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: Sara G. Amo
Location: From Barcelona, Spain, but currently living in Iceland
What other websites or blogs do you keep up with to feed your photographic interests?
I like to wander around Tumblr to find other photographers and inspiration.
What attracted you to film photography? How did you get started/introduced to shooting film? How soon after did you start developing?
What attracted me the most are the aesthetics of film and the whole artisanal value of the process of developing. I discovered film when I was studying graphic design, we had a photography class and the first year was all about film photography, so we learned to shoot with film cameras and develop our negatives and prints. After that, when I became more focused in photography, I started shooting and developing by myself at the same time.
What do you like to shoot on a regular basis?
I shoot mostly portraits, but also landscape. I am very interested in human emotions, the connection between humans and nature, and also in the social documentary perspective.
What formats, cameras, and films do you shoot? What do you like about the formats, cameras, films you prefer?
I use mostly 35mm and medium format. I like 35mm because it’s the most easy to bring when traveling, or when going out in the street or hiking in the mountains. It’s light weight, and you have a lot of photographs in every roll. But actually, my favorite format is medium format, I love the depth of the negatives; the results are amazing both in portrait and landscape photography. But it’s also more difficult to use because the camera is a lot heavier and the rolls have less photographs.
So, I often use the 35mm when I’m shooting on my own, and the medium format when I have to work on specific projects.
What types of film do you develop?
At home, I develop black and white, both negatives and prints. In the future, I would like to be able to also develop C41.
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 already had the basics of developing because I learned it at school, but I remember the first time I decided to do it at home, totally by myself alone, and I felt kind of scared of making some mistake and ruining the whole batch of work. But in the end, everything went well and the more I developed, the more confidence I gained to continue doing it.
What is your development process like now?
First, I decide what format or camera I am gonna use depending on the project, after the shooting, I normally don’t develop the rolls until I have many to develop them in a batch.
I send the color film to the lab, also when I have quite a lot of them. After I have all the negatives, I scan them at home and make a selection. Then, I edit the final ones in photoshop, just the basic touches: brightness, contrast, color dominance, and not much more than that. When I have money and I can buy photographic paper, I enlarge some of my favorite black and white prints in the darkroom and scan the final print instead of the negatives.
I also like to experiment with alternative processes, such as cyanotype, van dyke brown, or photographic emulsion, among many others. Alternative processes are really interesting to me but I haven’t got the time to work with them as much as I want. I hope I can work more with them in the future!
What’s your processes regarding scanning, enlarging, and/or printing your work?
I like to do everything by myself. The first thing I did when I got my latest job was buy a professional scanner so I can scan all my negatives at home, because the prices of the laboratory were too high and I also didn’t like the quality of it.
I enlarge and print my black and white photographs in the darkroom, but lately I can’t do it much because of the cost of the photographic paper. But when I have an exhibition, I always do it, the quality of the prints is much better when you develop them in the darkroom.
What equipment are you using to develop your film and why?
I don’t have a fixed darkroom. I would love to have it in the future, but for now I have to use my bathroom (I call it the “bathlab”). I use a Meopta Opemus 6a enlarger and a Paterson tank, because I bought it all together from a friend that was selling all of her darkroom equipment.
Currently, I use Kodak HC-110 as a film developer because I love the results in all the films that I’ve tried, the contrast and tones that you get are perfect, and also because it lasts for a long long time. The rest of the chemicals, including fixer, stop bath and paper developer are from Tetenal, mostly because they are the ones that are more easy to find here and the price isn’t too expensive.
Are you content with where you are now with your shooting and developing? Do you have any future plans or ambitions?
I feel that I am still in the beginning of the journey. I still have to shoot a lot more, I still have to develop a lot of projects that I have in my mind and spread my works so they reach more people. I realized that my way is slow, so everything goes little by little, but the best I can do is enjoy the process, go with the flow, and see what happens next!
Have you completed any notable projects or in the process of creating something from the film you have shot and developed?
I’m currently finishing some projects that I shot in the last years, organizing all the photographs and making the final selections. This is always the most difficult part of the projects for me, mainly because it’s very time consuming and I have to spend many hours on the computer. I prefer to be shooting outside or developing in the darkroom.
My latest finished project that you can find online in my portfolio is ‘A dor da ausencia’, regarding the loss of my grandmother Ilda, probably one of the most special and difficult projects that I’ve done up until now.
What advice can you give to others who are interested in shooting and developing film but are apprehensive about getting started?
Don’t be afraid, start in the most simple way: just find a film camera (ask your family if they have any old cameras or buy a second hand one), buy the cheapest film that you find, and start shooting!
Developing B&W at home is very easy, you just have to learn the basics and start experimenting. You’ll discover a whole new world that will let you experiment photography in many different ways. Don’t worry if you make mistakes at first, keep shooting and practicing, that is the key to grow and improve!