FILM PHOTOGRAPHER INTERVIEW | BRIAN RICHMAN

1. TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF. 

I am in my late 50's, a British ex-patriot, now living in the USA. I have had several 'careers', working for a variety of computer manufacturers, working for myself and working in higher education. I made a start in photography at a young age. My father and an uncle (who was a member of the Royal Photographic Society in the UK), were both avid photographers and I recall learning darkroom and shooting techniques from both of them. 

Many people ask about art education, especially as working at university level is a major part of my working life. Well, I studied for the old British Diploma in Art and Design (DipAD) qualification but frankly the more interesting art education I received was with an artist called Slobodan (Dan) Paich who among other things was co-founder of the Artship project in San Francisco. 

I feel that what goes on inside one’s own mind and heart is more important than any qualification or diploma hung on a wall, what matters in the end is the body of work you leave.

2. AS A CO-FOUNDER OF FILM SHOOTERS COLLECTIVE, WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO START THIS PROJECT WITH CAMERON?

Whatever the reality, I don't think of myself as a co-founder at all. Cameron is the "main man" of the collective and I am more than happy to give him the “tip of the hat” for starting the FSC.

My role as one of the early members (we don’t get serial numbers, so I have no idea of just how early in this thing I am), is a mix of part member, part organizer and if you like, part activist.

Member: I take part. I post on the Photoblog and take part in the discussion on Facebook. I want to submit more work, but time is always my enemy, as I just don’t have enough of it to do what I want.

Organizer: I have stepped forward and tried to help make FSC happen. I think my philosophy is in part at least, that if you want something to succeed then you have to play a part in shaping it.

Activist: Not just FSC, but film in general. I always try to talk to gallery owners when I go to an exhibition and always say that I am a film photographer. It’s a way of supporting film by letting them know we are still here and going strong.

The idea of a collective was one that I had been actively looking to take part in. When I found Cameron and the FSC with film and the emphasis on the resulting image, this struck a chord in me.

3. YOU HAVE BEEN RESIDING IN A NUMBER OF PLACES. WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO SHOOT AND WHY?

I have indeed lived in several places. Urban, rural, and on both sides of the Atlantic. Perhaps it’s because I have lived in several places and countries, that in the end, I find that shooting where I happen to be is always my favorite.

4. WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR INFLUENCES IN PHOTOGRAPHY? 

Eggleston and Christenberry. Two Memphis greats! There is always a spot in my heart for Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier Bresson. I also find myself influenced by the most recent, greatest photograph that I see, so it can be a very dynamic thing. 

5. WHAT PROJECTS CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU IN THE COMING MONTHS? 

Winter in the Florida Panhandle is a time when there are few tourists and often some dramatic but not severe weather. I exhibited several really successful shots taken there at that time of year during 2012 and while they are digital in origin (so I’m not sharing them on the FSC blogs), I do want to revisit that area this winter, working exclusively in film. I also want to spend some time on refining my portraiture skills in 2014 and even if I don’t get as many competition wins or shots on gallery walls as I have in 2013, I really do feel the need to add to the body of work, which for film is not as large as digital. Why? Many of my negatives didn't survive as well as they should and some of my early prints are faring even worse. Now I take the rule to fix twice as long and wash four times as long as the instructions say to do very seriously indeed.

6. I SEE ON YOUR WEBSITE THAT YOU HAVE BEEN THROUGH THE AGE OF THE COMPUTERS. I AM SURPRISED THAT YOU HAVE NOT SHIFTED ENTIRELY TO DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY BUT INSTEAD STICK TO FILM. IS THERE A REASON WHY? 

Indeed so. I started out in the days when computers meant clipboards and white lab coats. How times change? The reason why I am not 100% digital has a lot to do with something Ansel Adams said. He was very aware of the coming digital age in image making and from his remarks, he was looking forward to what it might bring. I see myself as a hybrid photographer using the best method I can to capture the image I am after which for me is film. I then scan into the digital work flow and pursue what I think of as the most productive way of getting great results. If only Dye Transfer was still a viable process, it might be different but then we have to work with what is available.

7. RECOMMEND US A FEW FAVORITE FILMS OF YOURS.

I used to love Ilford FP4 from the 1970’s. as a child, I actually lived in the town called Ilford on the border of London and Essex, where they actually had a factory. The old Ilford films works there used to pump out fascinating smells for anyone interested in photography, let me tell you! These days I made the jump to Kodak Tmax, but am very excited about Kentmere films and will probably be working with that brand a lot in the next year.

8. I SEE THAT YOU HAVE SOME PRETTY OLD CAMERAS. WHICH IS YOUR ABSOLUTE FAVORITE AND WHY?

Define “old”? I really like my Nikon FG camera. It feels right in my hands and considering I only paid $5 for the thing, it’s a bargain. Only free would have been better. I used to use my Nikkormat FT3 almost exclusively, but it is now in need of a good clean lube and adjustment and the meter is only operating intermittently, so it has memories now more than use. My old Ansco 120 folder has great potential but the lens is just not as good as the Nikon ones. Then comes my Olympus compact… But wait! You wanted just one as my absolute favorite, which is kind of impossible to decide on. I guess the old phrase “it’s the one you have with you” applies here. Sorry!

On top of the bag (L to R): Olympus 35RC. Ansco 120 'folder'. In front of the bag (L to R): Nikon FG camera, Nikon E 50mm f/1.8 lens. Nikon 35 to 72mm F/3.5 zoom lens. Nikon EM camera, Nikon E 28mm f/2.8 lens. Nikon SB-16 Speedlight. In front of the Nikon gear: Nikormat FT3 with Vivitar 35mm lens and 70mm to 210mm f/4.5 zoom lens.

On top of the bag (L to R): Olympus 35RC. Ansco 120 'folder'.

In front of the bag (L to R): Nikon FG camera, Nikon E 50mm f/1.8 lens. Nikon 35 to 72mm F/3.5 zoom lens. Nikon EM camera, Nikon E 28mm f/2.8 lens. Nikon SB-16 Speedlight.

In front of the Nikon gear: Nikormat FT3 with Vivitar 35mm lens and 70mm to 210mm f/4.5 zoom lens.

9. HOW HAS FILM PHOTOGRAPHY CHANGED THE WAY YOU SEE THE WORLD? 

Way back in my art school days, and I am talking the early 1970’s, I used to think that photography (which was all film and mostly black and white too) could actually be limiting to the work of an artist. After all, you could paint or draw anything you liked in full glorious color too. Over time I learned that is not true at all. Remember, I started taking photographs even earlier in the 1960’s with 120 film, then went down to 35mm in the 70’s and ended up using digital in 2001, so for me, the way I see the world photographically is one that has most recently been affected by digital, not film.

In fact I find that using digital as well has made me even more appreciative of film and the relative slowness it can bring. I don’t spray and pray even with digital, I try to shoot only one frame per shot, I compose that much more deliberately and while I’d like to think about what I am doing properly, I know I still have a long way to go before I think I have mastered the craft.  

10. WHAT ADVISE DO YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO TRY FILM PHOTOGRAPHY? 

Go for it. If you know the world of digital photography, what you’ll find with film is better quality results when you get into the ‘sweet spot’ and much more reward for effort than with digital. Enjoy it – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

 

By Singapore based photographer, Kevin Lim. See more of Kevin's work on Tumblr or here, on the Film Shooters Collective 

Kevin Lim

Singapore

Someone who's crazy about cameras. Someone who loves photography but wouldn't call himself a photographer. Someone who's lazy to do PhotoShop. Someone who loves the smell and physicality of film. That's why he loves films.