I started shooting back in February, I just never committed to it before now and for those on the fence I would highly recommend it. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some thoughts on getting into developing as well as results from my first session.
To back track a bit, like I said I did my first at home development session a couple weeks ago. I souped up some HP5 pushed one stop with Ilfosol 3. I’m lucky to have a bathroom with no windows to act as my darkroom, and let me tell you those few minutes in my “darkroom” trying to get my negatives onto the SPOOL? were extremely stressful. But that’s not the focus of this short writeup.
I actually think at home development isn’t that hard. I get this sentiment from a how to video I stumbled upon while doing some research. This video more or less portrays developing like this:
Just like learning photography you can pick up the basics pretty quick.
But to become a pro it takes a long time.
That first point was what I connected to because what I’d heard before this video was that developing was this whole ordeal that required precision and instruments and experience, while that has merit, it’s also a skill that like anything else can be grasped quickly and should be honed over time.I’ve felt that developing was always a logical next step from just shooting and that video is spot on – it’s not that hard to develop at home. Sure it’s stressful working in the dark but everything with the chemicals is just following some instructions.
I don’t mean to take away from the skills required to master a darkroom. Like the second point above, becoming a pro takes a lot of time, energy, and experience. I know I have so much to learn but really for those on the fence, I’d recommend giving it a shot.
The biggest reason why I think you should try it? I can say with confidence you will feel a connection to that first roll you’ve developed more so than most of your previous work. Just like the first roll you’ve ever shot, the first roll you shoot and develop is new, it’s a fresh feeling and you’ve been the one to get it into a medium you can view, share, and love. The next step for me is to get better at printing my work, which is a whole other beast. Let me know if you’ve developed, would love to chat about what you’ve learned in the process.
Welcome; this is an initiation of a conversation. Those who created Gestalt Zine would like to entreat you into a space of expression, communication and interaction with artists and people expressing themselves through art. The creators: James Rhodes and Andrew Tarry from Newcastle Australia, a photographer and writer respectively, came together with the desire that it is necessary for emerging and already established photographers and writers to have a space and platform in which they can pursue their interests and passions in new ways. This attempt, fired by the acknowledgement that so many forms and mediums of art are inhibited or become disillusioned, means to strike out into the world a new approach of thinking, a new way of seeing and perceiving the places we inhabit or the situations and circumstances that we find ourselves in. Gestalt Zine is this attempt. In fact, it is more than an attempt. It is the amalgamation of several varying needs that currently exist in the world to understand and define, to recognize and appreciate contemporary modes of living and existence. One may say that this zine is not just a zine, but a window of kinds, a brief interlude from one way of being to see into other ways of being. Gestalt, derivative of Gestalt psychology whose axiom the whole is different from the sum of its parts is often misinterpreted as being greater than the sum of its parts, was chosen and appropriated by the creators to represent and express this axiom through the collaboration of photography and writing.
The Australian Ugliness, Volume.1 of Gestalt Zine focuses on the manifestation of incoherence and lack of artistic continuity in Australian residential architecture. The zine examines the lack of identity that exists in residential housing in Australia due to the multitude of influences and styles that have occurred over time. The zine also reflects on how the buildings and spaces we inhabit are affectual and how the perception of our surroundings is determined or disposed towards certain pathways of thinking or acting and speaking. Volume. 1 also scrutinizes how the individual, arbitrary, components of a society and community may come to be, or how these components occur through function, expression, need and wants, whether on behalf of an individual or a community or society.
Gestalt zine looks at the value of taking things in isolation, or rather, separating their individual part from the whole that provides their context. It looks at the functions of these individual parts, their origin and evolution. The potential circumstance that they may come to be in now, or in the future, if at all the future is something in which they will be a part of. Gestalt means to establish a greater congruency between artists, writers and photographers; opening new avenues of expression and impression, of interacting. Encouraging writers and photographers to delve into topics or issues that interest them or that causes within them a burning passion to speak about, act upon, reach out to others and through these connections broaden their understanding and apperception of the world(s) that exists around them and their position within those worlds. Gestalt Zine also encourages its contributors and viewers to put forward their different viewpoints, especially as the co-operation of different viewpoints can create a unique and different whole.
As part of this zine, in volume. 1 and potentially further volumes, greater, broader philosophical questions are asked in the hope that by asking these questions we may come to have more refined, nuanced ideas about our lives and the things that affect them.
Such queries may include but are not limited to:
In a time of rapid change, how does the world and its innumerable parts affect us?
How is it that a world entrapped by large moving mechanisms and forces can be broken down, understood and appreciated? Since individual human beings often become lost in collections or groups, how does separation and detachment change and influence the individual? Further, how does an individual relate, occupy and function in a world that is increasingly perceived as one complete entity?
With so many external pressures attempting to influence perception, how do we achieve or acknowledge multiple and varied interpretations? With so much now dependent on the end of something and not the (progressive) individual parts how does instant gratification diminish the desire to understand how something comes to be?
If you would like to buy a zine they are available here: Gestalt Zine
This is the first of a new series where we share some of the books, zines and other printed material we’ve been enjoying recently. Hopefully this series inspires you to not only buy more printed material but make some yourself! Photographs are now overwhelmingly viewed on screens only, but don’t forget the best way to view a photo: with a physical print/book in your hands.
This book by Guillermo Sánchez-Villarta sold out its first edition before we were able to get our hands on the second edition that was printed to meet the demand.
Shot over the course of two weeks in May of 2018 in Japan, this book includes both color and b/w images. It also includes contact sheets. The book is filled with moody shots of Tokyo in the rain, as is suggested by its name, Ame, which means rain in Japanese.
The Negative Times is “a film photography magazine sharing photographs and stories from the past.”
Based in Salt Lake City and Berlin, their debut issue is filled with work from a total of 13 different photographers. It is published by the independent publishing group, t.i.e. publishing. We can’t recommend this zine enough. The curation by the team at The Negative Times is excellent and if this first issue is indicative of their future publications, we will be keeping a close eye on their future work.
Zuisha is a photobook by John Sypal. It is based on his on-going photo series, Zuisha, which is exhibited regularly at Totem Pole Photo Gallery in Tokyo. John is a member of the Totem Pole Photo Gallery and I had the pleasure of attending his Zuisha vol.18 exhibit back in August 2018. He was kind enough to chat with me for over an hour and then sign a copy of his book for me! If you’re ever in the area, we highly recommend checking out one of his exhibitions.
“THE DOCTOR’S HOUSE” is the latest work from NYC-based filmmaker Parker Hill. We have been obsessed with Hill’s photographic and cinematic work for a while now. Her photography is unique in that it is influenced by her film-making, resulting in an undeniable cinematic feel to her still images.
I’m usually not a fan of coil-bound books, however, I think it really helps this book exhibit its beautiful full spreads. This may be the book that changes my mind on coil-bound publications.
I got inspired to write some thoughts on my experience learning to shoot film in Japan because of the way I shared my work with my family after my trip. Like any good business school graduate I created a slideshow with maps, information, and of course my photographs as a means to share my stories. In the process of creating this I was able to relive not only my experience in Japan, but my journey learning this medium and becoming a stronger photographer.
So I thought it might be fun to share some of those thoughts here and hopefully leave you either:
Inspired to pick up a film camera and shoot or
Laughing at my misgivings if you’re a seasoned photographer
In early 2018 I embarked on a three month trip to Japan. I wanted to be in one country for three months to soak up the culture as best as I could and Japan’s culture is awesome. I mean that quite literally – Japan is an awe inspiring country full of natural beauty, massive urban centres, welcoming people, and an allure that comes from perfect balance between history and modernity.
Was I a photographer before this trip? 100%, unequivocally, no. I owned a Nikon D3000 for a few years but never spent the time required to learn how to use it properly or develop any photography skill. So when I left for Japan without that camera I forced myself into choosing to pick something up upon arrival or go about my journey with my phone and my notebooks.
It was pretty early into my trip that I realized how fortunate I was to be in such a cool country for so long and I was eager to find a way to capture the charm of Japan. My good friend Sam (you know him as the other half of Box Speed) pushed me into getting a film camera, “Japan is the film mecca”, I can still hear it in my head. He recommended that if I want to get into this I should try to find a fully manual SLR, which is now my recommendation to anyone who asks me how to get into film photography. I cannot thank him enough for the introduction to this medium.
Unbeknownst to me I didn’t really take his advice though because what I ended up getting was a Yashica Electro 35 CC, a decent rangefinder that shoots aperture priority only. I meant to buy an SLR but my broken Japanese, the store owner’s broken English, and a shit Google translate did nothing to help me out, paired with my literal zero knowledge on cameras I walked out of this cute shop with my dinky rangefinder. It did the trick for two weeks until I realized the light leaks were terrible, and exaggerated in any amount of daylight.
This is how my first four rolls went:
1st roll: some good shots, loading, shooting, dropping off for development was seamless
2nd roll: loaded incorrectly but didn’t know until development results were 100% blank
3rd roll: (see 2nd roll)
4th roll: finally back to seamlessness but started seeing the leaks
Luckily I found a good deal on an Olympus OM10 from a store in Kyoto called 三條サクラヤ写真機店
with a manual shutter speed adaptor and the rest is history – well kind of. I shot 15 rolls of whatever Fujifilm 400 speed was available with my OM10 over the course of roughly two months but this is the start of where learning something equally complex as it is rewarding, like film photography, in a foreign country and on a time sensitive trip is a double edged sword.
On the one hand when I look back at my work from Japan I still feel that romance I love with film and I can put myself back into my shots and remember the sights in my viewfinder and the feelings I had pulling the camera away from my face. But on the other hand I knew I left things on the table by not taking advantage of what you can do with film because I wasn’t focused on truly learning.
I try to conceptualize this in two buckets:
Not testing things out
First of all I didn’t shoot any black and white with my OM10 while I was there (thank you for the gasp, I too regret this). I also didn’t shoot any professional grade film. Is this the end of the world? Of course not but if I had the chance to do it again I’d experiment more, I’d try harder to get out of my comfort zone and create works of art that challenged me.
And not trying to get better
I also didn’t have any access to editing software, like Lightroom which I use sparingly now. I’m not a huge editor of my work, I prefer to keep things simple but what I enjoy the most about using Lightroom is cropping and analyzing my work with the rule of thirds, golden triangle, etc. Whether or not I end up actually cropping is another matter but I find value in comparing my work with those well established standards to find trends and get better. I definitely relate this to my previous thoughts on being more intentional when you shoot.
I’d like to leave you with reiterating what I was saying earlier because albeit not perfect, Japan was an amazing place for me to fall in love with film photography. Every setting you could want to shoot you can find in Japan and as my good friend told me, it is the Mecca for film. Next time I’m back I’ll be applying what I’ve learned and developed since being back home to create pieces that inspire me – and I hope to be back soon.