Female Voices in Film: Rebecca Danese

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 across this week, asking the same questions to each for a snapshot of different perspectives and thoughts.

Today the spotlight rests on Rebecca 'Becky' Danese!

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

I started shooting film on a little point-and-shoot compact when I was eight and haven’t stopped since! At twenty I took a job at Grays of Westminster, a Nikon specialist in London, and really expanded both my personal and professional knowledge on cameras. In my twelfth year at Grays (don’t do the maths) I can proudly say that there are very few things I don’t know about Nikon cameras - film or digital - thanks to my working there, although I’m always looking for new challenges.

I’m also an author and tend to write characters who shoot film into my books. Inevitably they all share that same bug.

These days my photography usually works around my job at Grays, and the technical articles I write for the Nikon Owner magazine, but wherever possible I use analogue equipment and try to remind people how great shooting film is.

How did you get into film?

Some weird voice in my head telling me I had to photograph things? Haha. I’m not sure why I asked for a camera at Christmas when I was eight, but I’m certainly glad that my family obliged. I stopped shooting film for about ten years when I got my hands on a D100, but thankfully the constant contact with gorgeous Nikon analogue cameras drove me to take it up again, starting with an FM2N. Sometimes I wouldn’t shoot more than a couple of rolls a year. These days I shoot a few rolls a month and find myself picking up my film camera more than my digital.

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

I shot a black and white image on Millenium Bridge - a long exposure looking towards St Paul’s Cathedral with the spectral trails of tourists passing me by. It was a shot I worked quite hard for and one of my friends quite literally cries every time she sees it. I had it printed for her and framed because she loves it so much, but just being able to incite that much emotion in others with photography is an indescribable and incredibly rewarding feeling.

What is your favourite camera/film combination?

My go-to is my Nikon FM3A, which for me completely encapsulates the mechanical genius of Nikon engineering. My absolute favourite film is Kodak Portra 160 but I’ve got a healthy stock of all kinds of film in my fridge. The expired random ones are often interesting too!

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

The story of Vivien Maier always fascinated me, and although she wasn’t known as a photographer when she was alive, I find that all the more poignant. This was a woman who took photos for her own enjoyment and didn’t tell a soul what she was doing. The fact that she was happy to take photographs purely for her own satisfaction and not for any public recognition is very refreshing, and in many ways I wish I could resist the temptation to share things!

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

Through my work at Grays of Westminster I have a YouTube channel and write for the aforementioned Nikon Owner magazine. I’d really LOVE to keep making videos for the community and perhaps feature on other channels so that I can share the knowledge I’ve managed to glean over the past couple of decades of shooting.

Talking at events and generally shining a light on female photographers in general are all very needed in what is still a very male-dominated community.

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

My short answer is to make it more approachable. The community must be kinder to new photographers of any gender.

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

Because I work with photographers every day, I stop looking at their gender, but I do notice that when female photographers sit down at my desk and realise they can talk to another woman about photography, they not only open up but they stop being afraid to ask what might be considered ‘stupid’ questions. No question is a stupid question! Don’t know what aperture is? No problem. Wonder why you need to put a filter on a lens? I’ll explain it.

But it can be quite intimidating (for anyone, not just women) to walk into a place full of ‘experts’ and feel like a bit of a plonker for not knowing what to do or what to look for.

Having been intimidated in stores where the staff are entirely male (every guitar shop I’ve ever visited comes to mind!), I know how it feels to not be willing to ask the questions I need answered for fear of being laughed at.

If the community itself were more welcoming to those who don’t know anything we’d have far more famous female photographers in our midsts.

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

I attended a large photography event the other day, and for every table of ten people, two were women. Sometimes three at the most, and in some cases there were none! It just highlighted to me that there aren’t enough women in the industry overall, and I think that needs to change.

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

To all the female photographers I’d only encourage you to find like-minded individuals who are willing to keep you at it, and who share your passion so that whenever you feel stagnated or in a creative rut, you’ve got someone to bounce ideas off and inspire you. Or, if you’ve got a problem with your camera you can’t fix, contact me :)

Where can people find you and your work?

You can see my photography on Instagram: @rebeccadanese or for author stuff @rebeccadanese_books

My website for all things is: www.rebeccadanese.com

For all of my videos you can visit: www.youtube.com/graysofwestminster

1 Comment

  • Great interview, love the photos. I’m male but have questions about my camera, hope you don’t mind me asking…


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