Updated: Oct 8, 2017
For Samual Ong, each click of his film camera is a timeless magical moment to celebrate.
So, Sam, tell us about yourself and your story on how you got into film photography.
Sam: I am an art student from Malaysia. I started to take photograph many years ago with a DSLR my mom bought. I like macro photography at that time. This is how I got started with "art" stuff and eventually taking a diploma in that field. Few years later, I started taking photos of people. I like moments/candid shots of normal people, and their daily lives. I believe everyone has a story.
I got into film photography earlier this year, when I found out I can attach a vintage lens onto my DSLR. From there I got to know more about vintage lens and cameras. During that time, a friend of mine attended a film developing workshop held by my secondary school's art teacher. So me and my friend, who is also interested in photography, decided to give it a try. Fortunately, my secondary school's art teacher was selling film at a lower price hoping to let more people to get into film.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Sam: I am still at the exploring stage, so I don't have a favourite film yet. I am trying to shoot black and white recently.
I use my grandfather's old Fujica MF fix focus point and shoot and a Yashica GSN. I actually enjoy using the point and shoot camera. I can focus on composing my subject and shoot without worries because everything is fixed. The only down side is it's too slow for some indoor or night shot. I bought a GSN because I found a really great deal. Perfect chance for me to give rangefinders a try. This aperture priority camera is flexible and allows me to shoot at almost any situation and still no need to worry too much about the exposure. I am saving up for a Spotmatic as my first full manual SLR. :)
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Sam: The surprise element! I often forgot a lot of shots that I took, after waiting for some time for the lab to send back my scanned photos. So there's always a surprise waiting to happen. I also like the unique look of every type of film.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Sam: Yes, I print my own photograph with my home printer, and I always wanted to have them printed in a lab just I not yet have the chance.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film?
Sam: The analog process. The "interchangeable full frame sensor." The cameras.
I admit I'm a gear head, I like to collect vintage lenses and cameras. Because they are way older than me and not most are not available anymore. It feels magical when I realize our technology has advanced enough to build this product 50 years ago. Other than that, a photo taken with film cannot be deleted like digital, any mistake I make will be recorded in the negative forever— reminding me not to repeat it. Lastly, maybe it's because I was born in the digital age, I appreciate anything made by hands, not binaries.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Sam: Ruan Yizhong 阮義忠. A Taiwanese photographer who take photos around his country. He always has stories or lessons in his photographs.
Do you see any value shooting with film?
Sam: To be honest, I don't see any significant impact in me shooting with film, so far. And, I spending more money to buy and develop film has become a burden for me as a student.
What do you think is the future of film photography?
Sam: The future of film is bright. There's a lot of discontinued film coming back— thanks to those who are working hard and helping others to know more about film. Digital natives also started to get into film because of the analog process and also the film look.
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?
Sam: Why not give it a try? That's how photography started anyway. Think about the magical moments you'll experience with film photography. There's nothing much you need to get into this— a film camera, and couple of rolls of film, that's it. It's that simple without the fancy settings like in a digital camera.
According to Sam, "some film photographers in my country say that film is poison. Once you get in, there's no turning back."
It's great to see these breathtaking photographs, Sam! Thank you for taking time out in sharing your insights and work.
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