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A few questions with James Neal

A few questions with James Neal



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What do you love most about shooting film?

Everything. The nostalgic feel, the delay at seeing developed frames, loading film, unwinding film, zone focusing, winding the advance lever etc. The feel and sound of the lever is such a satisfying experience which feeds into the tangibility of film photography. Being limited to 36 frames contributes to a change of pace. There’s less spray, hope and chimp; the process becomes more thought out. 

What is your favourite film stock to use and why?

There are so many great film stocks out there, but if I had to choose one it’d be Portra 400 as it’s so versatile and forgiving. Shoot at box speed or over expose by 1 or 2 stops and it’s still fine, the highlights will be OK, the shadow detail is there if you need it too. Fuji Superia X-Tra 400 is a cheaper film stock I enjoy from time to time due to the almost magenta look when overexposed. I’d like to shoot more Fuji Pro 400H so maybe your team will get a few rolls coming your way soon!



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Favourite camera to use and why?

Leica M6. A beautiful classic I picked up over lockdown. I like it’s simplistic design, just set the ISO and after that it’s just two dials and the focus ring. No auto settings, no auto winding. Just perfect. I feel very fortunate to own one.

What's your favourite photo you’ve shot on film?

I have a few but one that always come to mind is a shot I took of some wheat grass on Fuji Superia X-tra 400. It’s a simple photograph but it stands out for me as it was taken during a lockdown hourly walk after being cooped inside for so long, it represented the simple things in life and nature. That’s probably the most I’ve ever said about any of my photos as I feel the viewer has to make their own interpretation. 



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Any tips for someone who's wanting to start shooting on film?

Have fun and give it a go. Get a photography notebook to note the exposure types for each shot, that’ll help massively in the early days as you’ll get more for your money when learning from them. Overexpose to be safe, the last thing you want is muddy shadows. 

Best and worst thing about shooting on film?

The best thing about film is the anticipation to see your final frames and learning from the process. Not every shot will be your best and it’s humbling to see an awful frame you thought was amazing especially considering film costs money to buy, develop and scan. 

If you could shadow any photographer for a day, who would it be? Doesn't have to be famous or alive!

Can I pick two? One would be Vivian Maier. She was so ahead of her time and daring, so to walk with her for a day observing the people of America would be eye opening. The second is Paul Graham, I’d want to go back and accompany him on his A1 series. So one from America and one closer to home here in the UK.



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Do you work in photography or is it more of a hobby / passion of yours?

I now work in photography with my partner who taught me everything over the last 18 months. I lost my CAD job in the furniture industry during the pandemic and decided to work with my partner full time. She turned a hobby into a passion into a livelihood for us.

If money was no object, what camera would you own? 

I already own it in the Leica M6! I suppose I’d go for the Mamiya 7ii as it’s a rangefinder and small for medium format or the Olympus mju ii because my mum had one when I was growing up. 

Do you shoot colour, black and white or both? Which do you prefer?

I love colour film, it’s so inviting and vivid but black and white has that nostalgic vintage feel. I think I need to be in the mindset to shoot black and white, I love it for street photography and harsh light.

See more of James’ work by clicking here

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