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

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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

Film Friday: Talking with Jonathan Canlas

Cruise through Jonathan Canlas’ instagram account, and its clear – his two greatest passions are his adorable family and film photography. Canlas, isn’t just an extremely talented photographer, but he’s also the founder of Film Is Not Dead. He calls Hawaii home but travels the globe conducting his wildly popular FIND Workshops. He’ll head to the UK in February and team with the UK Film Lab to put on one of his two-day workshops. These workshops, in Canlas’ words, are part of a “community, family, a belief, a journey, centered around FIND-ing your unique voice through film photography.” If you’re lucky enough to be in Brighton this February, get your spot http://filmisnotdead.com/#workshopsektar100     We asked Jonathan to share some of the top 5 questions he receives in each workshop. Perhaps some of you have had these questions.

KodakPortra400We’re also lucky enough to have some of Jonathan’s work as well. For more of his work, visit ALOHA.KodakPortra160VC

1. Will shooting film make me a better photographer?

The answer to this is yes and no.

I mean, putting film in your hands is not going to make you see the world differently or make you magically better at your craft.  Meaning if you don’t see light, understand composition, or have a strong voice, film is not going to just give that skill to you.  HOWEVER, when film is put in your hands it forces you to slow down and shoot very differently than if you were shooting digitally.  With a digital camera that has cards that have the capacity to hold thousands upon thousands of images it is easy to just click away, taking multiple captures of one thing.  With no real limitation with digital in how many photos you can take, the discipline to take one and move on is just not needed.  It is really easy to get loose about what you are shooting with that mentality.  However, on film, every time you click it costs money and a certain discipline is usually adapted when shooting film.  With more intention combined with a slower pace, it will literally make you analyze everything that is going in your frame. And this I think can make you a better photographer in the long run.  Where the opposite can make you a sloppy photographer.  It makes you a lot more intentional that is for sure.

Another way it will make you a better photographer is it will force you to learn your exposures.  Obviously, there is no chimping with film.  And to get the perfect negative that requires no time behind a computer requires the perfect exposure.  And if you stick with one ISO for even one full day, you’ll really get to learn really quickly the exposures in different lighting situations.

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2. What limitations does film have?

Some, but not many.  I still think digital is king in low light situations in terms of shooting in color.  Even if I can underexpose KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA 400 up to 3 stops, it has to be the right light and that light is not always available nor is your subject going to always just be hanging out in that light.  But on the b/w side of things, KODAK PROFESSIONAL TRI-X is incredible.  I’ve seen it pushed to 6400 iso and shot in the darkest of dank receptions and have amazing amazing results.  Other than the low light limitation in terms of color, its abilities outweigh the limitations.  The dynamic range is incredible along with color and most importantly, how images look straight out of camera when scanned by a good lab like the lab I use theFINDlab (http://thefindlab.com).

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3. How can I shoot film and not have it break the bank as digital costs me nothing?

I think the myth needs to be busted that shooting digitally does not “cost” you anything.  First, there is the initial cost of your DSLR, which as time has shown, is usually upgraded every year and some change.  Combine that with the depreciation of your “old” DSLR and you’ve got quite some costs accumulating.  Then there is the “cost” of the time of editing your images.  I don’t know many (any for that matter) that deliver clients images straight out of their camera.  Some time is needed to edit those images and as they say, time is money.  I honestly think that shooting film and shooting digitally the costs are the same.  Either I can shoot film and not have to sit behind a computer or I can “save money” and shoot digitally and then be stuck behind a computer.  Also, touching on the answer of question number 1, when you shoot film, you are not burning through thousands of exposures.  Less editing time and more keepers equals a lot of “money” saved.  Remember, time is money, no matter how you try to rationalize it.

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4. What is the best film stock to use in multiple lighting situations?

I have found KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA 400 to be the best film for this.  I can effectively have an ISO of 50-3200, without having to change how I develop the roll.  That means I can overexpose up to 3 stops (I’ve even done up to 4 before) and under-expose up to 3 stops all on the same roll without having to pull/push the roll.  The Vision 3 technology in the new PORTRA 400 is absolutely incredible.  Now mind you, you can’t just underexpose PORTRA 400 by 3 stops and think it will look amazing.  You have to find the right light to be able to do this.  Meaning, when you shoot underexposed like this, you need to make sure that whatever you are shooting is lit or has some kind of luminosity to it.  You can’t shoot into a cave with no light and expect it to look ok.  However, if you have some dimly LIT subjects, try underexposing PORTRA 400 and be amazed by the results.

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5. I know you say FILM IS NOT DEAD but is it close?

No, not at all.  A good friend of mine, Mark Sperry, said something in regards to this recently.  Basically it has never been better for film shooters than it is today.  Even with all of our limitations.  We are missing a TON of different film stocks, camera makers, and labs that used to be around say 10-15 years ago are long gone.  But the ones we do have right now are the best of the best.  We have only a handful of film stocks to choose from but the abilities of said film (the new Kodak Portra line) stocks are amazing.  We only have a couple companies still making film cameras, but we have a HUGE surplus of cameras that people are no longer using and can be snatched up for pennies on the dollar.  And the labs that are open and thriving today (theFINDlab) are labs that are mostly run by film shooters and know how to scan color neg film.  It is a great time to be a film shooter that is for sure.  Arguably the best time.

FilmsNotDead Winner: Siim Vahur

The recent FilmsNotDead competition offered a little step back in time for film and Kodak film lovers. The challenge (or excitement) was to enter with images that were shot on a Kodak Box Brownie.

Siim Vahur from Estonia won the competiton by sharing the images below which were shot with his Kodak Box Brownie 2.   We, from Kodak Alaris caught up with Siim from Estonia to ask some questions about shooting film and what he enjoys the most.

We hope that you enjoy his thoughts and especially his hints and tips on shooting film.

Thanks
Lars.

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KA: Siim, you’re clearly a lover of film photography. Do you have a favourite camera that you regularly use?

S: As a mad collector – I’ve got plenty of them. Right now from my collection of 35mm cameras I like to use my Voigtländer Super Wide-Heliar 4.5/15mm with my 78 year old Leica III, a Canon Canonet QL17 G-III (as it’s the most handful light-weight fast lens rangefinder with full manual option), Horizont,  Fujica Drive (neat little half-frame)

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And from my collection of 120 it’s some simple boxes like my competition winning Brownie No.2, my Daci, a Seagull 4B (I really like the triplet lenses as well as square format) and my Arax 60 MLU (+Zeiss lenses).

My collection habit has even made me create cameras of my own. I have a self-made anamorphic pinhole camera http://www.siimvahur.com/anamorfoos/index.html and a

self-made half-frame fisheye http://www.siimvahur.com/commuud/fisheye/

I’m always ready and willing to try things that are new, the bond between me and film photography is strong and not something I see changing in the near future.  Today’s world is too fast for film, my everyday work is fully digital, I’m a fan of new technologies, but I enjoy shooting film. Not for a fun. Just. For a life.

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KA: So you mentioned you’re a collector, but are you an amateur or professional photographer?

S: Professional. I guess. For almost 10 years I have been full time theater photographer (my main job is at Tallinna City Theater, VAT teater ) and I’ve been working part time as a food photographer for magazines and cook books. When not shooting for  home/creative still life (i.e food photography) or work/portrait etc (i.e theater) I do like street photography. I don’t do wedding photography.

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KA:  OK, so you’re a professional, did you always want to be a photographer? How did you become a photographer?

S: No, but it just went that way. First I was interested in classic graphic art (you know – all those good old methods – from dry-point to lithography). But one day I found myself studying photography at Art College. And four years later I found myself taking pictures at theater.

In childhood I wanted to become a asphalt worker (at summer) and a street cleaner in night shift (at winter).

KA: How long have you been shooting film for and what do you enjoy most about it?

S: I’ve been shooting film consistently for about 15 years and really it’s just because I love beautiful things, including all those heavy and shiny cameras. I especially love using unique lenses that give me real feelings with real film. Shooting film is about thinking first  – not just point and shoot!

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KA: So tell us, what are your favourite films to shoot and why?

S: Again I like to use a variety of films, I shoot colour and black and white, so it’s a good mix for me.  The colour films I’ve used most are Kodak Profoto 100 as I find it the best value for money and I also use Fuji Velvia 50 as its deep blue, dark green tonality fits 100% into our the ’pessimistic’ Estonia climate. However with these being expired films, I am looking at experimenting further with Kodak’s Portra and Ektar films.

When it comes to black and white I’m a fan of hi-iso and push-process black and white, so Kodak TRI-X, Ilford Delta 3200 / Surveillance P3/P4, Agfa Traffic are my best friends.

I also like to shoot the now expired Kodak Vericolor III (when I can find it) as it offers neat tonality.

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KA: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to use film?

S:  As I said to the Films Not Dead team, don’t go the Lomo way (sorry, guy’s), look around, get a real camera (from a box brownie to a modern ultra wide Heliar equipped and a 30′s Leica or just a simple mechanical SLR with some fix lenses), find some neat films with real character and play and try and you can feel the difference between your smartphone and real thing. For camera colletors like me, it’s great to be able to use my neat and beautifil old gear.

KA: Finally can you offer the readers of this blog five tips on shooting film?

S:

1. Composition. See frames in your head. Think!

2. Light. See light around you. Use it, i.e move yourself!

(One light, one place, different angle of views and you can make really different results – awful ones and vice versa)

3. Light. Measure it! Know your film’s peculiarity.

4. DOF. Use it! Most wonderful thing in photography.

5. Don’t rush, just be ready.

KA: Tell us a little about Siim the person:

S: I’m just a 32 year old guy with wife and daughter. I have done photos for many cook books, books, theaters, posters, magazines, websites … so photography is my life.

I love my country. And I love this kind of bad weather.

My life – my pictures: www.siimvahur.com

My life – my wife – my pictures, all of them: www.marudesign.eu

My collection of cameras – http://www.flickr.com/photos/siimvahur/sets

Film Friday: “Long Live Film” documentary and Indie Film Lab

Last spring, five guys – Luke, Nick, Josh, Alan and Matt – loaded up an RV and set out for Las Vegas from Alabama. This group, better known as the team from Indie Film Lab, took video along the way and what started as a short video has become the documentary, “Long Live Film!”  You can watch previews of “Long Live Film!” here and here on YouTube. The film captures not only their journey across the southern United States, but also their passion for film photography. The guys tell us a bit about their experiences here.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for the documentary?

LUKE LINDGREN: Before our road trip to Las Vegas for WPPI we wanted to document our trip. As we planned out our trip the idea evolved from taking pictures to documenting our trip by making a short video. We wanted our focus to be on film photography, and about why we and other photographers still love film.

But after talking to all the awesome film photographers we met in Vegas there was so much depth and heart in what they had to say. It went from a simple youtube video to a documentary.

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JOSH MOATES: It was an organic transition from a road trip to fun blog video to documentary. It definitely was a slow progression and grew very quickly.

Q. What was the most surprising thing you saw while on the road?

MATT ROBBINS: The most surprising thing I saw on the road was the snow for sure. Living in the south my whole life, I had never seen more than a few inches of snow. The first time I saw more than a foot of snow while we were on the road I was literally like a kid in a candy store. I just wanted to run up and play in the snow. I was pretty pumped to see snow that was up to my knees.

ALAN EVANS: The antics of (professional photographers) Ryan Muirhead and Tanja Lippert; How awesome everyone was at Joshua Tree.

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NICK DROLLETTE: The most surprising thing I saw on the road was how big our country was. I have done a good bit of traveling up the east coast and I have also been to Haiti and Cuba but I have never been out west in our own country. I was really shocked to see what was out there. The landscape and the terrain were absolutely beautiful. I have never seen any rock formations like they have out there. It was really nice to get out of Alabama and see a change of scenery.

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Q. What was your favorite location?

JOSH: The Grand Canyon.

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ALAN: The Grand Canyon, however the company I was around during the trip would have made any place awesome.

MATT: While we were driving to the Grand Canyon, we would see cracks in the ground while driving through Texas and Arizona. I was getting excited about seeing a few that were 10-20 feet deep. Then we got to the Grand Canyon and I was just astounded by its size. It was my favorite location on the trip by far.

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NICK: When I was photographing Monument Valley, I started walking down into the valley just shooting away and after about 30 minutes of shooting I realized I was close to a mile away from the RV. It was just an overwhelming experience that I had to capture.

LUKE:  Joshua Tree, CA was awesome because there were about 20+ film loving photographers just hanging out, shooting film, and learning from each other out in the California desert.

Q. What films did you bring and how did you shoot them?

LUKE: KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA 400 @ 200, KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA 160 @ 100 or 80, KODAK PROFESSIONAL TRI-X @ anything from 200-1600 and KODAK PROFESSIONAL EKTAR 100 @ 100. Both 35mm and 120/220.

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ALAN: All KODAK PROFESSIONAL Film: PORTRA 160, 400 and 800; EKTAR 100; KODAK PROFESSIONAL BW400CN; TRI-X

JOSH: We had every type of KODAK PROFESSIONAL Film you can imagine. But I shot TRI-X and PORTRA 160 most of the time.

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MATT: The films that I brought on the trip were EKTAR 100, PORTRA 160 and 400, and Tri-X 400. I wanted a bright look, but with the highlights still there so I was shooting all my film at slightly lower speeds than the box speed. I shot a few rolls of EKTAR 100 at 80, PORTRA 160 at 100, and most of the PORTRA 400 at 200.

NICK: I shot mostly with PORTRA 160 and 400. I did shoot a bunch of TRI-X though. I have shot Tri-x a few times before but nothing like I did on the road trip. Tri-x 35mm and 120 are simply stunning. They just give a look that digital can’t give you. I also fell in love with a film that I was not familiar with at all. EKTAR 100 was such a cool film to shoot with. I shot some of my landscapes with EKTAR 100 and I am super happy that I did. One of the places I shot EKTAR 100 with was the Grand Canyon. The colors that I got back from it were pretty awesome. I was super happy with them when I started scanning them in.

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Q. What do you hope that people take away from this documentary?

LUKE: Our greatest hope is that people see shooting film as more than just the look, and they begin to understand the feel film gives you. There’s a lot of beauty in film, and this documentary explains it all. It’s the entire process that can really take your art to a new place.

ALAN: Do what you love to do!

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JOSH: I hope photographers that started with digital will see how amazing, expressive and rewarding film can be

MATT: I hope people can really understand what film is all about, and that it isn’t about shooting 2000 images at a wedding and not using 1800 or just bracketing one shot to make sure you get the right exposure. It is an art form and you really have to know what you are doing and time your shots just right. When you get to the point of having a 80% return rate on the shots you take with film, and it seems like every shot you take is awesome, that’s when film becomes an addiction. When you shoot 15 rolls of 120 and get back 195 or 200 images that are  awesome, that is a great feeling.

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NICK: I hope that people take away from the documentary that film is not dead. I don’t want people to think that we are trying to push that film is better than digital. They both have their uses and I encourage people to shoot what they want. Whether it is an iPhone, disposable camera or a Hassleblad, shoot what inspires you. I just hope that it educates new photographers and helps them understand the roots of photography. I think that if people understood film that they would have more of appreciation for photography. I know for me personally film has changed the way I shoot and it has brought more of an excitement to it.

Check out “Long Live Film!” on the Indie Film Lab YouTube Channel, available today.

In addition, you can see the team’s journey on Instagram, Facebook and on Twitter.

Click here to find more information on Indie Film Lab online.

Film Friday Guest Post from Photographer Jan Scholz

I started photography after moving to Maastricht in the Netherlands, as a spare time activity, taking pictures around town with a digital SLR. Soon afterwards I turned towards portraits. From then on photography became almost an obsession, consuming most of my spare time.
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The main reason why photography is so fascinating to me, is that I can create my own world and use it as a stage for emotions, stories and scenes, that matter to me, that I find beautiful. I often do not have a defined concept for a shoot and just let myself be driven by what I find, the location, the light, the model.
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I switched to film after I already had a very good grasp on digital cameras and photoshop. The reasons are multifold, and include: I love the look of film right from the scanner. I always loved black and white photography, but when I was shooting digitally I was never happy with the conversion and the resulting tones, regardless of the tools used. My first scan of a simple black and white negative was already a revelation. Film is like a beautiful canvas the image is painted upon.

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Another reason are the beauty of old film cameras. They are a joy to use, their simplicity, their vintage feel, the big, bright view finders to look through, the sound of the shutters, the feel of the mechanics when forwarding the film. All these factors are not measurable in megapixels, dynamic range or frames per second, but they inspire me and contribute to the joy I have when photographing. Maybe I am stretching it a bit, but I think they also have a positive impact on most people I photograph. Especially using a large format camera tends to fascinate people, they feel like being part of something special.

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The limitations of each camera, each format is forcing me to approach photography in a different way. I take different pictures with a fast and mobile 35mm SLR than with a slow and stationary Large Format Camera. Going out with such a tripod based camera and knowing that I have just 10 or maybe 20 pictures to take, will make me photograph completely differently than with a 8GB card in the DSLR. It turned the way I photograph upside down. I look a lot more carefully, re-consider every composition and pose again and again before clicking (or not clicking) the shutter. This taught me a lot and I believe I learned most I know about photography and composition after switching to film.

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For most formats and applications, it’s probably true that digital has outrun film in terms of resolution, but in terms of “look” and tonality I am yet to be convinced. It’s a very personal opinion and decision. There are good reasons for digital and film, and everybody has the liberty to use whatever one likes and finds convincing. You can throw a lot of reasons pro-digital at me, it will not change how I feel about using film, for a multitude of reasons.

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My choice of film has been a little journey. I started out by buying and trying all sorts of films and after some time settled for a small selection suited for the situations I mainly photograph in. I believe my “signature film” is KODAK PROFESSIONAL Tri-X Film, developed in HC110. It offers smooth tones, with the right amount of “punch” in the contrast.
- Jan Scholz

Film Friday: An Interview with Ryan Muirhead

This Sunday, the final episode of FILM! will air, bringing to a close another season filled with not just beautiful photographs, but also with emotions, insights and advice from some wildly talented photographers.  We got to spend some time with Ryan Muirhead, one of the original hosts of the series, who we were fortunate enough to meet a few years ago. One of the things we’ve admired so much about Ryan, beyond his gift for photography, is his willingness to share, teach and inspire others with his work.

Q: What camera and equipment do you use?

A: I shoot with a Leica M7, a Pentax 67ii, a Pentax 67, a Nikon fe2 and a Contax T2. I love trying everything.

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Q: What are you trying to achieve with your photography?

A: I have always wanted it to feel like song lyrics — relatable yet unspecific. I really don’t know what I am trying to achieve yet, right now I just want to make beautiful, meaningful images and share my passion for film and photography.

Q: When did you first discover your passion for photography?

A: My father was a camera operator on movies and TV shows as I was growing up. I worked for a few years as a camera assistant in Utah and California, but never in a creative capacity. I took my first creative picture ever in 2006 on the set of a movie during lunch. About a month after that photography was consuming all of my free time.

Q: How did you first become interested in KODAK Film?

A: I enrolled in a class about shooting film in school kind of out of the blue. The teacher was adamant that everyone should be shooting Fuji but I had grown up using and loading KODAK Film on movies and I loved the look. A few years ago, I met reps from Kodak Alaris, who gave me some KODAK Film to start using. A few months later my images were used for the ad campaigns for the new Portra 400 and 160 films. I now shoot almost exclusively KODAK Films with a few very low speed or very high-speed exceptions. I have also been using KODAK 500T movie film in my still cameras.

Q: How do you have your film developed and scanned?

A: I currently use Indie Film Lab in Montgomery, Alabama for all of my color and black and white film scanning/developing.

Q: What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?

A: I try to shoot as much as I can. I think it’s the only way to have a personal style. To shoot so often and in enough varied circumstances so that your style has a chance to find you. I have very documentary tendencies. Even in the shoots I am staging or directing I still try to wait and capture how people move or stand naturally.

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Q: That’s a very intriguing comment. Can you say something more about how that process of self-discovery seems to be working out for you?

A: I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Photography is so dependent on science that there seems to be two different halves to the experience, the gear side and the expressive side. So much is said back and forth about how much the gear you are using matters and it is, of course, all-important and not at all important. If we didn’t have cameras we would make no pictures, but when we worry exclusively about what our gear can do we lose what we are bringing to the table.

This is the most attractive element of film and Leica to me. I load the camera with a specific film type and then I can set my aperture and shutter speed and that is it. Everything else that comes to the image must come from me. I love forcing myself into that minimalism so that what I am feeling has the best chance to incorporate itself into the image. Finding that this was the best way for me to shoot was not always clear to me. None of us begin shooting knowing what the best way for us to express ourselves will be. I think that is the greatest drawback to the DSLR revolution. Millions of unique and nuanced artists are shooting on the exact same camera with the same three zoom lenses. Many of them produce amazing work, but I wonder how their vision might change if they picked up a field camera, a TLR, a rangefinder, a Polaroid camera. Filmʼs greatest strength seems to be that there are so many ways of arriving at an image.

Q:  As a photographer who came of age in the digital era, what particularly attracted you to film and why do you shoot it exclusively? What color films do you like? How about black-and-white?

A: I love film both for the look of it and for how it makes me shoot. Portraits are all about connection with the subject and I find all the menu items, buttons and, of course, the screen to be a distraction. I like everything stripped down: minimal lighting, simple settings, honest moments. I want this to apply to my cameras too — an aperture setting and a shutter speed setting is enough for me. As far as color negative films go, my favorites are KODAK PROFESSIONAL PORTRA 160 and 800 Films. The new PORTRA films are styled after the Kodak cinema films that I grew up around. I love the latitude, the fine grain, the performance under mixed light, everything. Lately I have re-fallen-in-love with KODAK PROFESSIONAL TRI-X Film. It’s just so perfectly classic. If I could only shoot one film for the rest of my life it would be TRI-X without a doubt.

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Q: Several of your images can be described as fashion portraits. What has drawn you to that genre which you say youʼve “never felt a part of” and what is motivating you to explore documentary photography?

A: I really struggle to place myself within a genre. I shoot a lot of models and work with a lot of stylists, but I have never felt my work really fit into the fashion or editorial genres. Fashion photography is inherently about the clothes and my work is inherently about the face. Everything I love about photography is in capturing the human face. It is endlessly diverse and expressive. I love the challenge that documentary photography presents. One of my favorite ways to practice or learn is to limit the amount of control I have. To shoot one camera, or one film, or one lens; to try and take away all the options we are constantly presented with and make my mind the only variable. With documentary photography you traditionally have very little control over many of the elements and you really have to assert yourself to make it your photograph.

Q: How do you think the courses in your photography program have influenced your work? Have you been exposed to any photographic work that you see as a source of inspiration?

A: School has been a blessing and a curse to me. I love the exposure to other artists and professors and how it forces you to work, but I have never performed well in a structured environment. I was constantly shooting what I wanted and trying to bend the assignments to fit what I was going to shoot anyway. One of the best things about school was being exposed to the work of the masters. Seeing and studying Avedonʼs “In the American West” has been the single most influential moment of my photographic life. It embodied everything I wanted my work to be.

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Q: You stated that you shoot “people almost exclusively.” What is it about photographing people that you find especially compelling and satisfying? Do you think that the discipline of shooting abstract compositions, nature subjects, scenic vistas, etc. can be helpful in developing techniques for shooting better people pictures?

A: The human form and more specifically the human face is the ultimate subject.

Hamlet put it best:

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world…” I am constantly and consistently drawn to the face. I love the connection that happens when I try to express something I am feeling via another person. The connection and validation experienced at its most successful is unsurpassed.

Q: How do you see your photography evolving in the immediate future and over the next few years?

A: I am hoping to do more documentary and large format work in the coming months. I also hope to rededicate myself to taking even more pictures of my friends and family, as they are the most important part of my life. Above all I want my work to be personal.

You follow Ryan Muirhead on Twitter (@rnmphotography), Instagram (@ryanmuirhead)  and Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/ryanmuirheadphotography

Film Friday: Shooting film by Ronan Guillou

Film photography is very much art, there’s lots to see and learn: with time, effort and dedication a photographer can create some amazing images that tell a story.   With film photography the saying ‘pictures speak a thousand words’ really becomes a truth.

Today, Ronan Guillou a photographer from France tells us about his experiences with film photography, shares some of his images and offers us some great hints and tips to get the most out of shooting film.

Enjoy, Lars Fiedler

RonanGuillou-David's Farm, Alabama 2012

Shooting film by Ronan Guillou, France

I’ve been shooting with Kodak negative colour films since I started working as a professional photographer in 1997. Using film doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t want to go with digital. I consider both mediums have their place in photography, depending on the fields of application. For my commissioned works, clients expect an immediate view of what is being shot. Fair enough: digital photography is great for this use. It also allows me and the team I work with to check quickly if what we’ve been doing sticks with the brief.

 

As for the artistic work, I don’t need to instantly see what I just shot. I believe photographers know what they do at the very moment they take a photograph. Above all, what I aim at is high flexibility and freedom in the way I work. The camera I’ve been using for years is a medium format Hasselblad 501cm, mounted with an 80mm lens. My favourite film is Kodak Portra 400/120. That film is just great; it fits perfectly with my expectations.

Ronan Guillou - Meridian, Mississippi 2012

What I like about using film with a medium format camera, especially Kodak Portra 400/120:

- Photographing with film doesn’t require any batteries or connections whatsoever with the camera I use. That particular point gives unlimited autonomy on my trips, which I definitely appreciate. The only battery needed for my work is for the light-meter travelling with me.

- I don’t have to upload pictures daily on a computer, then on a second back-up hard-drive.

- If needed, I can shoot fast without constraint.

- Using medium-format films provides very high resolution results.

- You can speed up Kodak Portra 400 to 800 or 1600 ISO.

- Film is stable, flexible and has great latitudes. In case of wrong exposures, you still have a chance to save your shots.

- Kodak Portra gives consistent and accurate colours, with beautiful and almost invisible grain when it comes to large prints.

- Once they’ve been processed, films are easy to keep safe and easy to archive, with an infinite lifetime.

- They can handle very high or very low outdoor temperatures.

- You don’t want to waste films, which means you need to keep focused on what you do and shoot only when your soul or instinct tell you to do so.

- Exposed correctly, films capture highlight and shadow details in some situations that digital struggles with.

- I think the rendering of the depth of field with film looks great.

Ronan Guillou - Junk Valley, Wyoming 2012

Few tips on using film:

- Most of the time, I use Kodak Portra 400 at its standard rating. Then I ask the lab to push the film at plus one half stop in the process. It brings a slight contrast to the film and makes it a little punchier.

- Or you could rate the Portra 400 at 250 ISO, and process it “normal” at the lab.

- If you have enough room in your fridge, I recommend you store your films in it so they can live a bit longer than the expiration dates.

- It’s better being on the over-exposed than on the under-exposed side.

- Just as for digital, I recommend you organise a back-up with scanning the negatives of your main photographs (in case of unfortunate accidents such as fire or robbery).

- Find a good lab to process your films, and then find a good printing lab. As I live in Paris, Publimod is processing my negatives, and Mupson Lab is doing the prints on the enlarger. I get my films scanned at Picto or Dupon. I believe it’s important to have a close relationship with your lab(s).

- I try to keep in mind the number of frames I have left in the film back.

- Though I know it’s riskless, I always ask my films to be hand-checked instead of going through the X-rays before boarding on a plane.

- Once in a while, I check my camera gear on slow speeds before loading a new roll, so I know if my equipment works properly (speed and f shutters). I had a bad experience one day – the speed shutter was jammed, and I kept shooting for one week without knowing about it – and I don’t want it to happen again!

- Lastly, I’d say taking a good photograph is not related with the ability to see it right after you shot it!

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Ronan Guillou

http://www.ronanguillou.com

Ronan Guillou - Trailer Sisters, Alabama 2012