Film has a way of showing you the truth.
I'm super thrilled to have you here, Kelsey. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your photography.
Kelsey: I grew up primarily between suburbia and the country in the Southeast. My grandma was a painter and I spent a lot of time in her studio growing up, she painted a lot of backdrops for photographers and would make me model in front of them as a kid. I was always messing around with arts and crafts but when I was around 13, I took her little digital point and shoot into the woods and went crazy taking photos. My family really encouraged me to keep at it and I turned into that friend that was always documenting everything in high school. I decided to major in art in university where I took my first darkroom class, it was pretty much love at first sight, or should I say lack of.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Kelsey: This past year I've been really into Kodak Portra film. I use 160 a lot on my 35mm Nikon FM and I use 400 & 800 on my medium format Pentax 645n. It complements a lot of the landscape colors I've been going after and of course is great for portraits. I love how it kind of just makes things glow but it's not always great for water. I also use Ektar 100 sometimes. I used to love Ilford HP5 but I've really converted to color over the years.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Kelsey: Film has that process-driven thing that digital doesn't. And you get to be a part of the whole process if you choose. It encapsulates the mood of a photograph entirely. It creates anticipation, surprise, and so much room for experimentation. There's really no comparison for me.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Kelsey: I've done both. Lately I've been using a lab I really like because I haven't been set up to print. Also I've been mostly keeping everything online so there hasn't been much need to print.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film? Have you learned anything about yourself through film photography?
Kelsey: I definitely go through phases between taking breaks and shooting all the time. Ultimately, I know I'll always shoot film because nothing makes me as happy in life as the excitement of seeing a freshly developed roll. They're not always amazing by any means but every single roll teaches me something and every frame is a documentation of something. I just want to document life. It's the closest thing to stopping time. I've been doing an identity series lately, somehow film photography has shown me a lot about myself. Film has a way of showing you the truth.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Kelsey: Oh of course. I'm really influenced by surrealist art in general like Dali and Ray. I'm a huge fan of Ana Mendieta and Fransesca Woodman even though I didn't discover them until late but they've pushed me further. Also currently very inspired by Mette Lampcov's work. I really look up to female identifying artists because I think we have a completely different experience in the art world than male identifying artists, especially in photography which is such a male-dominated industry.
Do you see any value or merit shooting with film?
Kelsey: Something I remind myself when shooting is that every single click costs something so you better make sure it's worth it. Film slows me down and really makes me focus, in comparison to digital where I used to just get trigger happy and care much less about the actual moment and getting it right. I also value having true grain and light leaks in my photographs, I'm not really into the fake film filters.
What do you think your future is like with film photography?
Kelsey: Man, well I'm planning on going to grad school and I hope to have my own processing and print lab eventually. But really I just want to keep pushing myself to experiment and document. The past year has really inspired me to not only document activism but to use photography to be an activist. I really think that artists have the power to tell people's stories, why not wake them up and tell them things that you think need to be heard? I think it's our duty as artists to also educate.
Any dream film photography project in mind?
Kelsey: Obviously I would really like to do more photojournalism work. So any photojournalism project where I get to tell someone or something's story that needs to be heard is a dream for me. I'm specifically passionate about social and environmental work, and specifically environmental inequality and justice. I have a few ideas but it's been tricky with COVID. I'm also interested in editorial work but only in a hyper creative sense.
Photographers around the world are finding ways to keep themselves busy during this lockdown, and coming up with activities to make self-isolation a bit more interesting. What are your ways to keep busy while you have to stay at home?
Kelsey: Well, much to my dismay I've been working on a self-portrait series. Normally not something I would have done before but I think it's been good for me. Thankfully my roommate has been a good sport at modeling as well. It's actually inspired me to shoot portraits more in general. I've been learning more adobe software so that I can start doing mixed media with film photos. Additionally, I've had more time to study other artists, what's going on in the world, read some books, write, study tarot, and spend way too much time reading film, camera, and gadget reviews. I also attended a socially distanced film fest and have been making an effort to watch independent films, I'm really inspired by creative films with great cinematography.
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?
Kelsey: Make sure that you're metering right, or at least the way that you want to be, and that your film is advancing (important). Other than that just go shoot! I've definitely learned the most through trial and error. If you can't take classes I recommend watching YouTube videos, there's a lot of awesome channels out there dedicated to analog. Start with cheaper film (like Superia or Gold) until you get the hang of it. My first film camera was about $100 and I still use it sometimes. You don't need really expensive gear to take amazing film photos. I've literally taken photos I've loved with a cardboard box pinhole camera. It's all about creativity.
Anything you want to add? Future exhibits, projects you're currently busy with? Anything…
Kelsey: I've been focused on this series of shooting multiple exposures for a while, blurring the lines between reality and dream world. I think multiple exposures in general have kind of become my thing and I'm just going to shoot them until I'm sick of them. I'm working on a series focused on the subconscious mind during COVID using multiple exposures. I'm also working on a series of multiple exposures with landscapes. Both using my medium format which I got this year and love. That and school have been keeping me going.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on film photography, Kelsey. All the luck and I sincerely hope you get exciting photojournalism gig soon. Let's keep in touch and stay safe out there!
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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 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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