FILM PHOTOGRAPHER INTERVIEW | PAUL DEL ROSARIO

1. Hi Paul! Please let our readers know who Paul Del Rosario is.

I'm originally from SF, but Japan has been my home since 1991. The past few years been I've been doing a lot of studio portraits and some street here and there. Documentary  photography is what sparked my interest in photography as a teen, but I never really pursued it until this year with my first project that I'm currently working on.

2. How did you come to know about the Film Shooters Collective (FSC)? 

I stumbled upon the FSC from just surfing the web, and then I heard more about the group when I crossed paths with Cameron Kline in Japan.

3. How different is FSC compared to other film communities/forums?

Frankly speaking, I've never really shopped around for a film group so I can't really compare the FSC to anything else. But I think there's a commonality among film shooters regardless of group or forum; they all just embrace film for what it is. As for the FSC, the concept is very clean and pure; no hidden agenda, just straight up love for the emulsion, film type, processing recipes, GRAIN. I also like how the FSC showcases the photographers and their work and there's a strong sense of solidarity.

4. What draws you to film? What is so magical about medium format that got you to shooting them almost exclusively? 

Pretty cliched experience – I grew up with film, changed to digital, got bored, and returned. Processing film by hand, holding up the negatives to a light source, and then finally seeing your work appear on paper is an experience which is truly "magical" to use your words. I must admit, that these days, I go straight from negative to a digital scan, and I think this is
one crucial element that will keep film alive. I personally have a clean conscience knowing that I didn't apply some filter to achieve the look that I scanned. Some people are okay with that, and that's cool. People can debate this point forever, but I don't give a shit; I'm a purist in this sense. If I had space and access to a darkroom, that's where I'd be rather than in
front of this computer that I'm typing on right now. This is not to say, that I detest digital photography. I applaud digital photography where it excels in terms of a quick workflow. Film for me is very tactile, there's more expression in the natural grain, and stronger sense of nostalgia with the tones. I just love it. As for medium format, it's hard not to enjoy a big
negative, and I absolutely love the designs of medium format cameras. 

Favorites include the Pentax 67s, Makina 67, V series (square - no explanation needed), the entire Bronica fleet; just so cool and so much personality. That said, I want to stress that whenever I look at a picture of a loved one, regardless of whether it was taken with my iPhone or a Hasselblad, I still cherish the image.

5. I see that you and a few guys have a short documentary called "One Roll of Film" coming up. What is it about and what is the progress now?

You often hear questions like "If you were to bring only one book (CD, video, etc.) with you to a deserted island, what would you choose?" Similarly, the question behind the "One Roll of Film" was what would you shoot in Tokyo using only one roll of 120 film? Despite having lived in Japan for over twenty years, there is always something different and weird (in a good way) to discover about Tokyo. So, we wanted to explore what defined "Tokyo" for us.

As far as the shoot itself, the One Roll project really forced us to just focus on twelve frames, and it was a good exercise in discipline; almost spiritual in a sense. Also, one point was really to show the digital generation what it's like to shoot in film. This might sound so basic, but I've actually come across photographers that have NEVER shot on film. For me, that's like meeting
someone who has never used a pencil to write with; instead, they've used a keyboard from birth. Of course, for the One Roll of Film project any camera brand would suffice; in our case, we all had Hasselblads, and it was a tribute to this iconic machine.

We had thought about doing a follow up with other cities in Japan or even internationally, but I think this project ran it's course for the four of us. It'll be interesting to see what another group of photographers can come up with.

6. You have a lot of collaborations going on. How did you get yourself into them? Is it easier for a foreigner to get recognition in Japan?

Tokyo is very fertile with very creative and talented people both local and foreign, so it's hard not to get involved with projects. As far as getting recognition or success anywhere (not only in Tokyo), I think networking and marketing are big factors, which is horrible in a way. I know many very talented foreign photographers in Japan that aren't doing well financially because of their lack of skill to market themselves, and their Japanese language ability; such a waste.

7. I see you have a love for Hasselblad camera. What are its charms?

Without sounding too much like a Hasselblad fan boy, I think their Vsystems are great; awesome design, great output, beautiful shutter sound. The H5D is superb, but I'm not going to get into that since this interview is about film.

8. Please share with us one image which is your absolute favorite and why.

This is a shot of my son. It was taken on an ancient Bronica GS-1 that I had gotten from eBay. The prism had a diopter which didn't match my eyesight, and I didn't have the waist level finder, so I took this shot with nothing but the focusing screen on. I like this particular shot because I had become less concerned about camera functions and accessories; less technology and more focused on just framing and proper exposure on the film.

9. Please share some tips for people who might want to come into film photography. 

I'm assuming this question is aimed for those who have never shot on film and would like to try film photography (as opposed to those who have experience shooting on film and prefer digital for whatever reasons). To the potential film user: ask yourself "why are there so many apps and filters that try to achieve a film look and what is it about those filters that make it look appealing?" I think if you can answer those questions for yourself, then you can decide whether or not film is for you.

Paul has recently updated his personal blog. So please feel free to drop by his blog Photo Life Japan to see what he has been up to and learn more about his photography life in Japan.


Singapore-based film lover, Kevin Lim, interviewed Paul for this post. See more of Kevin's work on his website, on Tumblr or 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.