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!
Yingtong T•Rain Tan
Brooklyn, NY, USA. Originally from Guangzhou, China
What other websites or blogs do you keep up with to feed your photographic interests?
Basically books, publishers, and art book contributors such as Mack and Artbook D.A.P.
As far as websites go, I view Little Brown Mushrooms, Nowness, and American Suburb X. I love checking out other photographers’ Instagrams too.
What attracted you to film photography? How did you get started/introduced to shooting film? How soon after did you start developing?
It was freshman year in high school and my friend had an 8-frame Lomo toy camera. It was funny, once I saw the prints out of it and the processed film, I wanted to try it. I found it very interesting. My first ever film camera was my uncle’s Nikon N80 with a macro lens. I started developing once I got in the art school for my Photography major, it was about four years later.
What do you like to shoot on a regular basis?
Self portraits and street photography. This is probably because I live in the city. I always want to go shoot landscapes, but I am not good at it as I am still not used to it.
What formats, cameras, and films do you shoot? What do you like about the formats, cameras, films you prefer?
The 35mm and 6×7 medium formats are my present preferences. I have a Contax G1 and Pentax 67. I shot large format 4×5 on a Toyo Field Camera when I was in school and I loved it.
For different shoots, I have different preferences. For self-portraits, portraits or landscapes, I prefer the medium or large format. I find that the bigger the camera, the better, greater approach. They also slow me down and kind of force me to “look” much more closely.
I enjoy the Contax G1 when I do street photography or daily shooting. I have recently been practicing flash with it and I hope it will give me a new perspective of using 35mm (I am very bad at using flash).
In regards to film, I like color films because they have more variety and tones. I like Kodak Ektar 100 and Portra 400, Fuji Velvia 100, and C200 for 35 mm and medium format cameras. Agfa 100 is such a weird film to me, but I think it has a nice saturation.
Somehow, I always prefer B&W films on large formats. The Ilford Delta 100 has the best grain, in my opinion. Kodak TMAX 100 also works well for me.
What types of film do you develop?
Black and white and I used to also process color prints.
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?
It was Photo 101 in college with my first photo class teacher, Ellen Wallenstein. She taught us as much as she could to let us have a very detailed lecture and education on the development process. I love her so much.
I went into the darkroom with one of my classmates, because we wanted to assist each other and try not to freak out alone. I remember clamping out the film, taking it out from the case, which took me 20 minutes to reel, and put them in the tank.
The first experience was great, and I did the whole procedure with precise measurement. There was this one time though where I forgot to count the time for the fixers. It went over the 4 minutes and that roll of film got these crazy water marks like raindrops on every frame. I remember it was on a 6×6 camera with Kodak Tri-X100. I was very upset about it and now I try not to ever miss a second when I develop film.
What is your development process like now?
My current process is simpler than I was in school. When I was in school, I had the facility and environment. Now, I just shoot and send the film to develop and be scanned. I will print them myself to do a little archiving, but mostly I just collect all of the contact sheets and any mistaken prints.
Do you scan, enlarge, and/or print your work?
I do scan and enlarge black and white work. The color film enlarging class was my favorite when I was in school due to the way you can adjust the red, green, blue, and the F stop from the enlarger to create your own palette. I found it fascinating.
I guess the process of enlarging is just very engaging; you are not just a “shooter”, but a “developer” and then you are the “printer”. I feel like the prints are in my control, and I actually felt more attached to the works that I was working on. It started developing a relationship between me as a producer and the work as the result.
What equipment are you using to develop your film and why?
I prefer a darkroom to changing bags because the bags just don’t seem secure to me at all. I mostly use Sprints developer, that’s cheap and provided by the school from our expensive lab fees.
Are you content with where you are now with your shooting and developing? Do you have any future plans or ambitions ?
Me and my friend are planning a small independent publishing project entitled, “Fake Tomatoes Press”, and we have been working on it recently. I have a personal project, which is still in process, entitled “You Miss Me.” It is a continuation of my senior thesis on continuing to explore myself and where I am now in life through all the major changes that happened last year and how I have changed.
Have you completed any notable projects or in the process of creating something from the film you have shot and developed? Feel free to give a solid summary of each project.
My senior project is by far my most notable project. The senior thesis show was called Now Here/Nowhere, Waving Back. It is an exploration about who I am and where I belong.
Illustrating two spaces: Guangzhou, China, the place I was born and grew up in, and Brooklyn, the home I found when I moved to the United States at the age of 17. It portrays the conflicts surrounding my future, and the struggles between the fear of disappointing my family and having the desire to live my life my way.
The struggle is also between the opposing American and Chinese cultures in order to find myself. Through my work, I have come to realize that I am not just fighting my history and future (expectations), but also fighting between living a life for the pleasure of my family and being me.
What advice can you give to others who are interested in shooting and developing film but are apprehensive about getting started?
Take it slow and have fun. Do not compare it to digital. In my opinion, I always feel blessed to start photography from shooting film. It is a very extraordinary and primeval process. Analog and digital are two totally different games, and if you are very interested in shooting and developing film, try to make yourself feel like this is your first time doing photos. Be very patient.