Updated: Oct 7, 2017
I feel more connected to photography and life itself with film that I ever did with digital.
First, tell us about yourself, John, and perhaps, a brief story on how and when you got your first taste of film photography.
John: My name is John Mari A. Marcelo. I’m a freelance photographer based in Metro Manila. I have clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder. I only mention that as I do believe that my mental illnesses play a huge role in the way I photograph, and when I was still shooting digital, the way I post process my photos.
I got into film photography as a necessity to keep my sanity in check. I had just decided to go back to photography after quitting for a couple of months and I felt that I needed the stability that only photography gives me. I had always wanted to try film photography in my digital days – I even emulated film in the post process – and figured that I might as well jump into analogue photography. It’s been four months since I started doing film photography. I’ve learned so much since then, and not just with photography.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
John: Like with most newbies, I’ve tried out various film stocks. Mostly black and white films as I’m a monochrome photographer. But I’ve tried out color as well. In fact, it was film photography that made me appreciate colored photographs. These days, my main films are Ilford HP5+ 400 and Ilford Delta 400. I use those with a newly bought Canon FTb that I’m still getting the hang of.
I use the HP5+ as I love grain on photos, and it has just the right amount of contrast. When I’m not in the ‘mood’ for grain and just want a ‘pure’ black and white film, I go for the Delta.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
John: Film has a character that digital can never emulate. I also think there’s a certain natural feel to film that digital lacks. At the end of the day, a digital camera is nothing but a computer. Film cameras are organic.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
John: I have yet to have my photos printed. I’d love to have them printed, or even do my own printing! Even the process of developing films is one that I have yet to still learn. I’m a firm believer in printing photos. I even had my own photo printer back when I still did digital.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film?
John: I guess keeping my sanity in check is motivation enough. I feel more connected to photography and life itself with film that I ever did with digital. It teaches me a lot about myself.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
John: I consider myself as a music documentary photographer. That said, Noah Abrams is my prime influence in music photography. I’m also influenced by Jim Marshall his work on rock and roll in the 60’s and 70’s is timeless.
Do you see any value shooting with film?
John: Personally, it’s the lessons I learn about myself. Film photography teaches me to be more patient with things and to wait for the right moment. It also teaches me - given the fact that frames are limited and films are pretty expensive and I’d have to really think about what to photograph - to focus only on the moments in life that matter. That everything else is just noise.
What do you think is the future of film photography?
John: I think it’s the photographers who keep film alive. With small companies still releasing new films and large ones like Kodak and Polaroid bringing back classics because the number of analogue photographers continually rise, I’d say that film is here to stay, that it’s not just a phase or a trend.
What’s your dream photography project?
John: I’d have to say that my dream photography project/s is just to document my favorite bands and music acts in the recording studio or out of town tours.
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?
John: First, they must learn the basics. I never really got to, even with digital. There are aspects of photography that I’ve learned through my foray into film, like metering light. I only learned about that because the cameras that I’ve had the pleasure of using doesn’t have a built in light meters.
There’s also a specific mindset involved in film photography. You can’t just photograph and photograph like you do with digital. I mean, you can, but it’s gonna be costly. You really need to have a focused mind. Every frame counts, as they say.
John's photography matters to him a lot. It led him to where he is today. He's photography gave him hope and a reason to celebrate life, something he never thought he’d do again.
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