Greg Williamson sits down with Elijah Clarke to discuss Elijah’s work with Tin Types and other projects
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am a book enthusiast, from a long line of them: the Jasek family business, started by my Grandfather in the late 1940s, was a book bindery.
So, Kindle schmindle: give me a printed volume I can hold in my hands! A great deal of book reading goes on in my house, although most of it is not by me; even with the best intentions I am pretty bad about setting aside time to read. That isn’t usually something Mom gets to do, unless it’s for a few surreptitious moments while I’m sitting in the school car line.
The books that sit neglected on my own shelves include a fairly hefty number of reference / instructional guides on film photography and darkroom work. My well meaning father, who has lectured me for years on being more technical, has gifted me many wonderful books that have sadly received far too little attention. I have to be in just the right frame of mind to take in technical information, and sometimes just opening them makes me feel like I am back in my college calculus class, where the professor would stand around talking about his fishing trip instead of teaching us what we needed to know. Still, I feel guilty about not reading those books on a regular basis.
To my happiness and ultimate benefit, into this climate of informational procrastination came an email from Wes Seeley at Princeton Architectural Press offering us a review copy of Andrew Bellamy’s brand new (released April 9 of this year!) book Analog Photography. I was thrilled and immediately jumped at the chance. And - spoiler alert - having read it from cover to cover (yes, really!) I will hereby be officially recommending a copy of this book to every film photographer that I meet.
For starters - and yes, this matters, book people will understand - the book itself is pleasing to hold. The feeling of the cover and the quality of the paper in my hands, as well as its conveniently compact size (think camera bag worthy) made me keen to start reading it as soon as possible. It says on the cover “Reference manual for shooting film,” and it most certainly is. The layout is easily accessible and engaging, with cross references on every page, a comprehensive index, and handy charts right at the back. The contents cover everything: from information about exposure and filters, to fundamental camera function, and beyond!
What I really appreciated about this book, besides the fact that it is packed full of useful information, is the simple, concise way that the content is presented. You don’t have to wade through a lot of extraneous words to get to the nitty gritty of what you need to know. There isn’t too much on each page, either, so you can process and learn in manageable bits. Lately my 11 year old daughter has been asking to learn film photography from me again, and true to form has asked me far more questions than I have the answer to. Well, guess what: I have the answers now. I am planning on having her read the book herself this summer. I am planning on getting my dad a copy, even though he’s been darkrooming for maybe 60 years.
Do you need a copy? Absolutely. Read more about it, and order one, here.
Now that I have sung the praises of his book, I would like to introduce you to the author, Andrew Bellamy. He was kind enough to chat with me via email about himself and his work; words in bold are mine, the rest are his replies, and all photographs are by him!
First of all, please tell us a little about yourself, and your relationship to film photography.
I'm English and living and working in New York City as a Design Director for global branding agencies. Growing up, my dad repaired cameras and projectors in his spare time, so I was surrounded by cameras, bits of cameras, and the sound of a whirring carousel. When I was little he gave me a broken camera to play with. I'd draw stamp size pictures of people, put them in the back, and then reveal them after pretending to take a photo. We had a couple of Cartier Bresson posters in the house so I was aware of photography as an art form, and my dad taught me the basic mechanics of photography. At high school I studied art and design, part of which was photography where we were lucky enough to have access to Pentax SLRs and a dark room, so I cut my teeth on film photography at a fairly early age.
What was your motivation for writing this book? What was your process like?
When I moved to Miami I got heavily back into film because the light was so nice, I had time to roam around, I found a load of expired Fujifilm in a dollar store, and cameras were relatively easy to come by because the market in the States is so big. I would mostly get cameras in need of repair and fix them up to use them (I inherited my dad's tools) and started the website ILOTT Vintage as a way of sharing how the cameras performed. As it grew over time. I would add descriptions of any technical terms referenced in the reviews to the glossary on the site, and the book started there. As the glossary got more and more entries—being a graphic designer—I thought it would be better off printed and a useful resource for people getting into shooting film. A lot of the cameras I had collected came with their original manuals from the 60s which were the visual inspiration for the design (you can download some of them as PDFs in the camera reviews). I printed 35 copies of the book myself as a limited edition personal project, and a publisher in Europe saw it featured on a design blog and contacted me to make a proper edition. It now has European and American editions and has been translated into German and Spanish.
I looked at your photography website and noticed you seem to have a fair amount of cameras (I identify with this!). Do you have a favorite? Or a favorite film stock?
It's tough to pick out a favourite camera as they all have their own personalities. For a combination of design, ergonomics and image quality I'd say the original Canonet has to be up there.
For compact size the Minoltina AL-s has all the same features including a fast lens, but it's tiny.
And for having the best viewfinder and sharpest lens the Konica Auto S2 is hard to beat, but sharpest isn't always best.
My favourite set of cameras are 3 black Minoltas; an SRT-101, Hi-Matic 7s, and a Minoltina P. I could go on but those are all great. As for film stock I'm not fancy. I bought a lot of that expired Fujifilm and it lasted me a while, before I got into shooting slide film. I collect a lot of Kodachrome slides; the image quality is unreal, and I would have loved to shoot on Kodachrome before it was discontinued.
What’s next for you? Do you have any projects in the works?
Analog Photography has introduced me to a broader network of film lovers, and I’m looking forward to future collaborations with exciting and like minded projects such as you guys at FSC.
I have a new book in the works, and I continue to develop fonts for the -OtherwhereCollective project, and will keep updating the ILOTT Vintage website and instagram with results from all of the cameras I own but have still yet to test.