Interview with NATALIE SMART, UNITED KINGDOM

Updated: May 17


I feel I am always constantly learning in film photography.



Thank you for giving us the opportunity to have you here, Natalie. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your journey into film photography.


Natalie: I’m a film photographer who lives on the seafront in Brighton. Living by the beach is a great source of inspiration. I was born in the 1980’s so had always used film camera’s up until around the mid-2000’s when I changed to digital. I have always loved black and white film photography and had a Zeiss-Ikon Rangefinder camera in my cupboard, which I had used up until the mid-2000’s when I changed over to digital.

Back in 2007, I decided that I wanted to shoot black and white film again but what ended up happening at the time was that the black and white film and camera just ended up sitting on my bedroom shelf with me looking at them every so often thinking that I must shoot some film some time. Before I knew it, 10 years had passed! Then in December 2017, I had an accident and fractured my right arm in several places. This meant I had to stay indoors for several weeks and when I was able to venture back outside again, I saw everything with new eyes and knew I need to take photos again.

I initially started taking more digital photos with my phone, then a digital camera but the film camera I had sitting in my bedroom was still playing on my mind and in the end I finally took some photos with the film camera. I unfortunately discovered that the camera had broke after sitting dormant for a number of years once I got the film developed but this ignited an old film passion for me and I immediately purchased another film camera (a Pentax K1000) so I could continue to shoot film.



Why do you prefer film over digital?


Natalie: I enjoy the excitement of not knowing how the photo will look until I get it developed. To me it is like opening up a present.




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



Natalie: I think there is a certain grain that you can achieve with film that has never been managed on digital cameras. I also love the crisp detail that can be achieved in medium and large format film photography.


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

Natalie: I feel I am always constantly learning in film photography. There are a variety of film formats and different techniques to try out that I never get bored shooting film. One of the things I love the most is the fact that I get to use a darkroom to develop my prints. I had initially had the luck of doing darkroom photography when I was a teenager as my friend’s parents had a darkroom in their basement that we used.

When I got back into film photography, I knew that I wanted to shoot a lot of black and white photos and print them myself again so I immediately signed up to an adult education darkroom photography course in my local area which reminded me how to do the darkroom process. After the course, I joined a local community darkroom where I developed my own prints and refined my technique. Now, I’m currently in the process of setting up my own darkroom.



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


Natalie: One photographer on Instagram I really admire is Christina Walter-Saxena. I really love her photography style and the black and white prints she produces. They have really inspired me in my black and white photography.



Do you see any value or merits shooting with film?


Natalie: The thing I love the most is having physical prints of my photos that I have developed in a darkroom. The time and effort taken to produce a print, makes me truly cherish the photo.

I also love the fact that I have been able to take some lovely black and white photos of friends and family then develop them in the darkroom and give the physical prints to them as gifts, which they have also loved and cherished.

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


Natalie: I genuinely believe that film photography is on the rise. There are a lot of younger people (especially here in Brighton) who grew up with digital since film photography would have been a thing of the past for them. I am noticing that they are very curious by the film process and also find it quite cool so are using film more than digital.



Do you have any dream film photography project?


Natalie: Once I have finished installing my darkroom and developing my printing techniques further, I hope to release some limited edition prints of some photos I have taken in my film journey so far. I love the fact that the prints will all have been created by myself which I would love to share with other people.


Most 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?


Natalie: I have a dog, which I am allowed to take out for a daily walk. During these walks I have been taking instant photos and keeping a photo journal of my daily walks which has been quite fun to do. It also is my own personal photo book, which is nice to read back through.


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?



Natalie: Go for it! Do not over think it, just get a 35mm film camera within your budget and try it out. There are some great online tutorials and books about the subject, which will help anybody starting out. Alternatively an instant camera is great fun too if 35mm photography seems a little bit daunting to begin with. Film photography can only really be learnt as you go so trial and error is a big part of film photography. The more you do of it, the more you will learn.

The film photography community are a friendly bunch and are always willing to help new people wanting to try it out. I would also recommend attending a local photo walk if you can. I have met some new friends through doing this as well as seeing different cameras that people use which is really interesting.



Anything you want to add? Future exhibits, projects you're currently busy with? Anything…


Natalie: I plan to host an instant photo walk in Brighton later on this year, which I’m really excited about.



Pleasure to have you here today, Natalie. We look forward to your photo walk.

Do catch up with Natalie on Instagram and don't forget to check here website as well.


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Be considerate. All photographs shown on this page are the sole property of Natalie Smart. She devoted her time, and worked hard making these photographs. You know very well it's wrong 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 Natalie Smart. Be good. 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 mapamelvin@gmail.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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Cheers!

Mel


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