For me, it was the hands on, analogue clunkyness that first got me into shooting film. I love anything that sits inside the early electronics that still demanded its user to be hands on with chunky buttons and levers - like cameras, record players, the NES. Shooting film makes me stop, compose life into a scene of shapes and tones, and create a recording of that moment.
What is your favourite film stock to use and why?
The Portra 400 is always a safe bet for both 35mm and 120 when shooting colour. I usually go with Ilford HP5 Plus 400 for black and white photos, as it’s full of rich contrast and just the right amount of grain. At the moment though, my go to films are the LomoChrome Purple and LomoChrome Metropolis, as the colours are crazy and it’s fun to see how they can make your pictures look like they’re from an alien planet or a dystopian future.
Favourite camera to use and why?
My favourite camera to use, without doubt, is the Lubitel 166+. I bought it with my first proper pay day cash after finishing uni, about 10 years ago. Since then it’s always been my numero uno. I love how the shutter works, the top-down view, the boxyness of it. Above all though, the square format of the shots is what sells it for me most, and I wish I could mask off my Pentax MX to do the same. I’m not too fussed about landscape/portrait, I like ‘em square. I have a Fuji XT10 for when I (rarely) use digital, and that’s permanently set to 1:1 square.
What's your favourite photo you’ve shot on film?
I’ve taken many photos which I’d regard as a favourite, because they all have different qualities that are relevant to the subject in the picture. But there is one that perhaps stands out more than others for me, because it was one of the first I shot on 120. It’s a double exposure, taken on the Lubitel 166+ on Brighton beach. I was only just getting the hang of the camera and still figuring it out, but I had a clear idea of how I wanted the photo to look. So when I picked up the prints and saw it was exactly how I wanted, I had a real sense of achievement and confidence that I was finally getting the hang of it.
Any tips for someone who's wanting to start shooting on film?
Starting off with a super easy camera like a vintage Kodak Retinette 1b, and any 400ISO film, and you can’t really go wrong. It’s a pretty simple, very solid camera, with a basic but easy to use light meter. Once you’ve got to grips with that, then a jump up to anything else isn’t too daunting. I bought a decent one on eBay about 6 years ago and still use it if I just want to take out a smaller point and shoot.
Best and worst thing about shooting on film?
The best thing for me when shooting film is taking my time, looking through the viewfinder to get that one perfect shot. It’s exciting waiting for it to happen. I prefer documentary style, so don’t really like poses unless it’s a blunt straight in the face portrait.Worst thing is that I’m usually tailing behind on hikes. I go up to the Lake District quite often and ticking off the Wainwright walks, so I’m usually back of the pack while shooting away or digging a camera out of my bag.
If you could shadow any photographer for a day, who would it be?
I’d love to shadow Martha Cooper for a day, she’s such a legend. She started out in New York City and Brooklyn, taking photos of the rising graffiti scene in the poorest (now very expensive) areas of the city and subway trains. Her entire portfolio of work is now a catalogue of the worlds best street artists and incredible street photography. So much so that Urban Nation in Berlin have just opened up a new exhibition of her work, and a documentary film has recently been made about her.
Do you work in photography or is it more of a hobby / passion of yours?
Photography is a hobby of mine. I’m a freelance graphic designer, and use photography and illustration to keep my mind ticking over personal projects. I have so much respect for full time photographers, especially the ones using film. There must be so much pressure not knowing exactly how the images will come out when it’s for a client or magazine deadline.
If money was no object, what camera would you own?
I’d love to own a Rolleiflex TLR, they’re amazing looking solid cameras and would be the logical upgrade to the Lubitel. The decent ones are upwards of a grand though, so I don’t think I’ll have one any time soon.
Do you shoot colour, black and white or both? Which do you prefer?
I shoot both colour and black white, and it probably leans more towards colour. I feel like it captures the full moment for me. I tend to use black and white film as more of a break, when I perhaps want to take photos that are deliberately more moody and an emphasis on contrasts.
See more of Liam’s work on his instagram here or website