Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ty Phillips - 5 things I love about Film

Ty Phillips is a 40 year old amateur photographer from Chicago. He manages a software engineering team during the day.
"I was bitten by the photography bug about 7 years ago, first experimenting with a digital SLR but instantly feeling dissatisfied with it and finding myself drawn to the old Nikon 35mm my wife used during photojournalism school." Phillips says. "I wanted to learn traditional film photography and as soon as I saw the results from my first roll, I was hooked. These days, I shoot nearly exclusively black and white, and find never ending inspiration in the works of André Kertész, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helen Levitt and Ralph Gibson, to name just a few."
Here's his 5 reasons why he loves shooting film...

1. You learn to read the light. Film cameras by virtue of their simplicity have significantly less automation then today's digital equivalents, and except for the most recent of models, have more simplistic metering systems (or no light meter at all). This forces the photographer to grasp how to read light and master proper exposure, including gaining an understanding of the contrast range of a scene. My understanding of light and exposure improved many times over once I started using a meterless camera. Every photographer can benefit greatly from acquiring this skill.

2. It forces one to economize. You'll hear this time and time again from photographers who appreciate using film. When images are "free", quantity goes up and quality goes down. When you recognize that there are a limited number of shots per roll you learn to put more thought into each shot and your ratio of hits to misses increases accordingly.

3. The wait. This reason seems to resonate pretty strongly with film photographers in general. Since it can take weeks or even months to get around to processing your film, you tend to forget what you actually shot, which can be a good thing. The great photographer Garry Winnogrand supposedly waited at least a year after shooting before developing his film because he felt that in this time, he would become objective and not look at an image with his judgement clouded by the memory of taking the photograph. I cannot argue that if you are a working photojournalist under tight deadlines, the speed and convenience of digital photography is a godsend, but for me I am under no such constraints. I photograph for one reason and one reason alone - my own pleasure - and I am rarely in a hurry.

4. Rangefinder cameras! Early on in my film photography experience I switched to using a Leica rangefinder and once I did, I never had any desire to use anything else. The rangefinder distills everything a camera needs to do down to its basic elements: aperture, shutter speed, focus and framing. Particularly on meterless models, there is absolutely no automation. Everything is manual. No batteries to worry about. A clean frameline which floats in space, allowing you to see your surroundings and compose accordingly. True, you can spend an absolutely obscene amount of money on one of today's digital Leicas, which will rapidly become obsolete, or you can pay a small fraction of that price for a used film model that will give you many, many years of service and hold - or even increase - its value over time.

5. The film aesthetic. Images shot on film simply have a different appearance than digital images, particularly with the 35mm format. The grain, tonal characteristics and minor imperfections present in film based photographs all add an artistic, human element which present a stark contrast with digital images, which can appear clinical and sterile in comparison.

See more of Ty Phillips' work on his Flickr page.

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  1. I believe 2 of these are the citadel of BETHLEHEM: fifth and sixth pic and the pics of JERUSALEM: first, second, third, fourth, and seventh ... the fourth pic is SILWAN area outside of Jerusalem to the SE.

  2. Any idea of which direction the first picture (of the Dome of the Rock) is taken? The stand-alone minaret is now gone, obviously.