To me shooting film demands a lot of attention, patience and love.
Happy to see you here, Louise. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your journey into film photography.
Louise: Hi! My name is Louise Kneife, I come from Brittany, the west side of France and I currently live in Montreal. I got into film photography by watching my mother take pictures of my brother and I with her Yashica Mat 124G when we were kids. She used to pack up here Yashica in a cloth and bring it around every time we were out and about. A few years later she started bringing a film camera my grand-father had, a silver Olympus OM-1 among her Yashica. I guess the Olympus really caught my attention, it got me really intrigued and I wanted to give shooting film a try. My first roll was an expired Ektachrome while on a Northern Norway road trip during winter. I remember my first shot was at the Oslo airport, the shot was badly exposed and framed but the feeling of pressing the shutter release resonated in me, I was mesmerized by it. Since then my grand father’s Olympus OM-1 never left my side.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Louise: I only own two film cameras, a silver Olympus OM-1 and a medium format Yashica Mat 124G. The first Olympus I had was the one my grandpa gave my mum, who then passed it down to me. After a few years shooting with it, I decided to get my very own, but this time in black. The Yashica Mat 124G came a little later. I actually had never tried my mum’s medium format camera but knew I wanted the same one she had. Having the same cameras she had wasn’t about copying her, it was about sharing something together, an experience, a passion, it also had a heritage sort of dimension for me. Thus why, I also followed her steps by using her kodak rolls that were left in the fridge. I explored a few other brands but always came back to Kodak with Tmax and Ektar100 for both cameras. Although, I recently tried out, for financial purposes, the Kodak Gold 200 with my Olympus, and will probably stick to it for future expeditions in North America as it is the only film I manage to find easily in drug stores across the US and Canada. A strategic move that in the end gave me the results I wanted so it's win-win. I like my shots to have the grainy analog style but not too much thus why I prefer having a low ISO type of film, it’s also a plus when printing them in big formats. For future trips I would pack up Kodak Gold 200 for summer holidays, it goes well with sunny landscapes, (I haven’t really tested it out on urban shots so I don’t know if it's super contrasted or not) and would for sure stick to Ektar100 when travelling during the winter time and shooting snowy landscapes. The colours appear to be very pastel looking and soft which I really like.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Louise: Sweat and tears. To me shooting film demands a lot of attention, patience and love. I love setting the film in the camera, it mobilizes my senses, the touch, the noise and the sight of the mechanic is pleasing and makes me feel more in tune with the act of shooting a photograph. Pressing the shutter release is thrilling especially when you know you captured "The Shot". But the part I prefer most, is the wait. I’m not the impatient type, I don’t mind not seeing the results of my shoots right away, thus why waiting to get back home to then get my films developed is nice. It gives me the opportunity to imagine what my shots are going to be like. Just like when going on road trips, my favorite part is the journey not the destination. Digital doesn’t stimulate me as much, sure it’s nice to be able to look at your shots instantaneously but have you tried shooting film, and forgetting about the rolls for a few years, finding them while cleaning up your room, get them developed and discover that it was a roll you shot with your very first toy film camera when you were 10 years old in Las Vegas?! A real time capsule. Fascinating!
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Louise: I wish I had an extra room in my apartment to make have my very own dark room and learn how to develop, scan and do my own prints but for now I go to my favorite lab in Montreal (the lab is called Borealis in case some Montreal readers are in the search for the best lab in the city)! I was very comfortable getting my rolls processed by labs before I had one very bad experience when developing for the first time in Montreal. I went to a lab I found online and they ruined 20 rolls of a road trip I took in northern Finland, Sweden and Norway. Those pictures were not just holiday photographs but were also supposed to end up in an exhibition. No need to say that now that I have found the perfect lab for me I’m not going to change any time soon unless I learn to develop myself.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film? Have you learned anything about yourself through film photography?
Louise: I truly love this art, so I don’t feel like I need motivation to keep doing it. However sharing my work with others and putting myself out-there demands motivation. I find self-promoting very difficult but I try to do it because I love analog photography so much that I wish to one day make it my main source of income. In addition to that I would say that having people comment and like my work is very encouraging and came motivate me to keep my socials updated.
I’ve learned that I’m patient, and I actually like waiting a lot. You can’t be in a rush when you shoot film, it is a slow process. I’ve also learned that I’m a passionate type of person that when I love I don’t count, the hours working, the money spent on rolls and processing, the energy put into creating an Instagram to showcase my work and even a web site. When I love something, I’m invested, I’m glad to have discovered this part of my personality.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Louise: Alex Strohl is my number one inspiration. I love this man’s shooting style, the life he’s built for himself, the projects he undertakes! I wish to be an adventure/travel photographer but with film photography. Sounds hard to achieve when not shooting digital but who knows!
Do you see any value or merits shooting with film?
Louise: Yes for sure because shooting analog means it’s not cheap thus why each shot has to be calculated and well executed otherwise it’s a loss. It also means that you tend to calculate if what you want to shoot is really worth it or not. In the end I feel that shooting like that brings more value to my photographs, every time I look at them I go back to that moment because I took the time to think the shot through before pressing the shutter release.
What do you think your future is like with film photography?
Louise: I hope to make an income out of it someday, have a van and just move around and photograph places. Until then I’ll keep pushing and challenging myself to be better, shape my own style and share my work with others.
Do you have a dream film photography project?
Louise: My dream photography project was to correctly shoot northern lights with my Olympus OM-1. I achieved that goal this year in January 2020! Now I guess I need to perfect the shots but at least I can cross that off my bucket list! My second dream is to shoot a musher and his pack running the Iditarod or the Yukon Quest!
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?
Louise: I wanted to take the opportunity of the quarantine to finally learn how to develop colour negative films, turns out buying chemicals for film photography isn’t an easy task in Canada. Since I couldn’t really make that happen I got into the creation of a podcast called Sex Worker Story, it’s about how covid-19 has affected sex workers around the world, and how they survive the situation if they don’t benefit from their government’s emergency help funds. It’s a work in progress.
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?
Louise: I would advise to look into the camera you have and see if you have the option of changing the focusing screen inside. Some cameras like the Olympus OM-1 have a wide variety of focusing screen you can get to tailor your camera to your needs. That really changed my life and my shots too! Otherwise I would say to check online the differences between film brands to find the film that is right for you . And be patient!!
Anything you want to add? Future exhibits, projects you're currently busy with? Anything…
Louise: As said above I’m working on a podcast if interested in giving it a listen you can find us on Instagram first episode is coming soon !
Thank you for having me! Keep doing your thing and support your local artists! :)
This interview is GOLD! I appreciate having you here and sharing with us your valuable thoughts on film photography, Louise.
Thank you and please stay safe out there.
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