BKIFI: Films made with Light and Love
By Emma Lloyd
It has been a long time in the works, but we are so excited to finally welcome the BKIFI brand to the Analogue Wonderland catalogue of films. BKIFI is a new kid on the film block, all the way from Brooklyn, New York. BKIFI is a Black owned and operated analog photography workshop, founded by Sharon Steven. Through her brand, Sharon designs for the adventurous photographer, following her belief that "analog photography should be fun" and this is all reflected in BKIFI's original 35mm series. BKIFI produce unique and experimental patterned films by hand, each roll infused with elements of "chance and wonder" in the aim to connect photographers with what first called them to pick up the creative medium.
I love the spirit behind the BKIFI brand. It can be easy to fall down the rabbit hole of technicalities with film photography: the various complexities of light metres, f stops, ISO and exposures etc. All of which are of course all very important and fundamental to the medium, but it can also be great to pick up something completely unknown to you, that has an element of unpredictability and enjoy the true serendipity and creativity that film can bring.
As I have been working on this article, I have also been trying to perfect my Brooklyn accent, alas... I have a long way to go! Something I am more confident of however is how flippin' cool this brand is! It is brilliant to see indie and boutique film brands popping up all over the world, and watching the film community coninue to grow and evolve. Read on to find out more about Sharon, her brand and the wonderful BKIFI films that have made their way to Analogue Wonderland!
(c) Sharon Steven a lovely gif of Sharon, the founder of BKIFI
What does BKIFI stand for?
BKIFI is short for Brooklyn Instant film Initiative! Our project started as a Brooklyn on demand delivery service for specialty camera film.
What is the ethos behind BKIFI?
To spark curiosity about what is possibly with light sensitive materials and encourage openness to chance elements; for adventurous photographers as well as those who are curious about photography.
What is your favourite product that you sell or the one you are most proud of?
We have such a small catalog and yet it’s tough to choose one so here’s my top four!
- Visually, I’m most fond of photographs with the Yellow Hearts Film pattern.
(c) BKIFI Pride Hearts Film
2. I experience the most satisfaction viewing the Flowers Polaroid Adapter Pack. There’s something trippy and beautiful about the layers of flowers.
(c) BKIFI Polaroid 600 / i-Type / SX-70 Film Adapter Pack
3. Rainbow film is the closest to my heart as it was designed as a tribute to my sister and based off of a studio photography backdrop.
(c) BKIFI Rainbow Film
4. Lastly, there’s Red Hearts film which is by far the most popular, so it’s reception has been very heartwarming.
(c) @reecewoolz Red Hearts Film
Could you tell us more about the process of making your 35mm films?
I love saying the 35mm film series is made with light and love because each style is made possible through controlled light leaks.
Do you have any tips for shooting BKIFI films?
Tips for shooting 35mm are: expose your roll at box speed. Lightly underexposing will intensify the effect if you're feeling daring and overexposing with wash out the effect. For the adapters, shooting with as much natural light as possible gives the best result. For indoor shooting, use flash and shoot in front of a solid background. This will intensify the pattern since it fades into shadowy underexposed areas.
What is the film scene like across the pond?
In Brooklyn alone, we’ve seen half a dozen independent film development and camera stores open in the last year! This year alone, I’ve also met more new to film photographers through work or when out and about, always when I’m doing something not related to my work with photography, than I did in the 5 years prior. The sentiment here seems to be that interest in film photography is growing.
Why is film photography your creative outlet of choice?
In high school, photography stood out as a medium that had few barriers for entry. That allowed me to experiment and learn independently. I was immediately drawn to lomography photographers and altered realities captured with cameras. A lot of what I learned while experimenting in 2007-2011 directly informed the development of BKIFI Films.
What are your favourite films and cameras to shoot with? Could you share some of your work with us
Ironically, I don’t work with 35mm much. Instant Films and Holga Cameras have been my favorite tools to work with for fun as well as some of my personal work!
(c) Sharon Steven, Holgaroids on Polaroid 600 film
"A photograph shot on polaroid 600 film that I “hacked” by capturing a double exposure on it with my Holga."
Sharon and 'Holgaroids'
I am a massive fan of Holga cameras. My Holga was the first film camera I brought for myself, I love the fun playfulness to them and the unpredictability of the photographs. Playing around with double and long exposures is my favourite thing to experiment with on my Holga, so I was fascinated my Sharon's 'Holgaroids'. I had never heard of the process and hope I can give it a go one day myself (add it to the never ending bucket list of alternative photographic processes to try).
(c) Sharon Steven 2016 Untitled Holgaroids
The Holgaroid is a special Polaroid-type back that is designed to fit perfectly onto your 120 Holga camera, allowing you to take polaroids with a Holga- how cool! Inside the back is a set of rollers that pop and activate the chemicals in the pack film. It also comes with a fold down viewfinder, a dark slide. (this is to make the back light tight incase you want to switch mid pack to shoot 120 again) and a corrective dopter.
The process is a little longer of course as you have to remember to remove the lens cap, then the darkslide, take the shot and then pull the instant film sheet out. The back is a lot heavier, although this can be nice to add a little weight to the very light Holga cameras and as we can see from Sharon's incredibly cool photos, it produces gorgeous and surreal instant shots!
Peel Apart Fuji Instant Print
The Voids, digital images
The Sea, digital images
(c) Sharon Steven
Finally I had to tie in #SheHeartsFilm to my questions with Sharon. I am so inspired and excited to see a black female owned film photography business. It is so positive and encouraging that we are seeing the film community diversifying more, and incredible people like Sharon leading the way. #SheHeartsFilm aims to promote, inspire, educate and build a stronger community of female film photographers and Sharon is absolutely doing that!
Could you tell me more about your experiences as a woman in the film community and what you hope to see more of in the future?
It may sound cliche but I want to see more female photographers experience community around photography. This extends to Black, queer and trans photographers as well. Specifically, I want to see people from these groups experience greater visibility and not see the value of their work questioned or diminished in spaces dedicated to film photography. This is largely informed by my experience in the film community which has been a mix of welcoming and respectful in certain spaces and disregarded in others.
Thank you Sharon for answering my questions, and what an important note to end on. Emerging brands such as BKIFI make me very excited, proud and hopeful for the future of film photography and the amazing spaces it creates. We can't wait to see the response to your wonderful and creative products and look forward to BKIFI's next adventure in film.
Visit BKIFI's instagram via the link below @bkifi_films
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