Part of the Process is a series of posts that puts the spotlight on film photographers and DIY film developers. These features provide unique experiences and perspectives on shooting and developing film while also showcasing diverse talent and film photographers around the globe. If you are interested in being featured, feel free to contact me!
Richmond, Virginia, USA
What other websites or blogs do you keep up with to feed your photographic interests?
What attracted you to film photography? How did you get started/introduced to shooting film? How soon after did you start developing?
Pack film was the beginning of everything for me.
I had an 8×10 photo taken of me years ago and it blew my mind, and soon after I acquired a Polaroid Land 100 camera from the Bay. The ability to see my photos right then and there in the field just lit me up, and they allow much more control than the more popular 600 style cameras.
I am a hands-on kind of person so having so much control was a delight. After that I found a Holga lying in the street, and practiced with some 120mm film and had a ball. This helped me think less about what I was doing, because then I acquired my Olympus [OM1n] and went a little crazy with the 35mm film. As you can see, it was a snowball effect. I truly just want to own all the cameras I possibly can.
I wasn’t a photography major but I was allowed to sit in on the dark room courses at my university, so that is when I learned to develop my own black and white film. I did not start developing my own color film until this past year, but it has been even easier than I had imagined and so I plan to start developing E6 soon as well.
What formats, cameras, and films do you shoot? What do you like about the formats, cameras, films you prefer?
Film Formats: 35mm, 120mm & 220mm, peel-apart, and Instax
Cameras: Polaroid Land 100-250-450-110a (converted), Olympus OM1n, Holga 120, Mamiya RZ67, Pentax 67 & 6×7, Argus 75, Zeiss Ikonta 521/2, & homebuilt cameras
Film Stocks: Portra, Ektar, Tri-x, Tmax, HP5+, Delta, Vericolor, Gold, FP100c, FP3000b, Type 669, Type 667, Reala, Superia, Instax, Lomo Film, FP4
Pack film is the film I started on. [Essentially] it was my gateway drug into photography. FP100C produces beautiful greens & blues, and the ability to bleach negatives for a totally different feel and recovering underexposed images. It makes it even more fun to work with. Because of these, my Land cameras are my #1 choice out in the field, followed closely by my Mamiya RZ67.
The Mamiya [RZ67] allows me to utilize multiple backs, so I have the ability to swap between color and black and white films, as well as multiple exposures. The shutter sound is music to my ears, and the quality of images is fantastic. I have recently acquired the two Pentax’s [6×7] and am testing it against my Mamiya. They both bring different benefits to the table.
My favorite roll film to shoot is Portra, because of its versatility. You can push and pull it to great lengths for any situation and it holds up exceptionally well. I love Ektar for its colors, especially reds and oranges. Tri-X is my favorite black and white roll film because of its tones. Expired Tri-X is even better.
What do you like to shoot on a regular basis?
Most often I am shooting outdoors in nature. Either straight photography or abstract/experimental. I am only recently getting more into portraits, and trying to bring my abstract mind to the traditional portrait.
Is there anything unique about your photographic style or process?
I think that my constant need to experiment is what pushes me. I want to play with every camera and every film type. There is nothing that I do not want to learn about, so that I can turn around and share it with others.
What types of film do you develop?
I develop C41 and B&W.
Tell us about your first experiences in developing your own film. How did you muster the courage to give it a shot? What resources did you use?
My very first experience developing film came from a darkroom course I took at my university. I was an Archaeology major but my friends finally convinced me that I should take a course, as they loved my photos and my experimenting with land cameras.
Loading my first film onto a reel was tough, but after only a couple mishaps I really got it down, and later I found that I thought 120mm was even easier to load than 35mm. We had a great setup at my university, so learning to develop and then print was a piece of cake. Also being around other people doing the same thing was inspiring, and we all helped each other grow and learn.
Later on, I joined a community darkroom here in Richmond, but they didn’t have very many resources. So, it was a great group of film friends I made on Instagram that talked me into home developing (after way too many mishaps from a local developing lab).
I could not be happier, doing it all on my own. But if it weren’t for the great community of photographers that are willing to teach and share experiences, I probably would have been too scared to ever do it at home.
The only problems I have encountered since I started was getting distracted and accidentally popping off the lid of my steel tank, forgetting I had already put my film reels inside! I have also broken a bottle of Blix at home, so I switched to plastic containers rather than the glass amber bottles.
Other than silly instances like that, it has been fairly easy, and extremely enlightening. Nothing beats having a hand in your work from start to finish. Scanning in your film is like Christmas day!
Do you scan, enlarge, and/or print your work?
I do scan my film on an Epson V700. I use it to scan 35mm, 120/220mm, and pack film negatives. I used to print myself at my university years ago, but I do not currently have one of my own, so I outsource my printing. However, there are plenty of affordable and quality choices to choose from now, making it easy to have tangible pieces of work to share.
There is no excuse not to print your work!
What equipment are you using to develop your film and why?
I use a Kalt changing bag to load my film (and my homemade pinhole cameras). A large one is great because sometimes I have to load all kinds of things into a tank, or fit cameras inside the bag. I use Samigon steel tanks and Hewes reels (the best!). I develop with Unicolor C41, FPP C41, and Ilford + Rodinal black and white chemicals. I Kodak Photo-Flo/Hypo Clear and Arista Hypo-Check.
I started on metal reels and find them to be the easiest for me. I had to use the plastic ones at the community darkroom and did not like the feel of them, they didn’t feel sturdy, but I have a lot of friends that hate metal reels. After practice they are very easy to use, however, so other than using a roller developer, I don’t see why you wouldn’t use a metal reel.
I use a Paterson thermometer and a Paterson beaker, with Delta film clips and Datatainers. As I stated previously, I was using amber glass bottles for my color chemicals, but switched to the Datatainers because I am clumsy and tend to break them in my porcelain sink! All of the above are well priced, and not outside the realm of an average budget.
I tend to buy a higher quality item as an investment. In example, the Paterson thermometer is more than $20 but I have used cheap thermometers in the past and they aren’t always accurate, so I would have to use multiple at one time and take the average temperature. The Paterson thermometer is always dead-on, and my film comes out perfect. The only reason I would ever buy less than satisfactory products is if I were inheriting a lot someone is getting rid of, because you can often find these deals online when folks are quitting film photography. They can be a great find, but I like to know where my stuff is coming from and how well it works before risking my precious film.
Have you completed any notable projects or in the process of creating something from the film you have shot and developed?
I have shot a few different series, and one in particular that is commissioned through Lumitrix gallery in London, an art printing website. I have been featured in a couple different photo books, various exhibitions, and will soon be a part of a film “Zine” with some of my very good film friends I have met online.
What advice can you give to others who are interested in shooting and developing film but are apprehensive about getting started?
Just do it. Google everything. Ask questions.
If somebody gives you a hard time, try someone else. There are those that are stingy with their information, but there are people like myself who love to teach as much as they love to learn.
We all have made the same mistakes that you eventually will, but it is a learning process and that’s definitely part of the beauty of it all. If it were too easy, it wouldn’t be as rewarding. But having a hand in something from start to finish is probably the best thing I have ever experienced, so I can guarantee that you won’t regret it.