Female Voices in Film: Denise Laura Baker

By Paul McKay

As part of our celebration of International Women's Day on the 8th March we are interviewing different female members of the film community, asking the same questions to each for a snapshot of different perspectives and thoughts.

Today the spotlight rests on Denise Laura Baker!

Denise - thank you for your time. What is your film photography background?

I grew up using film in the days before digital, now I use it for work and for fun.

Denise Baker self-portrait | Analogue Wonderland

How did you get into film?

I was given my first film camera when I was eleven to take on a school trip to France. When I look back at those photographs I can see that I wanted to experiment. The pictures are grainy and slightly blurry but there are interesting angles, portraits and attempts to be artistic. From there I used film because that was all there was. I loved the anticipation of waiting for a film to return from the developers, not knowing if it would come out or what would be on it. It wasn’t as expensive as it is today, so I now have boxes and boxes of old negatives that I really need to scan and archive. Later, with the advent of digital I switched, but a few years ago I returned to film.

What is the film photograph you’re most proud of, and why?

Ooh, difficult question. I have many portraits that I love, but I have one particular picture that has been exhibited and received a really good reception. It was one of those accidentally beautiful shots. I was working on a shoot for a face painting company and was using mostly digital, but I took my Mamiya and in between set-ups I took a few pictures on film. There were a couple of pictures that I really loved, one of these was shot through the window. I loved the colours, shapes and reflections.

Denise Baker | Analogue Wonderland

What is your favourite camera/film combination?

I use three cameras; a Yashica fx, Nikon fe and a Mamiya C330. The Mamiya is my favourite camera and at the moment I’m using a lot of Kodak Portra 120 for a project I’m working on.

Denise Baker photography set-up | Analogue Wonderland

Who is your favourite (famous or not!) female film photographer?

Nan Goldin and Diane Arbus are big favourites and inspirations. Both very different in their approach, but also strangely similar (maybe that's just me)

What could the community do to support your personal film photography endeavours?

I would love people to buy my prints and book me for shoots, or offer me an exhibition (by email). I’d also like a publisher to give me an advance for a book. Failing that just follow me on instagram, send me a message if you like my work and check out my website.

Denise Baker | Analogue Wonderland

What could the community or industry do to encourage more women to start shooting film?

I think prices are prohibitive for many people. It’s a risky business shooting film and also it’s somewhat intimidating. I think people, not just women, are a little scared of working with film. I also think that women need more positive role models within film photography and women are underrepresented in the field generally.

What could the community or industry do to encourage more women to continue shooting film?

Again, this is applicable to all photographers, not just women. The cost of film makes it pretty exclusive and scary. I recently shot for a project I’m working on using 120 Kodak Portra. I made the pictures, sent the film off and it returned blank. I was gutted and still don’t know what happened. It’s these kinds of things that discourage people continuing to use film as a blank film is an expensive mistake.

There also has to be support for those learning the art of film photography; no one wants to feel like they are the only one that knows nothing! I would say that women and men need to support, encourage and help each other out and please guys, let the egos go (haha)

Is there anything in particular you want to highlight/explain/address related to film photography and International Women’s Day?

Women are still very much under-represented in the world of photography. This is never more evident than when I am out photographing on the streets at a demonstration. Of all the photographers in attendance I can usually count the women on one hand.

At the last demonstration I photographed I found myself next to another woman. We both stood about 5ft 4 inches, both lining up shots of a particular person, being courteous to one another so we didn’t hinder each others shot, just as we were about to shoot a big tall man came along, stood straight in front of both of us and started shooting. The woman and I looked at each other and said ‘ahh the pain of being a female photographer’. I see that as a bit of a metaphor for how women photographers are often viewed (invisible)

Denise Baker | Analogue Wonderland

Is there anything else you’d like to say that hasn’t come up naturally in any of the questions above?

Maybe just to say to women who are working with film, stick with it. Find fellow photographers who also love film, who are supportive, who like to experiment. I regularly try different films and push the boundaries.. I often get it wrong but I learn along the way. To me it's important to compare work, offer advice, be helpful :-)

Where can people find you and your work?

Denise Baker | Analogue Wonderland

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