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Interview with JESSE FREEMAN, USA

When learning photography, I always encourage people to learn on film.

Hi, Jesse. Thank you for this opportunity to interview you. Mind telling us about yourself and your story on how you got into film photography?

Jesse: I’m from Baltimore, MD USA but have been leaving in Japan for over a decade. I am an ikebana artist and filmmaker both of which work in with my photography. I am really big into cinema (silent-1960s) and so right away when my friend lent me Ricoh GR1s in 2010 (first camera ever really) I immediately started shooting in the style of my favorite directors and it all came quite easy to me. I just felt I had a lot to say and express and photography did that for me. And it just happened that I started with film and I really just stuck with it.

What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?

Jesse: Currently, I exclusively use JCH Street Pan 400 with either my Leica M6 or one of my still working Olympus Mijius. I prefer this film simply because Japan Camera Hunter is my good friend and in working with the site I get the film for free or heavily discounted. Camera wise, I just like the Leica…the feel, the design, the history, and most importantly the results in the way rangefinders make you shoot. I always had a Ricoh GR1s but with the market I am stuck with the non-aperture control Mijus that I guess gets the job done, but with less degree of control.

What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?

Jesse: Flaws. Digital misses a lot of the sensual things that can occur when light hits film and that process can’t be replicated. A lot like the warmth of jazz on vinyl. It carries that sentiment for me.

Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?

Jesse: Yes! I self develop in my kitchen and luckily have access to a few darkrooms in the Tokyo area. I don’t like to exhibit my photos unless they are dark room printed as I see the photo as a physical object being just as important. The darkroom is an art itself, and for example am as excited by the print as I am in the photo in like an Ansel Adams for example. I am however not the best printer and my more serious friends ridicule me for copping out with RC paper lol. I love the process though regardless.

What motivates you to continue making photographs with film? Have you learned anything about yourself through film photography?

Jesse: Habit. I learned I do have classicist tendencies.

Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?

Jesse: Lots! Really like the older ones (again speaking to my classicism) in Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, Man Ray, Lee Friedlander, Shoji Ueda, and Masahisa Fukasa. Don’t really follow contemporary photographers and most of my peers do fashion photography which doesn’t really excite me. Loved the work of my late friend Alani Cruz! And few others Nuno Moreria, Patrick Joust, and my cousin Jerome Freeman.

Do you see any value or merit shooting with film? 

Jesse: When learning photography, I always encourage people to learn on film. It forces you to think more since you are literally paying for every shot. Thinking is usual half the battle with beginning photographers. But really because the image is made in camera requiring a lot more of the pure photography elements: ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and manual focusing with choice of film already doing what one do with a RAW file in Ps or Lr. But really the value is in its restriction. Because today there is a wealth of information available to us that has created a poverty of attention to what is important. Film gets me that focus where I know what film I have and its characteristics, so I can focus on the ultimate goal which is simply just a strong image.

What do you think your future is like with film photography?

Jesse: I find it bright. There are lots of new films coming back out and my Leica will always work with a CLA every decade. Aside from my worry about the availability of developing chemicals, this is all I need to do photography.

Do you have any dream film photography project?

Jesse: No, can’t say that I do. Maybe a few locations in the world that a favorite film or book took place, but nothing in particular. Onomichi, Japan is near the top of that list since that is where one of my favorite films began.

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?

Jesse: Ahh I would just say that it takes time. It filters you out if you aren’t really passionate, so do it for the right reasons.

Are there anything else you want to add?

Jesse: Busy with a lot at the moment. Wrapped an ikebana exhibition yesterday, and now printing for my company’s pop up event at a select shop in Tokyo (I am the creative director of Muro Scents Co. a Swedish Fragrance company), a two-man exhibition at the end of the year also in Tokyo, and a part 2 of a zine I had done with Alani Cruz. I am eager to shoot my next short film and hopefully a multi-medium solo show I will do in Spring also in Tokyo.

Follow Jesse on Instagram and check his stunning photographs. He also runs a blog that shows some of his remarkable Ikebana work. Go check it out!


Be considerate. All photographs shown on this page are the sole property of Jesse Freeman. He devoted his time, and worked so damn hard in making these photographs. You are not allowed to copy, download, reproduce, reprint, modify, distribute, publicly display, license, transfer or sell content retrieved from this page in any way, for any public or commercial use or to any commercial source, including other websites, without prior written permission of Jesse Freeman. You don’t want to go to jail, do you?

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 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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