• Photo Story: Film Photo Journals

    Photos are everywhere — with the immediacy of Instagram, blogs everywhere, and constally-updated image feeds streaming all day all the time, sometimes it's nice to take a step back and go back to where we started. And isn't instant film actually the original Instagram? In a world before the Nashville filter, you had one shot to capture the moment and watch it develop before your eyes. And now, thanks to the resurrection of instant film from Polaroid and Fujifilm, we can go back to our film roots anytime we want. To take some of their new instant film out for a test run, we sent it around the world, from the Netherlands to the Nevada desert, and asked a mix of photographers (who also happen to have some of our favorite Instagrams) to go analog: read on for their photo journals and our conversations with them about photography's ability to connect, how to shoot in the moment, and the nostalgia of film. 

    Santa Fe, NM
    How do you describe your photography — what are you most drawn to in what you shoot?  
    Most of my work takes place in an urban setting. Sometimes my photos are a little abstract, sometimes more straightforward, but I’m always trying to accentuate the color and form in everything I photograph. I love the complex design elements that exist in an ordinary urban landscape and I hope to bring attention to these details that some people may not notice. Someone once described my photographs as “Urban Dreamscapes” which I really love. I am definitely interested in creating dreamlike spaces that perhaps make people think twice about the environment they live in.

    What did you shoot for this series? 
    I shot this series in various parking lots around downtown Albuquerque, NM. I’m always really attracted to strong colors and bright sunlight. New Mexico light is really incredible for the type of images I like to make. I had not used Impossible Project film before this series so this was all an experiment for me. I really love the different tonalities each pack has to offer and seeing the image develop was surprising each time. My Instagram work is really sharp and colorful and these are a lot softer and moodier to me.
    What benefits come from the immediacy of sharing images on Instagram? 
    It’s been the perfect outlet for the type of work that I enjoy doing. I go on a lot of walks and can just pull out my phone and take a photo anytime I want to. This way, I’m able to live my life and experience things as they come and create images in a more organic way. Instagram and social media make it so incredibly easy to put yourself and your art out into the world if you want to. It has really changed photography in a lot of ways. Some might think it’s changed it for the worse, but I like to try and view it as a positive thing. There are a lot of great artists out there and so much we can all learn from one another. I’ve had people who I really admire follow me or contact me via Instagram and that’s a great feeling. Plus, seeing an audience or following of people evolve before my eyes and continue to grow over time has been so wonderful. I love that we are all able to share bits and pieces of our lives if we so choose and the possibility of forming connections with people whose work you really enjoy.
    Film vs digital?
    I enjoy them both. Digital can be helpful when you crave that immediacy or need direction on something you’re working on. Film is more of a process. Shooting with film helps me to slow down and think more about why I am making a particular image in the first place and why I want it to look a certain way. It’s kind of nice to shoot a roll of film then forget about it for a little while. Until I actually develop the negatives I really have no idea what the results will be.
    What's next for you?
    I have recently started building tabletop-sized rooms or models that I paint and then photograph. I am trying to recreate something similar to what I photograph out in the world but on a much smaller scale and in the comfort of my own garage. This way, I am able to have more control over the design elements in my work. I am also working on my first photo book that will contain some of the images that I’ve shared on Instagram. It will be refreshing for me to see it all in a book rather than on a screen. I think the images I share on Instagram will be an ongoing project in itself that I will continue for a while. I’ve realized that doing anything creative and being open to trying new things is always productive and can lead to something even bigger and better than you originally imagined. Or you can end up with results you never expected. Art/life is surprising in that way.

    Los Angeles, CA

    What are you drawn to in your work?
    I kinda view myself as a healthily even split between Peter and Wendy. In this way, I'm a really simple person who sees the world as a magical place, constantly generating new forms of itself. There are endless opportunities to just...find. I'm moved by it and sometimes heartbroken, but find reason everyday to fall in love with this planet more and more. I don't shoot exclusively in color but find myself really drawn to it, because of what it can translate to. There's a part of me that wants to paint the world in a brighter shade, because that's how I often feel it to be. The photos I take are the results of finding other worlds within the one we're bound to. A phrase I've been using for a long time to describe myself and how I prefer to live is "opulently minimal." Finding richness in simple ways. I think this describes my work as well. 

    What did you shoot for this series? 
    I'd never seen the round frame for Polaroid! It immediately made me think of words like "planet," "world," "safety," and the idea of loneliness as comfort. Often times the most impactful moments I have experienced have been by myself, doing completely mundane things. I can find myself suddenly inspired to stop moving and witness the clouds doing their thing when the moment offers itself, or to do something ridiculous when I'm alone. This photo series reflects the idea of innocent actions experienced by oneself, and maybe feeling a little blissful because of nothing in particular, other than the moment. 

    You have an amazing Instagram! What benefits come from its immediacy of taking and sharing images? 
    I love Instagram because of the community it invites. It's easy to become cynical about going outside and seeing everyone taking photos with their phones but the truth is, I'm pretty stoked to see individuals who are eager to share the positive experiences in their lives, especially when it's people like a friend's mom, or someone's nephew, my kid sister, or a teenager living in a part of the world I never even knew existed—people who wouldn't really have such immediate exposure to their own creative side. Just like anything on the Internet, it has the sort of "One Ring" potential to go either direction, but I follow really amazing artists who impact my process, and feel great that I can also inspire art and tell my story. The full circle effect is nice that way.

    Film vs digital? What are the benefits/difficulties of each?
    Both are awesome. I know I'm supposed to say that but I actually mean it. For me, digital is my go-to since I'm so drawn to the crispness of an image, but my partner shoots on film and I often find myself geeking over the way he captures the same subject in a completely different way. 

    Portland, OR 

    How do you describe your photography — what are you most drawn to in what you shoot? 
    I'll shoot whatever I'm doing and whoever I'm with but most of the time I'm by myself in nature. [I am drawn to] nostalgia and feelings and real moments. In any situation when those moments arise, I will try and capture it. 

    Where were you when you were taking these photos? And where are these horses?!
    I was shooting Nevada desert life for this series. I spent all last summer in Alaska and ever since I've been back I've been craving the desert. I started out in the small town of Cold Creek, some 40 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The backdrop of the town is the Spring Mountain range and the road leading up passes though a Joshua Tree forest with wild horses walking around. It has all my favorite things right now: mountains, desert, and horses. I had to stop myself from shooting all my film there. The rest of my time was spent zigzagging across the state looking for signs of life and remains of the Nevada Wild West. 

    Can you share more about your thoughts on Instagram — you have a really active following. What benefits come from its immediacy? 
    The benefit is other people being able to connect with you through a photo you've just taken. Instant connections all the time. I've met so many great people from Instagram. Strangers are willing to give you a place to stay and buy you food, it's crazy! I was in Austin last year living outside with friends and some kind folks who followed me on Instagram would stop by where we had our camp set up and bring us food. One girl even let us and all our dogs stay at her place on a cold night and use her shower. 

    Film vs digital? 
    Film is nostalgic and has character. Those are my favorite things about it. It's more expensive though over time and a it's process to get your film developed and scanned. I'm shooting everything on film these days besides my iPhone. 

    What's next for you? 
    I'm just hoping to keep moving. I felt like I took more time off last year than I needed. Some things that have my attention this for year: Patagonia, wild horses, train hopping and the Eastern Sierras. 

    Maurice van Es
    The Hague, The Netherlands
    Website / tumblr / Instagram
    Film: Fujifilm Instax

    What are you drawn to in what you photograph?
    I use photography in two different ways: I do projects were I make typologies or repeat a certain action. In this kind of work I use photography to describe my relationship toward my subject. Here the idea is more important. And the other work is made more intuitively. I always have my camera with me wherever I go, so I can photograph something that amaze me. Taking a photograph sounds so easy. But sometimes the whole process around it still fascinates me. You point out your camera to something and push the button and then you “have” this photograph that refers to this certain moment or circumstance that in reality does not existing anymore. "Why do people photograph?" was an important question in my thesis. As a conclusion I thought people use photography to express their powerlessness to time. It’s the most we can do to control it. First we came up with paintings to perpetuate the most important persons. And later on photography took over this role and made it accessible for everyone. But this need to still time, to enrich the now, was always there.

    What about Instagram?  
    I use Instagram to show others what I saw and was in front of me at a certain moment. If I’m wondered by it, maybe others can be amazed by it too. I basically share everything I’m enthusiastic about, so also books, prints and exhibitions I’ve made. I love how you can get acces to the environment of the one you follow. Like Hirootas showing me Tokyo through his eyes, David Brandon Geeting New York, and Nico Krijno takes us to South Africa. I sometimes like to be aware of the idea that every picture you see has been taken by a person with a camera or phone. Like the camera has two sides, what happens in front of the camera (subject) and what happens behind (intention). Thinking what has driven the person to make the picture / body of work can fascinate me.

    Film or digital?
    It depends on my subject. My subject and my relation towards my subject decide what camera would be fine to use. I recently made a project with my mobile phone, here I photograph my father in his car, every time when he picks me up somewhere. That happened naturally.

    What are your main creative influences?
    I love the poems of Wislawa Szymborska. Szymborska (1923-2012) was a Polish poet who wrote about the most insignificant simple subjects we all take for granted but with her words you can look at these things again in a different way. She can make the most complex things very simple, and the most simple things very complex. Other things that influence my work are my childhood, my girlfriend, my friends, Seinfeld, Curb your Enthusiasm, Werner Herzog, Ernst Reijseger, Morrissey, dinosaurs, time.

    What's next for you? 
    My first book, Now will not be with us forever, will be published by RVB books in Paris this spring. Really excited about that.

    Seattle, WA

    What are you drawn to in your photography? 
    I love discovering new textures and colors in nature. This fall I found a bush with bright pink berries in the woods. If I see something like that I have to take a picture or bring it home to create art with it: puffy seeds, exotic-looking leaves, delicate petals...there's so much variety in the natural world and I have an itch to capture it all.

    What did you shoot for this series specifically? 
    I set out to create images that played with light and dark. I wanted to show the whimsy of outlines, like thistles, feathers, and ferns. I mostly used pieces in my collection, my backyard, and my fridge and put them on my white table. What resulted was similar to the sun prints I made as a child, the first form of photography I ever used. I also tried to get creative with patterns and designs. I couldn't capture the color of pomegranate seeds, but they made perfect dots!

    What are your thoughts on Instagram as a platform for sharing images? 
    I love finding something surprising in the forest or in a flower shop that I haven't seen before and showing it off online. I get to have that immediate camaraderie with my followers, all of us being in awe of something at the same time. It's a fun community and I feel like I'm telling my friends all about the latest gossip. Like, "Have you seeeen this type of broccoli?" When I first started my Flora Forager account I had no idea pictures of flowers would receive such great reception. It had only been a week since I'd started and I was out foraging crab apples with a friend when I saw Design Sponge had regrammed one of my photos. I had a panic attack, I was so excited. I just can't believe how small the world is: we have everyone who has an Instagram at our fingertips. One hundred years ago new flowers were drawn with pencil and would take months to be published before the world could see them. Now you can look up any flower you want with a hashtag. It's fantastic. 

    What's next for you?  
    I am working on a collaboration with The New York Botanical Garden Shop for their upcoming Frida Kahlo Exhibition, my work will be on the cover of the gardening newspaper and online magazine Pith + Vigor, and I'm working on a collaboration with a clothing brand I've been crushing on for forever. I'm also adding cards and posters to my online print shop in the next couple of weeks.  In the future I'd love to make a children's book with Flora Forager artwork. Having my work published would be a dream come true for me. 

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