Updated: Oct 9, 2017
Film isn't as intimidating as it may seem, and the community at large is more than willing to help with anything you need.
Super delighted to have you here with us today, Nick! Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got shooting with film.
Nick: I'm a street and fine art photographer and YouTuber from Grand Rapids, Michigan. I'm married to my beautiful bride Emily, who is also a full time artist here in Grand Rapids. I got into film photography about 6 years ago during a 365 day photo a day challenge. I was editing my digital photos to have the "film look", when I decided to give the original medium a go and see what it was that I was trying to emulate in the first place. I purchased a Minolta SRT 201 and immediately fell in love with the rich character and depth that film had to offer. From there it became an obsession and now today 100% of my personal work is shot on film. Its the only medium within photography I really want to create with.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Nick: My go to is HP5 shot at 1600 in my Leica M2. I use 3 lenses, a 35mm Summicron, 50mm Summicron and lately have really been enjoying the 90mm Elmar. I've shot a great number of cameras over the past 6 years, everything from Canon AE-1 and F1-n to Hasselblads, Mamiya and Pentax 67's and Large format. However, nothing has inspired me quite like my m2 setup. The only way I can describe the relationship with the Leica is, its the only camera I have found that removes itself from getting in the way of the photo. Its a seamless transition from seeing the scene, raising the camera to the eye and capturing the photo. There is no depth of field you are looking through and no extra functions or controls to worry about. It's unobtrusive and will remain my camera of choice unless I find something that does it better.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Nick: Soul! Before I go any further I will say I am not a film elitist. I don't have anything against digital, and still use digital in a lot of my paid work. However, film for me captures the soul of what I am going for. I am a grain and contrast junky, and even though there is good grain emulating presets and effects these days, why would I want to emulate something I can get right off the bat when shooting film. I don't want to spend any more time in front of the computer than I need to. With film I scan it in, adjust the tonal curves, and I'm good to go.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Nick: I prefer printing my own when I can. Whether in the darkroom or inkjet I tend to lean towards printing myself. I like being hands on with my artwork, making all the creative decisions and corrections myself. However, when I print larger I have no choice but to go through a print lab. I've always been happy with the results I've gotten back from them, so its not as if I am against them.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film? Have you learned anything about yourself through film photography?
Nick: I am a creative to my core. I need to create, otherwise I find myself in a crazy state of depression and frustration. Film for me is the most enjoyable and rewarding creative expression at the moment. It's so process driven and hands on, you truly feel as if you are crafting your photo from start to finish. Not to mention it can be such an experimental medium. I still ask myself "I wonder what would happen if" on a regular basis.
On top of that, the wonderful film community keeps me challenged and inspired to shoot new bodies of work.
As far as what I've learned about myself through film... I think its more so just the idea of embracing process. I feel this generation has truly lost sight of what process looks like. We are so focused on tomorrow, next week, next month, that we have forgotten that good things happen over long periods of time. I constantly step into new areas of patience and process with my film work. Especially lately, I have been challenging myself to let projects "marinate" before jumping into them and expecting them to do what it is I want them to do. Patience and Process, that is what I have been learning through film as of late.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Nick: Oh so many! I'm sure more than I even realize. If I had to name a few big influences they would be, Jay Maisel, Ralph Gibson, Elliot Erwitt, Joel Meyerowitz, Henri Cartier Bresson, Yousef Karsh and then more contemporary photographers like Kit Young, Mikael Siirila, Alan Schaller, Cameron Hoerth, Craig Whitehead, Fabi Woods and Miles Smith.
I really gather so much influence and inspiration from so many sources, both inside and out of photography. I take the stance that I can learn something from anyone and everyone.
Do you see any value or merits shooting with film?
Nick: You know, I think there is a discipline of skill and craft that comes with film photography. That's not to say everyone who shoots film will improve because of it. It is to say though that it requires an intentionality that can easily be avoided with digital photography. Craft is something to be cherished and handed down from generation to generation, and I find that happening within the film community.
What do you think your future is like with film photography?
Nick: I plan on shooting film and creating work for as long as I am on this earth and making work. Its truly one of my great passions. I love the community and friends I have with it, and look forward to serving them and doing what I can to add to the medium for a very very long time!
What’s your dream photography project?
Nick: I don't know that I truly romanticize projects like that. I have places I want to shoot, indeed. I will continue traveling to and building work about Chicago and New York, and I hope to do many projects in Europe in the near future. Apart from that, I get super passionate about whatever project I am working on at the moment.
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?
Nick: My advice would be, don't be shy! Film isn't as intimidating as it may seem, and the community at large is more than willing to help with anything you need. Other than that, learn your 3 basic settings (aperture, shutter and film speed), learn to see light, and get out there and shoot!
Anything you want to add?
Nick: Unfortunately I don't have any exhibitions to announce at the moment. I am taking my current show here in town down tomorrow evening. Right now I am working on a handful of zines over the next couple months. This winter the goal is to release about 3-5 zine and book projects, as well as do a ton of darkroom printing.
Apart from that, I have plenty of great things in store over on YouTube. I have new zine how to videos coming out soon, as well as other tutorials and creative process videos being recorded in the next few weeks. If anyone is unaware, I do a weekly video and livestream series called "Two Minute Tuesday". Each week I share a tip or thought process to help better your photography or creative thinking, in two minutes or less (Alright, I admit sometimes it is 3 minutes or less). Even more so than the video is the interactive livestream on Instagram Live, every Tuesday at 5pm EST. On the stream we have the amazing film community that comes together to discuss that weeks "TMT" topic of discussion. We have some truly creative and incredibly thoughtful minds coming together in great conversation, and so many have shared that it is truly a highlight of their week. So if you are interested in all at growing your photography and learning how to think deeper about your artwork, I highly suggest you join us for the weekly discussions!
Lastly, I must mention my film photography apparel line Two Stops Apparel. This is a passion child of mine, where I take analog photography related designs I would want to have in my closet and turn them into t-shirts, stickers, hats and mugs that others can enjoy as well. I am so proud of this apparel line, and use the proceeds from the sales to further the film community, either through the YouTube content, giveaways, regional photo walks and gatherings or through helping film photographers in specific ways. I hope you will check out the current product lineup at Two Stops Apparel.
Thanks for having me be a part of this interview series! You ask truly wonderful questions, and it was an absolute pleasure.
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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 at firstname.lastname@example.org 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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