Interview with NICO SEPE, PHILIPPINES
Updated: Oct 7, 2017
Live and enjoy other aspects of life, not just film photography. Start with cooking.
I'm deeply honoured to have you here, Nico. Would you mind telling us a bit about your journey into film photography?
Nico: I was exposed to the world of photography at a very young age, as far as I can remember. I became more serious and dedicated to it during the waning years of Marcos dictatorship and my baptismal documentary work was the fact finding mission in a “no man’s land” somewhere in the border of Kalinga Apayao and Cagayan Valley in the Philippines, where there’s an intense level of militarization and concentration of New People’s Army. We went there to document the people that were displaced. After that it just came naturally to string for newspapers, magazines and wire agency.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Nico: I learned photography using film and have always been a KODAK TRI-X user or something equivalent like ILFORD hp5. I like using this films because the processing has become a second nature to me. Although during those days we have to use both color transparency of color negs at the same time when using black and white because wire agencies prefer color. So you’re shooting with black and white in one camera body and color in another body. It’s another level of skill to change lenses and decide which to shoot first. My obsession with fully manual cameras came at an early part of my photography (I don’t like battery dependent cameras) so I went for Nikon F’s while saving for Leica M’s.
Finally got them in the late 80’s and still with me, I’m still using the same cameras ever since. With digital that will already be obsolete the moment you bought them. Because the commercial competition is so fast they have to add another button every year.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Nico: It depends on the point of view of the practitioner. It’s a matter of preference. Digital users will argue if you tell them that film and film based pictures have more character.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Nico: I do my own processing. I have my own darkroom and always carry my equipment wherever we move, so one of the requirements when looking for a new house is, there should be an extra room or bathroom. I’ve done all my processing and printing for all my exhibitions using same kind of fiber based paper. That’s one thing I learned from the masters, once you perfected the use of one kind of chemical and paper, stick with it.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film?
Nico: It’s second nature to me the way I use my cameras and the system of processing my films. I do use digital but not for serious work. The reason for this is I like seeing and holding the negatives. It has been proven that it will last as long as you take care of it. I still have some of my Dad’s negatives and they are still intact and printable. Another setback to digital for me, I don’t see my pictures inside the disc or an external hard drive and you have to update your system the least every three years otherwise you won’t be able to access them. Try to open a floppy disk that you used in the early 90’s, you have to look for an old working computer first.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Nico: I admire the documentary works of Eugene Smith. The social impact, his dedication and commitment to it.
Do you see any value or merit shooting with film?
Nico: It has for me.
What do you think is the future of film photography?
Nico: The more users there is, the more we can get the manufacturers to come back. They are already coming back.
What’s your dream photography project?
Nico: Every project for me is a dream because I don’t do projects that I don’t like.
Would you like to offer a few words of wisdom to those who want to try film photography for the first time? What must they learn before venturing into this format?
Nico: Photography, for that matter, not just film. Know the basics so you can fully grasp the whole thing and extrapolate without fear of walking in the dark (literally and figuratively) and do other things. Read a lot not just topics on photography but other interests. Live and enjoy other aspects of life, start with cooking.
My tendency is to go back not just to appreciate the whole process of how photography evolve but to also be grateful to the people that labored on this process, so that we can enjoy it now.
Good advice is hard to find, and I'm pleased you generously shared yours, Nico.
Nico is currently busy working on the old process of wet plate collodion—film's pre cursor. You can go and see more of his striking photographs here.
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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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