Updated: Oct 7, 2017
Loving film is not just about loving the medium, it's all about falling in love with the process.
I'm delighted to have you here, Aislinn. Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself and your journey into film photography?
Aislinn: Hi Melvin, my name is Aislinn Chuahiock, I am the co-founder of Satchmi, FilmFolk, and Sunny16Lab in the Philippines. I have been in photography for as long as I can remember, but I only took it seriously as a hobby when I was in college (right at the transition between film to digital). I am more of a film camera collector but that also means I get to shoot and experiment with a lot of film!
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Aislinn: I mainly shoot 135 and 120 because it's the most accessible film format for me, and for daily application. I have more that 30 cameras in my collection but I have 4 main workhorses - Leica M6, Nikon F2, Rolleiflex, and my Pentax Spotmatic. The Leica and Nikon F2 are two of the most well respected and used cameras by analog shooters—its camera system is still loved today. While both of them are far apart in the price spectrum, both have given me equally beautiful shots. And let's not forget, design—both are quite sexy.
The Rolleiflex is my favorite medium format camera, since I love shooting street. Gorgeous and timeless design always makes for a great conversation piece, and output that is almost always unrivaled in character.
The Pentax Spotmatic is my beater camera. The M42 mount system is basic, practical, and accessible with a VERY wide range of affordable lenses and cameras. The Spotmatic for me is my favorite camera to use when I test films. It is also one of the best starter cameras for anyone who wants to learn about photography in general.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Aislinn: It's unique process, experience, and a supportive community. Loving film is not just about loving the medium, it's all about falling in love with the process—from choosing your film; to loading it in your camera; to shooting with it; to having it processed; seeing the results; and, then deciding what to do with it. Film shooting cannot stop in uploading your favorite shot on Instagram. It urges you to aspire to be a better photographer with a mindset to learn more about the process. The experience ranges from exhilaration to disappointment. But if you're a real fan of film, you'll understand that it's an investment. Anybody can shoot film but not everybody will have the right attitude towards it.
Film also has an amazingly supportive community. Sure there will be some bad apples, but know that there are more nurturing people in the community.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Aislinn: I am currently in the process of advancing my skills so that I can print my own work in the darkroom. Hehe!
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film?
Aislinn: Well, it's my "happy place". And it's my creative outlet. That will never go away, for me. The world is becoming so fast paced and convenient that, sometimes, we're starved for originality. Film for me is very original — from the process to the output.
But there is also another motivation on why I choose to shoot film. It's because I love the medium so much that I want to do my part in preserving and helping the future of the industry.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Aislinn: Not photographers but mostly people in the industry: bloggers and influencers. These are the people who've helped me get into the film industry. People who connects me with the right voices, they challenge me to give meaning to my hobby, and more importantly provides moral support in deciding to launch FilmFolk.
Their influence, primarily, provides me with more inspiration on what to shoot, the cameras I need to experiment with, how to organize my work, and how to move forward.
Do you see any value or merit shooting with film?
Aislinn: Of course there is. To me, the value of preserving memories on film is very romantic. Film negatives will probably outlast me in this world and the thought that these memories can be tangibly passed on to other people is quite exciting. If you go to an antique store and scour through their old photographs display, isn't it always exciting to seek out interesting images that depict other people's lives and their memories no matter how mundane the subject is that they're documenting? I bet they had no idea that one day a random stranger will find value in those.
There's also value in learning and the mastery of the craft. While photography is the most accessible form of art today, film will always retain its historical value while the industry evolves and produces better cameras, sharper lenses, bigger storage sizes etc. People who know how to preserve images using film will always feel the pride of creating something on their own. That's the allure of film — knowing that even though you have the machinery to take photos at a click of your phone—you can still choose to slow yourself down, dive into a creative process, and the results are uniquely your own.
What do you think is the future of film photography?
Aislinn: The supply of film is, at this point secured. So many companies out there are doing their part in manufacturing and supplying film that it's time for us to focus on the scarcity of cameras and labs that process film. So what is the future of film photography? For me it's the rescue of old film cameras, and the creation of new affordable cameras that are durable and "inheritable". Also the community now needs to support local labs wherever they can be found. Film-Cameras-Labs go hand in hand. One will never survive without the other.
What’s your dream photography project?
Aislinn: To document the Scandinavian countryside.
Would you like to offer a few words of wisdom to those who want to try film photography for the first time? What must they learn before venturing into this format?
Aislinn: Be patient. Film photography is all about being patient, passionate, and inquisitive. While there are so many resources out there to learn from, it is VERY important that you go through the frustrations and learn from it YOURSELF. Read about the fundamentals of photography. If you're too lazy to understand the basics, you will just be frustrated with your output and waste your money. Film photography is all about your knowledge and control of the situation. I see a lot of new shooters now looking for short cuts and quick advice because they want to succeed immediately. Like most things that are worth your time and efforts, it is important that you learn the basics first. Many happy film shooters succeeds in their hobbies because they read books, interacts with each other, share learnings, and experiments. So remember, NO SHORTCUTS. Go the long route and create your own solutions in the end.
There are many misconceptions about film, and one of the biggest is expired film is better and cheaper. My biggest advice to new shooters is, shoot expired to test cameras and just get a foothold of the medium. But once you are off to shoot important events, gatherings, or travels, always shoot with fresh film. It will give you more consistent results.
And lastly, GIVE BACK. Contribute to the film family by helping each other rather than bringing one another down. As I've said, we're a community.
Impressive articulation of insights, Aislinn.
Film photography, as a craft, I believe that what we often need is not the right opportunity, but rather, we need to revitalise the pursuit to master the craft. In which can only be realised through a sweeping knowledge or skill.
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Well now, if you are a passionate film photographer and would like to be interviewed? I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject, "Interview me", and share your story, thoughts, and work related to film photography. I’ll get back to you as soon as I receive your request for an interview.
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