The Meridian International College Interview
A research paper interview by Zach Dedel
Zach loves film photography. He feels it could still be relevant even today because there are a lot of young people in the Philippines who get into vintage things, like film photography. He initiated this research with the aim to help those who want to get into film photography but don't know where to start.
Zach Dedel: What/who made you get into film photography?
MM: My enthusiasm for photography in general came about at an early age of 7, in the 70s, when my parents gave me a KODAK 110 camera which I use to take pictures of my family and neighbours.
ZD: What do you like about film photography?
MM: I grew up shooting with film. It leaves myself open to moments of sudden discovery. Like, you learn to be patient when taking a shot. Because you must take time to compose a photograph without, being trigger happy about the whole exercise. Digital does that to you regrettably. Clearly, with film, there’s no immediate preview of your shot until you process your rolls and print the contact sheets. This leaves room for me to understand my environment more; discover it and explore it. Film photography helps me develop my senses and creativity by working around its limitations.
ZD: How did you start film photography?
MM: Forgive me but I don’t remember how I started. I guess I just picked up my camera and go on with it. I never lost my interest in it since I was a child.
ZD: Where did you get your first film roll and camera?
MM: I got my first film roll, I believe, from a neighbourhood supermarket in Manila. I remember buying from this unassuming, tiny store inside a supermarket. That’s where everybody in my neighbourhood buys film. Whilst the camera was given to me by my mum. As a serious photographer, I got a Nikon FM2 and a Vivitar SLR from a camera store in Manila as well. That was back in the 90s.
ZD: Where do you currently get film rolls and cameras?
MM: I get my supplies from a local store here in Singapore. They are one of the few stores here that sells all types of film and darkroom supplies. I also buy from B+H in the States and from Yodobashi in Japan. I got my camera from a Leica store here in Singapore.
ZD: Why do you shoot film?
MM: For me a photograph is valuable. I don’t take it for granted. So archiving my film strips is a priority. That’s the top reason why I keep shooting with film. Film will last for centuries if properly kept and stored as compare with an image shot digitally. You can’t possibly delete it, can you? Many will argue that shooting with film is a more enjoyable experience—for me it’s the archiving advantage of it.
ZD: Who are your inspirations for shooting film?
MM: No one, to be honest. But I do get inspired by a photograph that shows a strong idea, tells an engaging story, and has a compelling purpose. Not because it was shot on film.
ZD: Who was your biggest influence in photography in general?
MM: Admittedly, it would be Ikkō Narahara, a Japanese photographer and Henri Cartier-Bresson, a French photographer. They are arguably part of the best and hardworking group of photographers that produce gorgeous and extraordinary photographs.
ZD: How did you learn film photography? (Where did you learn or who did you learn from?)
MM:I am largely self-taught—from shooting with it down to darkroom process. Though I did attend photography class back in art school but I just wasted my money and time on that bit, sadly. There was nothing so very remarkable in that class. Sod off experience to be honest.
ZD: What do you recommend to someone who wants to start film photography?
MM: Try it. Nobody will stop them. But, I reckon, it's important for them to ask WHY they want to jump into film photography first. Search within them an insightful reason, then start from there. Do they want to do film photography for money or as a hobby or as a career, etc.? Its dumb to do something because the rest is doing it. Be HONEST with yourself.
ZD: What should they do before anything?
MM: Learning film photography is like learning a new language. If you’re not interested in it, you won’t learn at all. So build an interest but don’t force yourselves. If they are not interested or enthusiastic in what they are going to do, why start in the first place? They got to have an astounding hunger to shoot with film, really. If there’s no sign of any interest in them, they will fail miserably and will certainly waste tons of money, drivel time, and exhaust their energy. Trust me. Life is short don’t waste it.
ZD: What do they do once they start?
MM: Keep the momentum up. There will be frustrations along the way, and it’s absolutely painful. This will kill every interest in them, believe me. So they got to keep going; keep shooting. And, once they’re there? It’s important to share their work and their knowledge. Don’t keep it to yourself. Teach and share it.
ZD: Where should they get their first camera and first roll of film?
MM: It would depend on where they are and where it's available.
ZD: What are things they should keep in mind while shooting film?
MM: I don’t keep tabs of my errors or successful shots. But I do remember one thing, though. Before I settled with a Leica and ILFORD as my main tools, there were lots of cameras and film brands I shot with. Personally, I thought KODAK Tri-X has a richer and deeper contrast but when I shot with ILFORD for the first time, my photography changed.
ZD: What’s your favourite camera and favorite film roll brand?
MM: I highly applaud Leica cameras and ILFORD films. These two has considerably been a part of my life as a film photographer. The performance of these two, for me, is exceptional. I use a Leica M6 with 28mm lens for street and documentary shoot projects, and a Helios 44-2 58mm lens for portraits and some fine art photographs. I shoot with ILFORD HP5+ and FP4, but mostly the former.
ZD: Where do you have your rolls developed?
MM:I process my film rolls myself. I’m not comfortable having it processed elsewhere.
ZD: What were your struggles in shooting film?
MM: There were struggles, of course, when I was starting. Like setting the right exposure; using the right film for a particular project; mixing the correct ratio of chemicals when it's time to develop and print. But you’ll learn along the way. I reckon it's part of the journey. As long as you enjoy and keep your interest in what you’re doing, you won’t stew over it that much. Believe me. Today the struggles turned the other way. The film and darkroom supplies drastically dropped when digital cameras, both compact and professional, came out. But I’m really grateful it’s picking up again, and I do wish this will continue on.
About Zach Dedel:
Zach Dedel is a Grade 12 Senior High student at the Meridian International College in the Philippines.