Me: Hey Winn! Thank you for your time and it’s my pleasure to have you here! Can you tell us about yourself?
Winn: Hey! What can I say about myself, I’m just a simple guy who is in love with film photography.
Me: Tell us how your fate with film photography started?
Winn: It all started one day when I saw one of my friends posted some film photos of her trip to Japan on Facebook. The image has a sense of nostalgia of the olden days, the color, the imperfection. I remembered shooting my dad’s Yashica DSLR which was still sitting at home. So I dug it up and sent it to repair and the guy said it would take months. I ended up buying a Yashica Electro35 online to use in the mean time. Got a roll of Fujifilm X-tra 400 and started shooting. The result was ok, the grain from ISO 400 film was a little too much for me. So I started to experiment with different film types. I still haven’t gone through all the film I can find but so far it has been a great journey and I love it.
Me: What are the few benefits of shooting film? Isn’t it expensive and inconvenient?
Winn: At first I thought shooting film is so cheap because the camera is so cheap compared to digital. Then it started to sink in when I start buying more films and trying more expensive options. It can be very expensive but to me it is not inconvenient at all. One thing I love about film camera is that the battery last for months. Also the greatest benefit of shooting film for me is that it slows you down, make you think more about the shot. I feel that shooting film improved my photography so much more than digital has ever done.
Me: Do you focus on any particular genre of photography?
Winn: I personally love documentary photography. It has always been my dream to be a documentary photographer. I also love street photography, I feel it is like a casual form of documentary photo. I feel there is more value to a photo when there is a story behind it.
Me: I know you are a calligrapher, amazing work there! Do you think calligraphy and analogue film are somehow similar?
Winn: Calligraphy is all about the hand and the physical tool. Yes you can write on iPad but it will never really replace the real thing. Actually that is exactly how film and calligraphy are similar. The value of handcrafting something compare to a digital output is totally different. When writing calligraphy you have to think about which nib to use to create the line, which ink, which paper, all those elements effect the outcome. Same with film, you have to think which film type, which ISO, which camera to use to create the photo you want. Seeing the photo on paper is different from seeing it on computer screen. To me the soul of analogue is the unpredictability which creates a single unique outcome that can’t be duplicate like a computer file.
Me: Let’s assume you have to sell all your film cameras and only allowed to keep one. Which will be the keeper?
Winn: This question is difficult to answer. I have bought some and also got some amazing cameras from people who just have them sitting around. I’m still looking for the perfect one. My perfect camera is a small tough rangefinder with probably a 50mm with wide aperture that I can carry around everywhere. But if I have to choose what I have now I guess it has to be the Contax G2. I appreciate the quality and legacy of Contax camera, it’s just not a camera you can find anywhere. However, the Contax has its downside, auto focus doesn’t seems to hit what you want sometime and the obvious cons is that it’s all electric which make it quite fragile.
Me: When you travel, do you bring both digital and film camera? Will you consider just bringing a film camera in the future?
Winn: At the moment I bring both digital and film. I use a Fujifilm xt10 so it’s not too big to carry around. I have a Nikon DSLR too but lately I haven’t use it as much because of the size. I bring both because there is a limit with film. You have one ISO per roll and most of the time one roll last more than one day for me. I need to be able to shoot in varying light condition from day to night and sometime the film can’t cope with such extreme difference. Basically, I don’t want to miss a shot when I’m traveling plus I am planning to use those travel photos for future project as well.
Me: What’s your personal goal in photography in general?
Winn: My short term goal is to improve my skill and knowledge everyday, trying to learn new things and keep shooting when I can. I am also in the process of writing a travel article to accompany my travel photography. My long term goal is to shoot an assignment for National Geographic Magazine. I have plan to shoot some personal assignment that I want to summit to their annual documentary photography photo contest. I entered the contest last year but didn’t get selected. I will keep trying until I get it.
Me: In my impression, Bangkok is a lovely place for film photography because there are many labs that process films. Also, there’s an active film community and always have analogue film fair. Sadly, compared to Bangkok, the variety of films in Singapore is quite limited. Where do you always get your films from and which is/are the film(s) you like the most?
Winn: I have shot about 24 different types of films since I started. Starting from the cheapest end of course haha. My goal is to find the one that fits my style the most. I get my film from online shop like https://husbandandwifeshop.com They have some films that you can’t find in shops. But most regular film I get from A&B Lab opposite Central Ladprao. I also develop there so it’s more convenient. Airlab is also a great place to develop film, but it’s hard to get to by walking so it’s not my regular place. I’m still experimenting with different type of film. It is so hard to choose what I like most. The one that I like are Kodak pro image 100, Fuji Superia 200, Fuji Acros 100, ILFord FP4 125, and Kodak TriX 400. To be honest, I think each film offers different things depending on what you are shooting. I don’t think there are one best film that answer all your need in all situations.
Me: Will you encourage your friend to give film a try? What’s the first advice you will give them?
Winn: I encourage everyone who enjoy photography to try shooting film. My first advice would be to find a reasonably price camera that suits your style of photography. You don’t need an expensive camera with film photography, the result is mostly in the film. People who don’t truly love photography won’t take the time to go through all the hassles, but those who do will fall in love with it.
I post mostly on my Instagram which is “mrwinn”. I tried to post 9 image per roll of film and I always say which film I use in the hashtag. You can search #mrwinnwriting in Instagram to see my calligraphy and lettering works. I have done mostly wedding logos and wedding envelope calligraphy. My portfolio link for calligraphy is http://songponw.wixsite.com/mrwinnwriting I do many things and photography is more of a hobby at the moment. Anyway, thank you so much Nicole for the interview. I hope it benefit everyone somehow. I still have much to learn, and I’m loving it.
Thank you Winn for your time despite your busy schedule. He’s right, you don’t need an expensive camera to shoot good pictures. Film photography can get expensive if we are not mindful. I am still trying to cut cost on my part, however. For example, self-developing black & white film is very cost effective. Thus, I have slowly shifted to shoot more b&w now.
Anyway, visit Bangkok and get your colour films develop and scan there. It’s 100Baht (SGD4) per rolls.
Winn, I wish you all the best in achieving your goal!