Previously a music journalist, Stephen Dowling now writes for the BBC. If that isn’t interesting enough, London-based writer is also passionate about film photography. He has blog called zorkiphoto where he writes about all his favourite cameras and film types. The folks over at Lomography UK lent him an LC-A 120 and, as you’ll see in a bit, he managed to get some wonderful shots.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a New Zealander who’s called London home for the last 20 years. I came here to seek my fame and fortune as a music journalist back when writing about music seemed like a viable career. Now I work for the BBC, helping edit BBC Future, a features site all about science, health and technology. It’s an odd career change but I absolutely love it.
About 15 years ago I got into photography in a big way, put my all-singing, all-dancing autofocus Canon camera in a drawer, bought a manual Praktica 35mm camera and taught myself photography from the basics. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Why do you choose to shoot with film?
Film slows you down, it makes you think about the shots you’re taking; you have 12, or 24 or 36 frames to play with before you have to reload the camera. Compare that to the thousands of shots that we can take on our smartphones and DSLRs. Film has qualities – grain, rich blacks, contrast and detail – that digital just can’t seem to match. And every different kind of film seems to have its plus points and strengths.
Plus, there’s the joy of using the cameras, especially from the golden age from the late 1960s through to the early 1980s. It’s tactile and real. It makes you feel like you’re actually creating something, rather than stabbing a button and letting a computer do the rest.
Also, with a load of film discontinued over the last decade, this is a kind of last opportunity to shoot with a load of films that will disappear soon. Film has a limited shelf life, after all.
How did you get on with the LC-A 120?
I absolutely loved it. I have a few medium format cameras, and one of my photographic goals for the coming 12 months is to use them more; on a trip to Morocco last year I took my old KMZ Iskra, which is an old folding camera made in the Soviet Union in the 1960’s. You really notice the difference when you shoot slides, the depth and colours are amazing.
I’ve been shooting with the original Lomo LC-A since 2000, when I picked up an old Soviet-era model. It was the first time I’d shot pictures in that way – cross-processing, creating blur and light trails, making drama out of the Lomo’s famed vignetting.
I was really surprised when the camera was unveiled and was really curious about using one. When one arrived in the mail for a few weeks testing, the first thing that impressed me was the camera’s solidity. This doesn’t feel like a camera that’s going to fall to pieces if it’s accidentally dropped. The loading mechanism is really smart – one drawback with medium format cameras is that they can be really difficult to load. But the LC-A 120’s pretty simple to load using the tabs in the film chamber. And the lens really has the characteristic “tunnel vision” that’s drawn so many people into the Lomo world.
I took the LC-A 120 down on a sunny Saturday before Christmas to Brighton; it’s one of my favourite places to take pictures and I rattled off four or five films down there. I was hugely impressed with colour rendition from the lens; all the shots, either on print film of cross-processed Kodak slide, are blessed with beautiful colour and contrast. There’s real bite in the deep blue skies and the rich golden colours of the evening sun look fantastic. I also took the camera along to a pantomime horse race in Greenwich, near where I live in south east London. It was another beautiful day, and the colours on the cross-processed slide – some rolls of discontinued Kodak Ektachrome I’d found in Istanbul – are exceptional.
Put it this way; I want one.
What’s in store for you in the next 12 months?
Last year I did my first exhibition in Cluj-Napoca in Romania, of a project shooting bands at soundcheck that I’ve been working on for the last decade. It was a great experience and I want to do it as much as possible; my next exhibition will be in Paris in March. Hopefully it won’t be the only one. I’ve built up a blog about analogue photography over the last couple of years and I’ve working with the wonderful folk at London’s Film’s Not Dead on a series of tips for those dipping their toes into the world of film photography, collated with the help of other film photographers. And otherwise? Taking more pics. I have a freezer full of film and a cabinet full of old cameras. I’m never happier than when I’m out using them. This I year I’d like to visit Malta and Albania, Vienna and Nashville, and perhaps Bulgaria. You can rest assured I’ll have my cameras with me.
written by hannah_brown on 2015-01-14 #people #art #analogue-photography #camera-reviews #uk #lomography-gallery-store #gallery-store #features #analogue-cameras #lomoamigo #eastlondon #120-films #stephen-dowling #londonsoho