Rediscovering the Joys of Film Photography - Elliot Knott
Today's blog post comes from the virtual pen of a fantastic documentary photographer who - after spending a couple of years focused solely on making a career from digital images - picks up his old film cameras and rediscovers the joy of an analogue shutter.
Introduction to Elliot
During my photography journey to date I have explored several different subject matters. After a while I found my practice and talents lay within the event and music photography genre. In doing this photography work for commercial means more than personal, I soon started to forget the reasons why I started photography and what I did when I first picked up a camera.
I have worked with some big names, like Chase and Status, DJ EZ, Flava D, 67 and Franko Fraize. But despite shooting and rubbing shoulders with artists and musicians I have loved since before I started photography, the novelty started to become less appealing and the work that was being produced wasn’t impacting viewers as I originally thought it would. Especially with the artists that wanted to see them after they have been captured. In saying this, they would post my work on their social medias and sometimes tag me in them, but after a while they were just using the work I produced to market themselves and not recognise the work that others had put in.
Shortly after starting my masters in Photography I discovered that I would need to step my practice up to produce work in keeping with a masters’ level degree. After some time to think and plan out what I wanted to achieve, I reconsidered what it was that first got me into photography and that was the use of analogue methods to create photography and specifically the use of 35mm film. With this reconnection with my past practice, I wanted to look away from the genre of photography that involved people and busy environments. The main reason for this was looking for a change of pace and scenery; I wanted to use film photography in a way that I was happy with and doing photography for myself and not for a client’s needs.
By returning to Film Photography I can relearn some of the more traditional values of photography. By not being able to see what images I am capturing till after the roll has been developed has installed in me more patience with composing and establishing the correct settings before taking an exposure. This is where I believe film photography has a huge advantage over digital, as it allows the photographer to really come to terms with what photography is all about.
In the past I would mainly use Ilford HP5 Plus 400 as means to capture photographs, this was down to the fact that my college had only means to develop black and white film. Having limited use of films and somewhat getting bored of the black and white genre, I found myself leaning towards digital to create work until now. On discovering the multitude of different film stocks available to me recently in throw me in a new direction. I was now where I needed to be to create the work I need.
Kodak Ektar 100 - 35mm
Since coming back into the Film Photography genre, I have been awestruck by the number of different film stocks still readily available to me today. Considering that we live in a largely digital world, it’s fantastic to have such a wide variety of options and aesthetics made even more readily available by the team over at Analogue Wonderland. The drive to try as many different films as I could, this sparked the idea for a project I could do as part of my master’s work. The idea was to use different types of 35mm and 120 to establish which film best suits my aesthetic and shooting style. I compiled a list of different stocks from companies like Kodak, Fuji, Rollei and Ilford and set about capturing the same subject matter but with different film stocks each time, to find what stock worked and fit best with me.
Ilford Delta 400 - Medium Format
These images are just a few examples of the work I carried out and with the different film stocks I used, I was delighted with the results as I wasn’t too sure at first how they were going to come out, as it had been a long time since operating with film. However, I did find some of the slower ISO stocks yield better results - closer to the vision in my mind.
Due to the lower grain and noise, I found quite a cinematic quality appear in quite a few of these slower films. Stocks like Ektar 100, Ektarchrome E100 and Pro 400H were some of my more engaging film outcomes. The beauty of Analogue Photography is the wide range of different photographic equipment available to me to use. Having the option to use older equipment to capture a roll film allows for more of a "traditional" photographic approach to be taken. By making sure that the composition and settings are right within the camera before taking an exposure is taken increases the investment into a film image. This tactile approach to photography creates more of an emotional connection to the images that are being created.
Kodak Portra 800 - 35mm
One of the benefits of having a Canon EOS 3000 that came out in the late 1990s is that it takes the new EF mount for lens. Not only does this give me a range of focal lengths and f stops to choose from, but it also gives me more control over the quality of the image that is going to be created, as there is not a chance of the exposure being tainted by a much older lens.
My Practice With Film Today
Engaging with my chosen subject matter of the Urbanscapes and the genre of Photorealism, I wanted to find a way in which I can produce work to not only satisfy my creative needs, but also the creation of a visual appealing aesthetic. I have often found the work of William Eggleston, Katie Sadie and Lewis Baltz to be particularly appealing due to the subject matter of their work but also within the way they have chosen to capture it. Over the course of my work with film away from University I have been experimenting with a basic film to understand how I can best approach my subject matter.
Fujicolor C200 - 35mm
I have always played with the idea of building an archive of images around the genre of Photorealism but I have always put it off as placing everything onto a digital medium to produce an archive never felt right. In the use of film photography I now have the luxury of having negative strips after the completion of film - at the risk of sounding old fashioned I feel like I have achieved something greater! I have physical material to show the work I have put into to creating this archive around the subject of Photorealism. In rediscovering film, I have found several areas of photography I can grow into and reconnect with photography in a way that I was missing with digital Photography.
Fujicolor C200 - 35mm
As I draw this post to a close I want to keep working open minded with the use of film, as it can be extremely rewarding in providing a somewhat different view to how we look at photography today. As I move forward with my practice I am looking forward to implementing new aesthetics and film stocks into my work. By rediscovering new approaches to my work using film I can keep a fresh perspective on my work, this is something I believe I was missing until I rediscovered film.
Discover More of Eliott's Work