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!
Name: Tom Allen
Location: Suffolk, England
What other websites or blogs do you keep up with to feed your photographic interests?
Magnum Photos, Japan Camera Hunter, The Phoblographer, Wasteoffilm and anyone I find inspiring on Instagram.
What attracted you to film photography? How did you get started/introduced to shooting film? How soon after did you start developing?
I got interested in film photography when my dad found his Olympus and gave it to me to play around with after I had been shooting digitally for a year or two. I didn’t love it at first, but for whatever reason I kept shooting and now I’m completely taken with film and use it for all my shooting. I was shooting film for about a year before buying my own developing equipment because I realised it would be cheaper to learn than to keep sending to a lab.
What do you like to shoot on a regular basis?
I like taking inspiring from all different areas, but documentary, portraiture, and landscape are the three areas I find most captivating and they are the three styles I shoot the most.
What formats, cameras, and films do you shoot? What do you like about the formats, cameras, films you prefer?
I use a 35mm Olympus OM2n and a 50mm f/1.4 that belonged to my dad. It’s not very expensive online, but the images are beautiful and it’s smaller and more compact than most film SLRs.
I also shoot 120mm film with a Yashica 635. Again, not very expensive and it’s certainly no Rolleiflex, but the images are still very sharp and very pleasing to my eye at least.
What types of film do you develop?
I develop B&W film myself but have never developed C41 or E6.
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?
I knew the basics from Youtube tutorials, and had my first experience through school, which went surprisingly well. After that, I bought a Paterson kit and started developing in my kitchen. I’m a very cautious person, so I planned my first attempts meticulously. That has now become habit and so far I haven’t ruined a roll of film (thank goodness!).
What is your development process like now?
I develop my film in my kitchen using times from Massive Dev Chart with all my lovely brand-loyal Ilford chemicals. Then, I scan them with a little-bit-outdated-but-does-the-job Epson V330 scanner. After that, I choose which negatives, if any, I want to print and then I get to work printing. I test strip, dodge, burn and all that until I am happy with what I see. I then stash them away so my photography tutor can’t see them and persuade me to use them for my school work, and finally mount them in a sketchbook.
What’s your processes regarding scanning, enlarging, and/or printing your work?
I scan my film at home for use on social media, but printing in the darkroom is my absolute favourite way to ‘finish’ the image. It’s also my favourite part of the film process. Don’t get me wrong, the scans are useful and nice to have, but the satisfaction of making a print, the look, the process, and the experience of it is really special and I don’t feel like I’ve truly captured an image until I take the time to print it.
I know that can sound really artsy and pretentious, and that side to film photography gets on my nerves, but printing is a lot of fun and I wouldn’t enjoy photography as much without it.
What equipment are you using to develop your film and why?
I use Paterson tanks and reels and a changing bag because that seemed the most available brand, nothing really to do with loyalty. Brand loyalty does come into play with my chemicals because I am an Ilford user, down to being a student who lives in England where Ilford is based so can get it way way cheaper than something like Tri-X (Not to mention I like the look of Ilford’s film!). So I use Ilford ID-11 (after a brief affair with Rodinal) in a 5 litre jerry can, and then Ilfostop and Ilford Fix, too. The darkroom I use has Fotospeed developer, stop and fix for printing which work perfectly well when paired with Ilford Multigrade paper.
Are you content with where you are now with your shooting and developing? Do you have any future plans or ambitions?
I’m pretty content for now I think. My main focus is to put together some kind of body of work that I’m really happy with. Maybe in the future I’ll look at publishing and perhaps expanding on my developing and learning colour printing or something like that, if I can find the opportunity to do so.
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.
I’m currently working on a documentary project focused around a Victorian seaside town near where I live because of it’s strange mixture of run-down areas and up-market posh middle-class places crammed in next to each other, which I find really interesting. Alongside that, tomorrow (from the day of writing this) I’m going to shoot the first part of a portrait project on film in the studio which I was inspired to do after coming across the work of Alvin Langdon Coburn and Irving Penn.
What advice can you give to others who are interested in shooting and developing film but are apprehensive about getting started?
I would definitely say just go for it, if you’re worried about getting it right, you’ll never know until you try, so why hold yourself back? And there’s always the friendly internet to help when you’re stuck. If you’re worried about cost, then there are always loopholes and hacks you can find. You don’t need the best of the best equipment. Look on eBay for good deals and find what works for you.
My final piece of advice (not that this is unique) would be to make yourself an amazing Spotify playlist for when you’re printing!