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 By throwing focus on individual children and their families testimonies, I was creating an important historical document that gave faces to the faceless, voices to the voiceless.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.