One Roll a Week by Charlene Hardy

This week’s Film Friday post comes from  Guest Blogger Charlene Hardy.

Photo by Jonathan Canlas

Photo by Jonathan Canlas

As a mother of four, I marvel at the everyday changes that happen so quickly in childhood. I get to observe the wonder of children experiencing things for the first time. I cheer them on as they learn and achieve. I get to laugh with them as they find joy in the simple things.

Like most parents, I take photographs of important childhood events. But I wanted to do something different. I wanted to look back and remember my children the way they were not only during those happy childhood milestones but also during the day-to-day happenings of life. At the start of 2014, I began a personal project to document my kids throughout the year.

As I contemplated this project, I thought of ways to slow down and really take time to know what was happening in my children’s lives. I thought of my own mother with her camera, carefully composing and changing settings as my brothers and sisters squirmed with the excitement of knowing our photo was being taken. I wanted to re-create that feeling for my children who have grown up in the digital age, where photos are taken at lightning speed, never printed and often deleted as fast as they are taken. I wanted them to feel the importance of knowing that the photos I would take were permanent. I had the tools to make this happen, I just needed to carve out time from our busy days and make this a priority.

I chose film for this project because shooting film causes me to slow down. It forces me to take my time and choose every exposure carefully. I chose KODAK PROFESSIONAL T-MAX 400 film because I have always loved its versatility and beautiful grain. My children seem to notice a difference in the way I shoot with film and the photos I create have more depth and soulfulness.

My project is called “One Roll a Week.” Each week I limit myself to one roll of film and strive to document my children’s lives through timeless portraits that simply focus on their day-to-day growth. Every week, one at a time, I invite my kids into my small studio and take 4 frames of each one. In between frames we talk about their day, friends, or school; no topic is off limits.

WEEK 1

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by CharleneHardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

January 1st came and everything was set: film, camera and chemicals to develop the film myself. After setting up a stool and studying the light in my small studio, I called my 13-year-old daughter into the room. She eyed my equipment cautiously and asked what was going on. I told her about my project as she plopped down on the stool letting me know that she was not quite convinced this was how she wanted to spend her last moments of winter break. I put the camera up to my eye and studied the scene before me. I was taken aback by how grown up she has become. She sighed impatiently and I snapped the first frame. Lowering the camera, she looked at me in disbelief. I tried my best to explain how I was slowing down; I wanted to spend time with her, documenting her growing up in a meaningful way. Our first conversation of the year started in between those four frames.

WEEK 4

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by CharleneHardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

After school with my 8-year-old daughter, we talked about the week, her best friend moving away and recess. “The kids at school tell me my hair sticks up. I know it does but I like to think it just looks like I have wings and they help me run faster than all of the boys.”

WEEK 7

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T–MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

My 5-year-old son has just completed 100 days of Kindergarten.  I am amazed at how fast time has gone by. It really seems like yesterday I was dropping him off for his first day of school. I asked him how he felt and he excitedly replied, “I am 100 days smarter and I only have 80 more days until summer! Then I can go to college.”

WEEK 11

Shot on Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

I spent two hours with my 11-year-old daughter at a retina specialist, where they numbed her eyes and tried to dilate them. It was an exhausting process- we got bad news about her progressing vision loss. That afternoon, her eyes were causing her pain and she kept closing them to try to ease the burning sensation. I took her home and we ended up in the studio talking. At one point I sighed, my heart heavy and I asked her, “What are we going to do?” Tugging her hair as she thought she replied quietly, “I just want to be able to keep dancing.” This is one of those weeks I will not likely be forgetting soon. Documenting the year is sometimes harder than I ever imagined.

WEEK 15

Shot on Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

Shot on Kodak Professional T-MAX 400 by Charlene Hardy

My five year old has an amazing imagination. One day he is a wilderness explorer, the next a gladiator. “Hey Mom, I’m a gladiator, gladiators are NOT glad. They make mad fighting faces like this.”

As of this week I have completed 17 weeks and it’s been such an adventure. I adore sharing my love of film photography with my children in a way that allows us to spend time with each other. It has really helped me to know them better. Some weeks are easy to document, filled with simple childhood pleasures: being chosen as part of the yearbook staff, dancing in a production or finally getting a 100% on a spelling test. But some weeks are tough. Childhood has its share of disappointments and it can be heart wrenching to experience. I try my best to capture a little of what is going on in their lives, the good and the not so good, knowing that together we are learning and growing together from these events.

Charlene Hardy is a portrait photographer specializing in Children and Family portraiture. She lives in Kennewick, Washington with her husband and four children. Charlene enjoys making timeless portraits of children using film and the hands on approach of developing and scanning the film herself. For more information on her work and her “One Roll a Week” project, please visit http://charlenehardyphotography.com

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day – Herschel Pollard

Today’s blog post for World Pinhole Photography Day comes from guest blogger Herschel Pollard.

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I began shooting pinhole about 10 years ago when a friend convinced me to build a camera out of foam core and an old Polaroid back. My first image was a 15-minute exposure in my living room on Type 55 film…and it wasn’t very good. The camera needed adjustment. I needed adjustment. But I got hooked. By the time I finished that box of film I’d managed to adjust the camera, and my thinking, well enough to produce amazingly sharp images. I felt chills every time a photo worked, like witnessing magic.

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Yellow Dress, Expired Portra 100T

I love pinhole because it requires long exposures, even on bright days, which means movement disappears. I love pinhole because there is infinite depth of field so everything is in focus. I love pinhole because when the focal length is short enough you get vignette and stretchy goodness at the edges. I love pinhole because it challenges me.[/caption]

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Apollo Lands, Portra 160

Most professional photographers shoot pinhole at least once, usually in some high school or college class, a lesson in the most basic form of photography using the most basic form of camera. Honestly, cameras don’t get any simpler than pinhole. No battery, no viewfinder, no glass, no focus, no auto anything, just a box with a tiny hole and some film.

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Dawn Through a Dirty Window On a Red Eye Train, Expired Portra 160

Behind this simplicity, though, is a learning curve that can be frustrating … maddening, really, when you consider variables different films throw into the mix, like reciprocity failure and long exposure color shift (Portra has a beautiful blue shift). That learning curve is why pinholers are some of the most serious and knowledgeable photographers I’ve met. Pinhole certainly improved my photographic skills.

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Pinholing Yosemite, Portra 400VC

My go-to camera is a 6×9 medium format Zero Image, made by Zernike Au in Hong Kong. It’s a teak (sustainably farmed) and brass beauty with an aperture of f/235 and considered by many the Leica of pinhole cameras. He also makes 4×5 and 35mm versions.  Other cameras I shoot: Nikkormat FTN 35mm with a pinhole body cap I made; a Holga 120 WPC, which shoots 6×12 on medium format film; a homemade camera that shoots Impossible Project instant film; Zeiss Ikon Nettar 518 converted to pinhole; several others I’ve built.

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Traffic Circle, Portra 400

A common theme among my cameras is that they all shoot film…mostly 120.  I find that film works better for pinhole, although I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s just personal preference (although I’ve found most of my peers agree). I created a body cap pinhole for my Nikon DSLR and found the images were…well…weak is the best description.

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David, Portra 160 

I find 120 format Portra 160 gives the most reliable results, has a good contrast, and as I mentioned before, there’s a nice blue shift in long exposures. Also, reciprocity failure (the need to add more time to an exposure the longer you exposure the film) isn’t as steep with Portra as it is with most films. And it scans really well.

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Pitted Confusion, Portra 160

Every year, on the last Sunday of April, there is an international event to celebrate pinhole: Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day. The idea is that photographers from around the world shoot pinholes on a single day and submit them to the group website (http://www.pinholeday.org/). This year’s event is April 27. To help new pinhole photographers get started, Pinhole Day-related workshops are offered in numerous cities across the globe. Most cover the process of building a pinhole camera and creating your first images. It’s a great place to start.

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7-Hour Lunargraph, Portra 160

There are numerous pinhole resources. The definitive pinhole book is Eric Renner’s Pinhole Photography. Renner, considered a pioneer of modern pinhole photography, knows how to break the subject into easy-to-digest chunks, although it can get a bit technical for folks who don’t know photography well.

Two less technical books I’ve read that cover the subject well are Pinhole Cameras: A DIY Guide, by Chris Keeney and The Pinhole Camera: A Practical How-To Book for Making Pinhole Cameras and Images, by Brian Krummel.

Check out F295.org, a forum and blog site dedicated to “Historic, Alternative and Digital Techniques.” It has tens of thousands of posts related to lensless photography, with a dedicated core group of users who welcome and assist people just starting out in pinhole. It’s where my pinhole network began.

If you want to build pinhole cameras then Pinhole.cz and MrPinhole.com provide online calculators for proper camera and pinhole sizes. And don’t forget Kodak’s own, “How to Make and Use a Pinhole Camera.” There are plenty of other resources out there – just search for “pinhole photography” and see what you find.

If that isn’t enough, I’m lucky enough to be part of the recently started “Pinhole Podcast,” on the pdexposures network — along with Jana Obscura, Shelly Sometimes, Alex Yates, and Jeff Soderquist — where we discuss all things pinhole. Recent episodes covered the differences between paper, film, and digital (humorous and engaging, I swear), and interviews with world-renowned pinholers visiting Berlin for the OBSCURA pinhole exhibit.

Finally, you can find me at SquarePegPinhole.com. It’s where I post most of my work, write about pinhole photography and share my experiences. I’m always happy to answer questions about pinhole.

 

 

The Importance of Mentors – By Guest Blogger Elisa Bricker

Creating a photograph is exhilarating. There is power in the creative arts, and the ability to compose, manipulate, and work with a subject is a cultivated skill, one that continually gives me joy and makes me happy to be a photographer.

I remember learning to shoot film from my grandfather and father using a hand-me-down 35mm film camera. After shooting the rolls I had purchased at a nearby store, and impatiently waiting for them to be developed by a local lab, I would sit down for one on one critique with each of them. We would talk about lighting, composition, metering and so on. Those hours spent in mentoring were invaluable to me, and fueled my desire to learn more and do better.

Shot on KODAK PORTRA 400

Shot on KODAK PORTRA 400

When I began shooting professionally, I purchased a digital camera. I soon realized that I was spending endless hours at my desk editing my digital images and trying to make them look like film. But why make them look like film when it’s better to use film itself!

Shot on KODAK PORTRA 400

Shot on KODAK PORTRA 400

In this digital age, I’m flattered when others see and appreciate what I do with film. I see in both previous and current generations – people valuing the artistic process and the medium I use to create images for them.

Shot on KODAK PORTRA 400

Shot on KODAK PORTRA 400

While I am a hybrid shooter (using both digital and film), my first instinct is to choose film, whether I’m shooting personal work or professionally. I absolutely love photographing my subjects using film. I love the process of using it – of thinking more deliberately, and taking time to create. Film helps me to slow down and really see the world around me.

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Shot on KODAK PORTRA 400

That’s where having my grandfather and father as mentors made all the difference. Learning film on your own can be a daunting experience.

Because I love film – especially KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA 400 – I want others to fall in love with it as well. My husband Edward (the owner of Contax Rental) and I created a film workshop in partnership with Belle Lumiere Magazine because we recognized the draw that film creates and how intimidating it can be to try shooting film without training.

We want to give photographers who are new to film an outlet to experience, ask questions and master the basics. We’ve set out to encourage photographers to get excited about film, learn how to choose the best equipment – film, camera, light meter and lab – and then guide them to use these tools of the trade to their benefit.

Holding a camera in our hands is all about learning and seeing. If we can open people up to seeing that larger world, we might just empower a whole new generation of film mentors.

For more information about our upcoming workshop in Nashville, Tennessee visit: http://www.bellelumieremagazine.com/bloomsbury-farm/

Shot on KODAK PORTRA 400

Elisa Bricker – Photo by Eric Kelley http://www.erickelleyphotography.com/

Elisa Bricker is a film-based wedding and portrait photographer who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her work has been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, Once Wed, Southern Weddings Magazine, Southern Living Weddings Magazine, Weddings Unveiled Magazine, The Knot, Style Me Pretty, & More.

When Elisa is not photographing weddings, she is traveling and photographing her surroundings for pleasure, spending time with her husband Edward, their son, and their little pup who loves to curl up at her feet while she reads.

Film Friday: Ed Thompson & Syrian families on film

Last year, professional media photographer Ed Thompson set out on a mission to photograph Syrian families who had moved to the Lebanese border to escape the atrocities of war in their own country. Ed approached Kodak Alaris as he wanted to use its Portra 120 film on his trip. Kodak Alaris were happy to help and as a result we’re delighted to share with you today, some of the images taken on the shoot – which also have been used in a recent feature on the subject for the BBC news in the UK. We also took the time to chat with Ed about his love of film photography and why he specifically wanted to shoot film.

Here’s what he told us:

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When I got into photography it was a pre-digital era, I really got into photography in my 20’s. Now, people forget the magic of photography as it’s so disposable! You know we have the power to stop time?! That’s pretty amazing isn’t it? I’m an odd photojournalist/documentary photographer, I’ve seen things that defy explanation. It has led me to develop a strange agnosticism in an industry filled with atheists.

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Using film now is entirely habitual, I confess, I am an addict. Although I shoot both digital and film on assignments when it comes to my own self-initiated projects I prefer to use film. With my old Bronica in my hand I’m a different photographer: 1 in 3 photographs I take make the wide edit that goes to my photo-agencies and the magazines I freelance for. I wonder how many photographers could say the same?

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This was a personal project that initially came out of a 1st year student at L.C.C wanting to interview me as a noted Alumni. We went to the pub and he mentioned that there were Syrian refugees in Lebanon where he was from. Within three weeks we were there on the ground working on a project together. If you go to the pub anything can happen.

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For this particular photo assignment I wanted to create a powerful and strong portrait series as often in these issues the statistics get so high humanity is unable
to even process the magnitude of its horror. By throwing focus on individual children and their families testimonies, I was creating an important historical document that gave faces to the faceless, voices to the voiceless. And, in my mind it deserves permanence,
hence film.

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There’s also a strange faith in using film in this context. I once travelled to a refugee camp in India for only 2 days with 6 rolls of dead stock film – in a way it was pure insanity – but it worked. Of course I could have just used digital, but I believe in my abilities. I believe in them so strongly I don’t even see it as gambling. The hardest part is getting where ever I need to be, once there it is instinct, like breathing. I’m not aware of the process, it’s now entirely habitual.

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I was delighted with the outcome of the images and although the BBC would have been aware it was photographed on film, it’s really not that important to a news media titan like the BBC – they took the story because the photographs are tragic, current, important and beautiful all at the same time. I shot on Kodak Portra 120 because it gave me the image results I was looking for.

Why I love film

Today’s blog post comes from Bellamy Hunt, AKA Japan Camera Hunter. Be sure to check out the end of the post for a Film Friday giveaway!

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Why do you love film? This is a question I get asked a lot. Maybe it is because of what I do, but people always seem to want to hear a different answer. But in reality, there is no special answer other than the one that I always have felt. Let me try and explain it to you.

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I can vividly remember my first forays into photography, when I was a very small boy and I had a Kodak Instamatic camera which my mother gave me. I didn’t really have the first idea of what I was doing, but I enjoyed doing it, taking pictures.

As I got older my enjoyment of photography grew. I studied the process at college, I worked professionally in a studio using film, I did events and tons of personal projects using film. Which is what we all did, as there was no other way.

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When digital came on to the scene I thought it was a godsend. I could spend more time taking pictures, and I could edit the ones I didn’t like. But all was not good in happy valley. Whilst I enjoyed the convenience and the speed of using a digital camera, I found the images lacking something…they were too clinical. I also found myself becoming lazy, slipping. I would spray and pray, and continuously chimp to check images. This was not what I had trained to do, I should have been trusting my skills.

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So, I made the decision to switch back to film. It wasn’t a hard decision. I was working for a camera supply company so I was no longer in need of pro digital cameras, as I could rent them if needed. I sold my digital cameras for a pittance compared to what I had paid for them less than 2 years previously. And for that pittance I was able to buy myself a film camera that I had dreamed of owning as a teenager.

For me, film gives me the opportunity to present the world as I see it, with all of the flaws and the mistakes. The world is not a perfect place and I don’t take perfect pictures. I don’t want my images to be razor sharp every single time. With digital I strived for consistency, with film I revel in the inconsistency. Film has also pushed me back into being creative again. I am more thoughtful and aware of how and why I shoot. I mentally prepare projects and compositions in my head, as I don’t want to waste film or opportunities.

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Added to that I am a borderline luddite, with a dash of chemistry geek and a full dose of tactile process nerd. So film photography for me is the logical conclusion of my personality. I love the idea of allowing just the right amount of light to react with chemicals on a strip of plastic to create an image that is indelible. A single frame, frozen in time that will probably be around long after I am gone. Tell that to my hard drives (two of which I have lost in the last two years alone), I still have the negatives from that Kodak Instamatic.

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I mentioned in previous articles too that shooting with film gives me time. Everything in the modern world is so frenetic, it seems to come at you from all directions, a bombardment of information. Running JCH takes up a huge amount of my time (not that I am complaining, I love it). But when I go out and shoot I can disconnect myself from everything for the briefest period and take the time to calm down and enjoy the little things. Watching people, human comedy and the barely contained chaos that is a big city. I have no rush to see my images, no sense of urgency for a result. I don’t need to feel validation by running home and uploading 150 images to Flickr or whatever. This gives me a sense of balance. Getting my negatives back and checking them is something I can do on a quiet evening with a nice cup of tea on standby.

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But it is not just that. It is the look. Sure you can get filters and plugins now so that you can make your digital images look like a certain emulsion, but it is just not the same as the real thing. Because the real thing comes out that way, without having to change anything. And this is not about the megapixels or resolution or whatever. This is about the imperfect nature that is film. The slight uncertainty and the unique minute imperfections that make it such a pleasure to use.

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So why do I love film? Because film is like love itself. It is imperfect, irrational, sometimes frustrating and almost impossible to rationalize, but when it works it feels fantastic and keeps me coming back for more.

My favourite Kodak film? There is a constant, which has been a film I have come back to over and over again, that one is Tri-X. It is so perfectly balanced and easy to use, you just cannot fail with a roll of tri-x. I hope it lives forever.

JCH

http://www.japancamerahunter.com

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Film Friday Giveaway!

To make Film Friday even more fun, JCH has generously offered a selection of his film cases for a giveaway. These cases were designed by JCH after months of development and testing. They are made from a durable and tough plastic that will keep your film safe from the elements including light.

There will be two prize packages… each with

- One black and one white 135 film case

- One black and one white 120 film case

- A selection of Kodak film

To enter just leave a comment on this blog post explaining why you shoot film. We will randomly choose two winners by 2pm EST on Monday, March 17. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments form so we can contact you if you win. It won’t be seen by others. Good luck!

Film Friday: Film Box: A Lab for Photographers by Photographers

By: Brittany Price

 What defines a successful photographer? Raw talent, experience and an eye for beauty are among the obvious answers, as these skills are essential in the photographic arts. Ryan Bernal and Austin Gros, two Nashville photographers, entrepreneurs and the founders of Film Box, are of the opinion that it takes more than just skill and experience to make it in the photo industry. It takes a family.

The  Film Box Team - shot using Kodak Professional Portra 800 Film

The Film Box Team – shot using Kodak Professional Portra 800 Film

Film Box, a Nashville-based film lab, welcomes photographers and visitors in as part of that family. Situated within a charming, historic blue and white home, this film studio embodies something completely other than your run-of-the-mill, one-hour photo lab. At Film Box, there exists a striking balance between professionalism and comfort. This team provides the highest caliber of photo film processing, while inviting photographers to sit down, have a cup of coffee and engage with a warm community of fellow creatives. The Film Box experience feels like coming home.

Film Box from Film Box on Vimeo.

Image by Austin Grosl© shot using Kodak Professional Portra 400 Film

Image by Austin Gros© shot using Kodak Professional Portra 400 Film

The vision for Film Box and an innovative, photographic community came from Bernal and Gros’ recognition that they were a part of an artistic circle with no place to go. Bernal explains, “We dreamed up the idea of a place, in Nashville, that brings photographers to one spot. There are a lot of photographers, but there’s no place that brings them together. We want to have this cornerstone of our community where, if you’re a photographer, you know about Film Box and you’re part of something, of what we’re doing.” This studio was created to support and expand the talents of photographers, to act as a backbone and hub for an artistic community.

Image by Ryan Bernal© shot using Kodak Professional Portra 400 Film

Image by Ryan Bernal© shot using Kodak Professional Portra 400 Film

Film Box not only develops film, but photographers as well. This begins with their comprehensive ‘Custom Style Profile.’ When a new client walks into Film Box, he or she is asked to provide extensive information about who they are as a photographer: from style and personal taste, to cameras and stocks of film, down to metering and countless other small details. This ‘Custom Style Profile’ enables the Film Box team to begin an ongoing conversation with each individual photographer about his or her body of work, abilities and aspirations. It creates a ‘snapshot’ of the photographer’s professional and personal goals, allowing the knowledgeable Film Box staff to provide feedback and assist the photographer in working towards their dreams.

Image by Austin Grosl© shot using Kodak Professional Portra 400 Film

Image by Austin Gros© shot using Kodak Professional Portra 400 Film

When a photographer hands a roll of film to the staff at Film Box, those photos are placed in the care of some of Nashville’s most talented, exceptional film specialists. As Bernal and Gros dreamt up Film Box, they spent countless months preparing, processing film, perfecting their abilities and knack for photo developing. Both of the Film Box founders understand film photography because both shoot almost exclusively with film. Bernal has shot and developed film since he was a teenager, rambling about Phoenix with a camera. Gros got a taste of film while shooting weddings and never looked back. Bernal, Gros and their staff are uniquely qualified to provide exactly the type of professional assistance and mentorship that was, prior to Film Box, far too difficult to come by in the photographic community.

Image by Ryan Bernal© shot using Kodak Professional Portra 400 Film

Image by Ryan Bernal© shot using Kodak Professional Portra 400 Film

Though Bernal and Gros currently work with a large number of well-established professional photographers, their dream is two-fold: to not only cultivate a thriving photographic community amongst existing photographers, but to also educate and inspire new photographers and the creative community at large to keep the medium of film alive. The Film Box team cannot help but get excited about those who want to make the transition to film. Gros was one of those photographers, as he recounts, “When I first started shooting weddings, I was shooting digital. Film seemed like this big, scary thing. My advice to people who are interested is to just try it. You’ll be surprised how quickly you will be able to make the jump.”

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The Film Box staff believes that film is here to stay. Bernal insists, “People are turning back to film. Not only does opinion support that it often looks better, but photographers are better off training themselves to be film photographers because it trains us to be better.” He believes that all artists are looking to grow and improve. He sees film photography as that next step. Photo printing, educational ‘photo walks’, workshops, maybe even a community darkroom are in the works for Film Lab. This team will do anything to make sure film sticks around.

Image by Ryan Bernal© shot using Kodak Professional Portra 160 Film

Image by Ryan Bernal© shot using Kodak Professional Portra 160 Film

Like any good support system, the Film Box team is there to assist and guide those new to the world of film. They even recommend the essentials, to help new photographers move in the right direction. Both Bernal and Gros are fond of KODAK’s PORTRA 400 film. Gros explains, “The exposure latitude of PORTRA 400 is better than anything else that’s out there right now. For someone who hasn’t shot film before, it gives them the ability to miss a little and still get great results.” He recommends pairing this with the cheapest camera body that works with a photographer’s preexisting digital lens, something along the lines of a Canon EOS 3 or Nikon F100.

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Image by Austin Grosl© shot using Kodak Professional Portra 400 Film

Film Box opened its door to the public in February of 2013 and within a period of a few, short months, word spread across the country about this innovative new venture. Bernal and Gros have created a business “by photographers, for photographers” and the artistic community has leapt to its feet in support. Bernal recognizes that people want to join the film box community because it provides exactly that: a community, “We don’t just process and scan people’s film, we become a part of their team, their photography family, I suppose. They can’t do it without us, and we can’t do it without them.” After all, it takes a family to raise a photographer.

- Brittany Price

Lightbox photography in the NYC subway: Current exhibit at Bowling Green Station

Today’s Film Friday post comes from  Lester Burg – Senior Manager, MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design

Lester Burg headshot

Lester Burg

 

Lightbox photography in the NYC subway: Current exhibit at Bowling Green Station

Sponsored by Kodak Alaris

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) moves 8.5 million people each day through its subways, buses and commuter rail systems.  Making art a part of the experience is important – it adds a humanizing element, provides an enhancement that is accessible to all, improves the visual environment and sets a tone that the system is cared for and the customers are considered.  Since travel involves moving people efficiently through various spaces, the more we can do to improve that experience, the better the spaces are treated and enjoyed.   Arts for Transit commissions permanent art in stations – and oversees poster, music and poetry programs as well, with the common goal of improving and enhancing the experience of the transit system. Photography is also offered within lightbox displays in stations where there was the space for a series of light box displays and which were rehabilitated in the past ten years.  The light boxes are in places with heavy foot traffic.

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MTA Arts for Transit curates the Lightbox Project, which showcases photography in large-scale in four key locations – Bowling Green, Bryant Park 42nd Street, Grand Central and Atlantic-Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  We try to find photographers whose work will hold the viewer’s interest over repeated viewings, and which has something to say about the neighborhood, the area or the people who use the station.  The program is made possible through the support of sponsors.  For this exhibit, the displays are printed on Kodak Professional Endura Transparency Display material with a local partner, the Prestone Media Group. We are unable to accept unsolicited photography proposals for the Lightbox Project.

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At Bowling Green, more than 25,000 people use the station on a daily basis, and many are international visitors heading to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty.  Other riders are office workers in Lower Manhattan.  At this location, we try to show a part of New York not often seen, or a way of expressing the City and travel through a photographer’s particular point of view.  People are fascinated by tall buildings and the dramatic way that Navid Baraty has shot the images is captivating.  The series features aerial views from atop skyscrapers in Manhattan, offering the viewer a look that is straight down.

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People will stop in their tracks and take a closer look – there is a lot of detail in these photos and the angle of looking downward takes a second to come into sharp focus.  Visitors spend more time looking at the images and people waiting for a train will study the art or photographs.  We always hear from people that they have noticed the photographs in the station and when it is your regular station the photos or artworks become part of the daily landscape.  Ideally, one notices a new detail every day.

- Lester Burg – Senior Manager , MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design