Updated: May 20, 2019
Shooting on film is constant learning. You're never going to learn or understand the choices until it's your own roll of film.
Hello, Parker. Please tell us something about yourself and how you got into film photography?
Parker: I'm a writer and film director based in New York City. I've made several short films that have screened at festivals around the world including Tribeca and London Film Festival. I got into film photography in November 2016 and it changed my life. I had never really taken photographs for fun before, and once I started I quickly realized that this medium was such an accessible creative outlet for me. I felt so empowered by the freedom to make images whenever I wanted. I didn't need a whole crew, I could just go out on my own, and that remains for me a very liberating feeling. At the time, a friend showed me Todd Hido's series House Hunting and I became obsessed with trying to capture the perfect house. I would go out almost every night for about six months, driving through suburban neighborhoods and teaching myself long exposure photography.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Parker: I shoot on a lot of different cameras and film stocks, depending on the series/subject/trip. For cameras, I mainly use a Minolta SRT-201, a Pentax-ME, and for 120 film a Rolleiflex. For film stocks, I'm a big fan of Portra800, I love the grain that comes alive when you push it 1 stop. I love grain, a lot. So I play with different stocks in specific ways to get the grain to come out. I shoot FujiSuperia 400 and push 2 stops. I also love to under expose Kodak Ultramax 400 and Portra 400.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Parker: Grain. Texture. Imperfections. I can take two exposures of the same exact thing, just a frame a part, and for some reason the second one has a lot more magenta or something like that. I love that. No too frames are identical.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Parker: I'm just starting to get into printing. I am comfortable with a lab printing my work, but so far I haven't felt that I've seen a print that feels like how I intended the photograph to look. Printing is not some mechanical process. I want to find a collaborator, or learn more about the process myself, so it feels like we're authoring the image with the print.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film? Have you learned anything about yourself through film photography?
Parker: I got into photography exclusively with film, so shooting and shooting on film are inseparable for me. I have learned a lot about myself through photography, the easiest thing to say is that I'm constantly learning what grabs my attention, what I find interesting, noteworthy, beautiful. I've also learned more about where I'm comfortable and where I'm not. Where I feel like a visitor, and what feels so familiar that I can't find a point of view in. I'm not that comfortable talking to strangers, I want to get better at it. I'm terrible at taking photos in my own house. I think I'm either more drawn to what's unfamiliar or it comes more naturally to me to photograph what's unfamiliar.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Parker: Absolutely. So many different photographers for different things. For American landscapes and scenes, I'm so inspired by the work of Todd Hido, William Eggleston, Wim Wenders and tons of the New Topographics photographers like Stephen Shore and Robert Adams. For portraits, I love Nan Goldin, Doug Dubois, Lise Sarfati, and Tina Barney. There are tons more like Philip Lorca DiCorcia's A Storybook Life, Crewdson's Dream House.
Do you see any value or merit shooting with film?
Parker: I see immense value to shooting on film. For one thing, it's finite. You're out on the road with a set number of exposures, so you're more deliberate about what you choose to photograph. I also think I'm more on my game, more meticulous, I frame more carefully and take my time a bit more. I also love the idea that it's this physical thing that I can hold in my hands. The film and I were both there when I took the photo. I made these choices, I set my exposure and frame, and it feels a little bit like the film is proof I was there and did that.
What do you think your future is like with film photography?
Parker: I started shooting as a hobby and creative outlet away from filmmaking but photography taken up a lot more real estate in my life than I expected. I'm not sure what the future holds, but at the moment, I'm definitely open to photographic projects just as much as motion picture.
Do you have any dream film photography project?
Parker: I have tons. At the moment, I'm so drawn to intimate portraits within communities in the south or southwestern united states. I would want to do a long form project, where I live in a small town/city for a couple of months and really get to know the people there. I love these portraits that you can only get once you have a certain level of comfort with the subject. I recently discovered this fantastic photographer Stacy Kranitz. Her work is amazing, and she takes these incredible portraits that feel like she's capturing a world and a person's story in a moment in that world. I would love to shoot something like that.
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?
Parker: Patience and persistence are the first things that come to mind. My first couple of rolls of film were on my mom's old Minolta Maxxuum 7000. I shot 2 rolls of houses at night, and I got them developed and only 4 frames came out. Turns out the Aperture Magnets on her camera were dead and everything I exposed was at a f-22. Fortunately of the 4 frames that turned out, 1 of them was awesome and I kept going. I went and got a mechanical camera (the Minolta SRT-201 that I still use today), and I didn't want any malfunctioning electronics to get in the way. It was all mechanical, and shooting on that really taught me the value of my choices. Shooting on film is constant learning. I get a roll developed and I can remember what choices I made, how I exposed the film, and what I like, what I can do better next time. You're never going to learn or understand the choices until it's your own roll of film.
Parker will soon be selling some of her work here. So keep dropping by for updates.
She keeps an impressive folio on Instagram. If I were you, I won't miss this one.
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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 email@example.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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