Interview with GEROME F. CARLOS, THE PHILIPPINES
Film will always have its place in my photography.
Welcome, Gerome! Mind telling us about yourself and your story on how you got into film photography?
Gerome: My name is Gerome and I live in the Philippines. I love traveling, specifically climbing mountains and visiting remote places to immerse myself in nature and the local culture. I use my photography to mainly document my experiences and capture the emotions of the scene. I want to evoke in others the same emotions I felt when they see my photographs. I was actually mainly a digital photographer until recently. The last time I used film was back in High School. It wasn't until around three years ago when I was influenced by my girlfriend to pick it up again. She was the one using film between the two of us. But after that, there was no turning back for me. I was hooked.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Gerome: I've accumulated quite a number of cameras over the years, including a Nikon F, Nikon F2, Nikon FM, Spotmatic SP, Olympus PenF Gothic, and a Hasselblad 500cm which I share with my girlfriend. But the ones I almost exclusively use are my Leica M6 and Rolleiflex 2.8c. They're both intuitive to shoot with. The Leica is whisper quiet, and the Rolleiflex is a great conversation starter. Both cameras work best for my purpose and shooting style. As for film, I always find myself grabbing black and white. My go-to black and white is Ilford HP5+, second choice would be Kentmere 400. HP5+ has fine grain and great dynamic range, and I especially like the contrast. For color, it would be either Portra 400 or Fuji Superia X-TRA 400. The fine grain and color palette of Portra is remarkable and Superia does great with shadows and tones and it doesn't break the bank.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Gerome: I like how this question is phrased. The debate on which medium is better shouldn't be the focus, but rather, what each medium brings to the table. From my experience, shooting film is more deliberate. Film doesn't have the convenience of taking hundreds of photos of a single scene until you get the shot or, the ability to preview and view your photos in an instant. Yet by stripping photography down to shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, you get to focus more on your composition and vision. The narrative becomes the forefront, removing the "distractions" attached to digital. Shooting film allows more depth and becomes simple, yet complex at the same time.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Gerome: I have my photos printed at my local lab and they do a decent job. Sometimes it would take a couple of reprints to get the tones and colors right, but overall I'm satisfied. But the goal is to eventually have my own darkroom for printing. I process (at least for black and white) and scan my own film, all that's left is to print it out myself. There's still a lot to learn about the process.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film? Have you learned anything about yourself through film photography?
Gerome: Overall, I would say entire process is my motivation. From taking the exposure, developing the film, scanning, and printing (hopefully darkroom prints in the future), all of that was in your control. Again, it's a deliberate process. Film also offers you avenues for a more intimate connection with your subject. Instead of checking and rechecking your settings when it's digital, film allows you to focus more on framing, who/what you're shooting, and their stories.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Gerome: Platon, Steve McCurry, Sebastiao Salgado, Lee Jeffries, Emily Garthwaite, Alan Schaller, and Dan Freeman to name a few.
Do you see any value or merit shooting with film?
Gerome: Absolutely. Shooting film teaches you patience most of all. I believe that learning to shoot film will make you a better photographer overall. It breaks down everything to the very basics of photography, which tends to be overlooked or forgotten.
What do you think your future is like with film photography?
Gerome: I love shooting film. I take less photos now compared to when I was using digital only, but I believe I create better images now. Seeing the image you had in your head materialize the way you wanted it to on film is inexplicably satisfying and fulfilling. Film will always have its place in my photography.
What’s your dream photography project?
Gerome: One project I have in mind is to do a "100 strangers" portraiture project using medium format of the people I meet during my travels. It would focus more on the indigenous people of my country as I meet a number of them when I travel and climb mountains. I would love to do this using a large format camera or maybe even wet plate.
Would you like to offer some good words to those who want to try film photography for the first time? What must they learn before venturing into this format?
Gerome: Go experiment, fail, learn, and repeat. Like any other skill or hobby, there is no short cut. Enjoy the process! It gets frustrating at times when you get your images and you're off focus or you had the wrong exposure, and you can't go back to take it again. But take every frame as a learning experience. But most of all, have fun with your photography!
Film photography has a steep learning curve if you try and do everything all at once. Don't think about developing on your own or darkroom printing just yet. Find a cheap but decent camera, or find someone who is willing to lend you one. Once you have one, take it out and shoot! Enjoy that first roll, no need to be too technical. Take photos of whatever catches your eye.
Anything you want to add? Future exhibits, projects you're currently busy with? Anything…
Gerome: I am optimistic for the future of film. We might not see it rise up back to its glory days but film will be here to stay. I don't have any new projects at the moment. For now, I just want to create more opportunities to shoot this year and hopefully decide on a long term project I want to commit to.
Well, all the luck to you, Gerome! Keep us posted on your portraiture project.
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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 email@example.com 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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