I have been doing film photography for a little while and I am really interested to know about other fellow film shooters. Like how they got into film photography, and what challenges do they encounter etc etc. By interviewing, everybody get to know each other more and hopefully forge more friendships within this small circle of film photography.
So, in today’s post, I am featuring a fellow Malaysian film shooter, Shao Wen, whose film work I really like. Shao Wen is currently based in Melbourne and is super dedicated about film photography. Read on to find out more about him.
Me: Hey Shao! Thank you for your time and it’s my pleasure to have you here! Can you tell us about yourself?
Shao: I am turning 21 this June, currently a 3rd year full time Mechanical Engineering student in Monash University in Australia. I come from Ipoh, a small town in Malaysia.
Me: When and how did you get into film photography?
Shao: I got my first film camera in 2014, a Yashica Electro 35 GT, along with a bunch of expired film because I was not as financially stable compared to now. Hence that’s all I could afford. I wasn’t impressed with the results from expired film so I kind of drifted away from film and eventually sold my only film camera at that time. But a year ago I came across a Nikon FM2n in my local 2nd hand app called Gumtree and the price was alright so I bought it and started my film photography adventure again.
Me: Which genre of photography do you enjoy/frequently doing the most?
Shao: I mostly just take portraits of my girlfriend, generally anything I come across that looks good on film. However street photography isn’t one of the things I always do as using the Nikon FM2 is too slow for a quick snap, I’ll use my Olympus mju ii for street.
Me: I have followed you on Instagram for a while and really like your film photos! Which are the films you have tried and love the most?
Shao: I usually get my films in bulk, and cheap. I can never justify getting expensive film as I am not doing this commercially. I mainly shoot with the cheapest film I can find such as Kodak Colorplus 200, Agfa Vista 200, Agfa Vista 400, Kodak Pro Image 100, Fujifilm Superia. For black-and-white, I use Kodak T-max and Tri-X, whichever is cheaper and happen to be available. I am not really particular about the black-and-white film as I see things in colours, not so much in contrast and shadows.
Me: If you could only have one camera, one lens and one type of film for a day shoot, what will they be? What’s your vision & goal in photography in general?
Shao: It depends on what kind of day shoot, low light or plenty of sun, rainy or not and also my subjects. But in general I’ll bring my Nikon FE2, my 50mm f1.4 Nikkor and some Portra 400. My goal and vision is simple, get as many keepers as I can from every roll of film, so I usually don’t take a shot more than once in film, every composition deserves one try and that’s it, either I get it or not. This forces me to slow down even more and really learn from my mistakes.
Me: Do you see yourself shooting 100% film in the future? And what do you foresee about the future of film?
Shao: It doesn’t have to be the future, I’m already shooting 100% film. My digital SLR just sits in the corner now collecting dust, still not enough courage to sell it off though. The future of film is bright, Ektarchrome is back, biggest sign of how film has never died, a big group of people still loving film like you and me. More people are getting into this and film prices are slowly getting lower, more people are starting to provide developing and scanning services and that is good, for all of us 🙂
Me: Is there any great master(s) that you admire and draw inspiration from?
Shao: People often say buy books, not gear, but I never own any photography books. Because I feel that by reading and looking at other people’s work, my style of photography is slowly fading and be replaced by theirs. I want to take photos that I like, not taking photos that will get me famous, I am a strong believer of genuine style of photography, pure and simple. However I do enjoy Eric Kim’s work, also really like Mark’s @bleeblu on Instagram for portrait work.
Me: Do you feel any difference shooting in Malaysia versus Melbourne?
Shao: Big difference, I like shooting in Malaysia a lot more, because of the old town and old buildings feeling that goes extremely well with film. People in Melbourne are generally more open to confronting you whereas in Malaysia, people just cover their faces or walk out of the frame. Film is a lot more expensive in Australia so whenever I go back to Malaysia I’ll stock them up and bring them here. One Portra costs 19AUD whereas I can get it for half the price in Malaysia. However in Melbourne, the film community is larger, more people selling gears, and better finds at flea markets.
Me: Any tips and advice you have for film starter?
Shao: Don’t start with a Leica, Gear Acquisition Syndrome (G.A.S.) will hit you soon so start with something cheap but good. Recommended cameras are Nikon FM/FE, Pentax k1000 or equivalent, don’t be afraid to ask people, it will save u a lot of money and trouble, (if only I asked about loading film correctly).
Alright, thanks again for the time Shao Wen! You are right, by studying too much work of others, you might become their shadows. Keep it up and make your own style shine!
If you are in Melbourne, ask Shao Wen out for a photo-walk together. Forge more friendships! One struggle of shooting film is you don’t have a lot of friends around you that understand why you are using this medium right? Don’t you agree?