As a zine- and printmaker, Mara Gervais understands very well the slow but rewarding process of anything analogue. The 25-year-old first encountered zine and printmaking at 13 years old, when she saw a Risograph-printed zine on Tumblr.
I love zines because there’s something about holding a physical thing in your hands, something that someone took the time to assemble, and I think that relates to what I love about printmaking - the texture of ink on paper, and the slight variations between prints. You can always digitally download a zine, or order giclée prints, but I guess what I’m really drawn to is the process, and the imperfection. My love for zine and printmaking also carries over to my love of analogue vs digital photography - with digital you have to simulate accidental light leaks, or even grain, whereas with film those are just unavoidable parts of the process.
We talked to Mara about 10 Years In Film, a photo zine.
Can you tell us more about your zine, 10 Years In Film? What did you take photos of?
The majority of the photos are of my friends at the time throughout the years. There are a few of my cat Taffy (RIP), who I could always count on to be a good model. But everything else I just came across and thought to myself, “Hey, that would make a cool photo”.
Ten years is a lot of time, there must be a lot of photos! How did you curate the photos that were included?
I had all my photos scanned on my laptop, which made it easy to compile, but I was having trouble deciding which ones were “good enough” to feature. I made 10 Years in Film to debut at the 2019 Chico Zine Fest, and in true zine fest fashion, was doing everything last minute. After lots of overthinking and multiple meltdowns, I settled on wanting my favorites to be included (ones where I made a conscious effort in style) but also a nice mixture of some “lifestyle” point and shoot photos - shots from nights of drinking, some from the classrooms of my Jr. High School, etc. It was a happy medium for my perfectionist side and procrastinator side to agree upon.
Can you still remember the cameras and film stock that you used?
I used mainly CVS Color Film 400, but also Kodak Ultramax 400, Ilford HP5 Plus Black & White, Lomography X-Pro Peacock and Lobster Redscale 110 film, and potentially others, but I’m not certain. I do know that I used a Canon AE-1, Canon T50, Minolta Autopak 560TX, Minolta X-370, Pentax K1000, and a Vivitar PS:35, but the rest were cameras on loan from my high school and college which completely escape me.
Over that period, what was/were your favorite camera(s) and film(s)?
My favorite camera was the Canon T50, which was my first introduction to film cameras, and was also my mom’s camera when she was the same age as me (14). I tended to buy the cheapest film I could get my hands on (thank you CVS), but I did like the Ilford film and both Lomography films.
Did you notice your photography style evolve through the years?
I did notice that I'm a sucker for a shallow depth of field and texture.
What were your most memorable photos in the zine?
One that stands out to me would be a photo of my older brother’s friends at pizza place for what must have been his 15th? 16th? birthday party. I didn’t know anything about photography at the time; aperture, exposure, etc. and would just shoot photos and cross my fingers hoping that they’d end up in focus. This particular roll turned out bad, very underexposed and blurry, but this shot really opened my eyes to how rewarding shooting film could be. There’s some cool blue lighting in one corner, and a hint of warm red lighting in the other, meeting in the middle to focus on my brother’s friend Jack looking off camera. Everything about it was completely unintentional, but it left me wanting to learn how to deliberately recreate some of the effects (gravitating towards a low f-stop).
Another memorable one would be a black & white photo of a Sierra Nevada bottle with candle wax dripping onto it - with a very shallow depth of field (am I predictable yet?) It was the first print I pulled of the semester as a freshman in college, shot on Ilford HP5 Plus 400. It was taken in the backyard of a house that I used to hang out at almost every weekend around the time - good friends and fun memories.
Do you still take film photos?
I do, but definitely not as often as I used to. I don't have access to a darkroom at the moment, and I might have accidentally left my favorite camera at a friend's house...for 3 years - oops (but just got it back a few months ago!) I’ve been in a terrible art block lately, and am struggling to find the motivation to create/shoot. In the meantime I've used disposable 35mm cameras and an old Polaroid OneStep, both of which solve my current reluctance to deal with aperture or metering (I am a lazy boy, what can I say).
You may purchase the zine through Mara's website.