FREE FILM : USA presented by worthless studios | Neil Hamamoto, the Free Film Team, and Amy Jasek

Photo by Sean Jackson

Photo by Sean Jackson

Fellow FSC member Katie Mollon alerted me to the Free Film USA project a few weeks ago. I was online looking it up within moments, and subsequently sent a message to Neil Hamamoto to see if he would like to chat with me about it. Fortunately for all of us, his answer was yes! Haven’t hear about the project? Check out the press release:

FREE FILM : USA presented by worthless studios 

New York, NY - worthless studios is pleased to announce FREE FILM : USA, a conceptual public art project distributing and processing rolls of 35mm film across the United States for free. The project will be taking place in a 1973 Airstream trailer that has been converted into a professional darkroom and will travel across the country from August to mid-November 2019. The trailer will stop in 15-25 destinations, asking participants to take photographs based on their interpretation of the prompt ‘red, white and blue.’ The FREE FILM team will be using their stops as opportunities to interact with the local creative communities and gain insight on the unique vantage point of each location. 

Photography’s ability to capture a singular, unaltered moment in time is one of the most powerful tools of documentation. The medium’s history in America is particularly noteworthy. Introduced in conjunction with the westward expansion of the United States, photography has immortalized many of the most significant moments in the span of our country’s modern history. Though nearly 200 years old, film photography continues to be celebrated in this technological age for its raw, unfiltered and poignant ability to archive instances otherwise lost. 

FREE FILM : USA’s celebration of film photography is specific to its goal of capturing an unbiased look at the country. Participants are given free rein to interpret the words ‘red, white and blue’ as they see fit – whether focusing on its ties to patriotism and the experience of being American or how the words more broadly fit into their lives. Through this method of crowdsourcing, FREE FILM : USA will document an impartial, multifaceted, and well-rounded glimpse into present-day American life. 

With each stop, the project seeks to activate the local artistic community and encourage creative participation. Once complete, the project will culminate in a curated body of photographs forever memorializing this particular time in the United States and furthering the imagistic archive of American history. 

The FREE FILM team is made up of artists from a number of different backgrounds celebrating the arts in numerous modes of creation. This project will be a continuation of their interdisciplinary yet cohesive collaboration that has been established while alongside each other at worthless studios. 

worthless studios provides space, materials, technical assistance and resources for aspiring artists of all backgrounds to realize their artistic visions. Founded in 2016 by Neil Hamamoto, and incorporated as a nonprofit in 2019, worthless studios was conceived as a platform committed to knowledge exchange, manufacturing, and public art. The studio has begun to showcase work from new artists in a number of different mediums including sculpture, painting, photography and performance. 

Release date: June 3, 2019 Exhibition: FREE FILM : USA presented by worthless studios Dates: August 2019 – November 2019 Media Contact: Maria Vogel, team@worthlessstudios.com 

The Team

The Team

Neil was kind enough to answer a few questions about the project; my questions are in bold, and his responses follow.

What was the genesis of this project?

I came up with the concept back in October of 2018. I was offered a prime piece of retail space on New York's Canal street and wanted to produce a project under my studio's name - worthless studios - instead of using the space to exhibit my personal sculptural work. worthless studios is a 501c3 non-profit focused on helping new artists start their careers. We provide support by way of studio space, materials and tools. Sean Jackson had been working out of the darkroom in the studio since inception and in thinking about how we could produce an interdisciplinary project FREE FILM : CANAL was born.

I absolutely love the idea of the mobile darkroom in the Airstream! That's been a little dream of mine for a while, but it really is just a dream. How was that process, in terms of sourcing one and getting it ready? I saw some photos on your instagram that make it look like it was a hefty undertaking.

Yes, the Airstream build itself was a huge huge undertaking. We turned a disgusting 1973 Airstream Land Yacht into a professional darkroom, office and exhibition space in about 5 months.

The Airstream build is really another example of how we work collaboratively as a studio. Another artist who has been working out of the studio - Free Tripp - was a huge contributor to making the Airstream possible. He designed the entire plumbing system and electrical system and of course contributed tons of hours to the physical building of it. Caroline Doyle (actually a local New York comedian) was the third set of hands that helped make the Airstream possible. We had to learn a lot as we went but it was an extremely rewarding project in itself that we all get to enjoy now that we are on the road and so far so good.

I'm interested in knowing more about y'all as a group. The press release says "The FREE FILM team is made up of artists from a number of different backgrounds celebrating the arts in numerous modes of creation. This project will be a continuation of their interdisciplinary yet cohesive collaboration that has been established while alongside each other at worthless studios." So, who are you? What sort of art do you each make? And would you like to talk about any collaborations from the past?

I'm Neil and I'm a conceptual artist from New York and the founder of worthless studios. I typical make sculptural work from wood, metal and other prefabricated objects. My most recent works and projects recontextualize commercially manufactured objects to invoke the feeling of newness. I like to revive the identity of outdated objects in order to offer a glimpse of the future present through a nostalgic lens and questions the worth of innovation. Before pursuing sculpture as a full time career, I studied mechanical engineering - product design, and worked in the wood and metal shops for Jeff Koons.

Sean Andrew Jackson has been working to create a portrait series of hand-selected artists each of whom are unique contributors to society, and/or burgeoning artists on the rise. Using an intimate lo-fi monochromatic approach, his aim is to depict these characters as they are in daily life - animated and down-to-earth - behind the scenes and façade of social or commercial media.

Jackson is an American social-documentary photographer born in rural Virginia, now based in New York City focusing on exploring small groups of people. After studying journalism at the University of North Carolina, Jackson spent a period of time working in the newsroom at CNN before moving to Manhattan to apprentice for photographer and icon Bruce Weber.

He is deeply fascinated by the power of people and aims to pair his photography and film alongside his love for anthropological storytelling.

Free is an interdisciplinary artist currently working in New York. His works in sculpture, performance, and sound are responses to the relationship of the interior and exterior and the transmissions of the imaginary into what is real. Since 2018 Free has been working at worthless studios as an artist assistant to Neil.

Caroline is a comedian and writer living and performing in Brooklyn. She grew up in San Francisco and has performed stand up in Chicago, Berlin, the Bay Area and New York, as well as at comedy festivals like SF Sketchfest, the DC Comedy Festival, and Big Little Comedy Fest.

She’s a contributor at Reductress and has been published in the Pink Canoe and Little Old Lady Comedy. Catch her at her monthly shows Stacy at Rebecca's Bar in Brooklyn and Jokes Engineered at Caveat on the LES. Cheers!

Photo by Neil Hamamoto

Photo by Neil Hamamoto

How much film did you acquire for the project?

Quite a bit! We budgeted around 100 rolls per city and are stopping in 18 cities across the country.

How did you decide what cities to visit?

First and foremost I wanted to visit cities that I had not been to before. That list consisted of Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Portland, Santa Fe, Austin, New Orleans, Birmingham and Asheville. Of course there are tons of cities that I've never seen in the US so then it was deciding which cities were big enough to have a film photography market but small enough to not have the access to a darkroom or analog photo network. I also tried to keep the diverse range of US cities in mind and evenly balance our stops

Photo by Neil Hamamoto

Photo by Neil Hamamoto

How's it been going so far? How's the response been?

So far so good! The response from participants and visitors is always positive and I anticipate more of the same as we continue onward. We've finished processing all of the Detroit rolls and have made some selections to be printed. We've also started processing Milwaukee rolls and are excited to start building this exhibition on the theme.

Samples of work from participating photographers, from the Detroit stop:

Photo by Sean Jackson

Photo by Sean Jackson


Connect

Everything you need to know about Free Film: USA is on their website, and you can connect with them on Instagram. Join in! Visit them at one of their upcoming stops.

In the Place Where the Winds Rest | Shin Noguchi

Friends, today I (Amy Jasek) would like to present to you film photographer Shin Noguchi, who graciously agreed to share one of his projects with us. I have followed (been captivated by, and admired!) his work for a while on Instagram, and was particularly beguiled by the photographs he shared recently from some time spent in Hawaii. In my mind, having never been there myself, it is an island paradise punctuated by dangerous and fascinating volcanic activity. What I saw in Shin’s photographs was even better: a poignant reality, populated by interesting people. The icing on the cake for me, as a lover of words as well as images, is his expressive, evocative writing, which you can read below.

shinnoguchi_hawaii_FSC_01.jpg

In the Place Where the Winds Rest

I reached here again. When I was walking on this island, sometimes I met the wind resting without being tied to anyone, and without worrying about time. Additionally, I also met the “winds” who chose this island as their land of the end from where they were born and raised, such as England, Texas, New Jersey, Florida...

Cheerfulness, beauty, rest and quiet.. among with them, and political issues, poverty, persecution, discrimination, disparities.. that can never be separated from them, were also flowing on this island: the island of Oahu in Hawaii is known as "The Gathering Place.”

I will definitely come back here, in the place where the winds rest, and want to be close to them. As a person who came to this land before asking myself why.

Below is our interview, via email; words in bold are mine, Shin’s responses follow in plain type.

How did you get started with photography? Specifically, how did you get started with street photography?

I grew up surrounded by many arts, foreign movies, and Jazz and Rock music because of my parents’ influence, and I wanted to record it using something when I noticed that the extraordinary moments I saw in my childhood were existing in our daily life, our ordinary life. In my teens, my father gave me an old Fujica camera, and I would shoot, shoot, and shoot my own life and other people's lives. I really love the candid / unposed photographs of people from long ago. It has been around ten years since I came to focus more deeply on the concept of human beings / society, and now people call me a "street photographer" in this society.

shinnoguchi_hawaii_FSC_05.jpg

What do you enjoy most about street photography?

I think that street photography always projects the "truth". The "truth" that I talk about isn't necessarily what I can see, but what also exists in society, in the street, in people's lives. I always try to capture this reality beyond my own values and viewpoint / perspective, and I think, in addition to catching the truth, visual and emotional depth appears in the photographs as a result of being particular about the details. To shoot people with a camera is, for me, is like saying "hello". Sometime I use my mouth for it, sometime I use my eyes, and sometimes my camera, that's it. I just really enjoy "talking" or making conversation with people in the street, and if I use a camera for it, I always use the viewfinder; I never use hip-shots to hide myself.

Do you feel like your photography evolved in the time that passed between your trips to Hawaii? Did you find yourself looking at the place in a different way during your most recent trip, compared to when you visited in the past?

23 years ago, when I was 20 years old, I went there for the first time to visit my future wife, who was living and studying in university alone. I took some photos, but it was my first trip abroad and I could only record the superficial part of the land like other tourists. I really wanted to see and know what kind of life the locals were living, and I was able to visit there again in 2016 for the first time in 20 years. I enjoyed walking and shooting in the local streets better than last time, and this time, I tried to click the shutter by following the flow of the wind with which the locals were spending.

Why do you choose to use film?

I use Leica M6 and MP for personal work, and digital Leica M9-P for some assignments mainly. I really love the tone of the atmosphere that the film has over digital, especially Kodak Portra 400 that I have been using always. A digital sensor may be able to record almost every bit of information in the frame, but it can not capture an atmosphere, and I think the most important element in expressing human beings exists in this layer. In this layer that I call "the tone of the atmosphere," which also includes the photographer's own thoughts and process until clicking the shutter, that just existed before the photograph was born, and that arises from the fusion of "content" and "form".

Your family is obviously a big part of your life (I love the photographs of your daughters!). How do they feel about your photography?

While I'm scanning/editing photographs, my lovely three daughters watch and they give me some response, like "Dad I know this place!", "I was here when Dad captured this moment!", and they talk to each other about these moments. I think it's a very important thing / moment for the family to spend together, as well as making money to support my family, and I'm also trying to increase the time of parent-child communication through photography.

How great that they enjoy it so much! Do you ever let them borrow a camera to make pictures of their own?

If you’re asking “do you give your Leica to them when they want to use it to take pictures?” my answer is no, it’s too heavy for them, but don’t worry I give compact cameras to them, (not my smartphone!) and not just one: three cameras that I choose for each of them. I’m sure every father does this for their child; they choose amazing moments we never see with adult eyes.

Thank you so much for sharing your work and some of your story with us! I’ll be looking forward to seeing what you do next.


Connect

See more of Shin Noguchi’s work on his website (the full story on his experiences in Hawaii is here) , and on his Instagram. Also, be sure to check out Eyeshot Magazine; he is featured in the June issue! He is a member of the UP international photography collective. His new photobook will published this year in Italy, so be on the lookout for news about that as well.