REDEFINE | FILM Photography feature by Julie Guertin


Tell us about what drives your work, How did you get started?

I bought my first DSLR a few months after my daughter’s birth almost ten years ago. We had just moved across the country and I felt lonely. I was quite grateful for the companionship of my daughter AND my camera! Documenting all her ‘firsts’ was a great introduction to composition and photographing moving targets!

Thanks to baby naps and cluster feeding, I spent a lot of time on Flickr looking for inspiration and in all honesty, my first attempts at being creative were not terribly successful. I was trying ‘too hard’, but I knew what moved me, and I had a burning desire to learn all that I could.

During the first seven years or so, I tried many editing styles. Over that period, I probably bought all actions available on the market emulating the ‘look of film’. One day, I thought that it might be a good idea to try to actually SHOOT film and because I can be impulsive from time to time, I bought a cheap Nikon N80 on a whim. One roll and I was absolutely hooked.

What is one thing that draws you to the magic of film?

It is all the ways I can experiment with film: bold colors, different kind of lights, multiple exposures… nothing beats the thrill of soaking a roll in a concoction, opening the back of my camera to create some rad light leaks or using my Holga not knowing what image will come out.

Being an introvert, experimenting with film is the vehicle I’ve found to be heard and fight the dark areas of my soul. It fills me with colour.

What were the challenges for you in the beginning, in your journey with film?

Shooting film sounded scary to me at first. The film was an unknown territory and the more I read about film photography, the more overwhelmed I felt. Rating, metering, pushing, pulling, the different camera formats… It was all gibberish to me. But I was determined to make it work, (read: stubborn!) so I kept trying, and I kept reading, and slowly, each element clicked in to place.

When I started shooting film, it was for personal work only. Once I felt confident enough from a technical point of view, I made the transition from digital to analog for my clients work as well. At first, I struggled with the feeling of having two distinct personalities: very calculated and experimental when I was shooting film and carefree when shooting digital. I had to find a way to close the gap. Figuring out a session flow that helps me get a good mix of candid shots, as well as intentional ones, has been the key. I won’t lie, my work isn’t for everyone; the number of images presented in my galleries is lower than when I was shooting digital, and the way I tell my clients’ story also changed. But I’ve also gained new ones that appreciate my quirky style and point of view. I’m doing it for them (and being true to me!)

What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to achieve this technique?

(Aim for at least 5, but any are welcome)

You are a Nikon or Canon digital shooter, and you want to venture on the film side? I have good news for you! It is possible to use your lenses on Some 35mm Nikon and Canon models. Nice, is it? Nikon shooters, you may want to look for an N80 or F100 and Canon users for an EOS 3 or 1V.

Start practicing with relatively still subjects insufficient light. As I said previously, using film often means shooting at a slower shutter speed than what you might be used to (with my medium format, it is not usual for me to shoot at 1/60s or even 1/30s). With time and practice, you’ll get used to it, but if you want to be happy with your first images, I would avoid photographing a running toddler or your dog on an overcast day!

Buy a handheld light meter. It can take you some time to get used to it, and you might feel like you’ll miss an important picture or disrupt the session flow, but trust me, a good light meter will help to avoid some tears, and unsalvageable underexposed shots!

The lab that will process your film rolls plays a significant role in the images you’ll deliver. They are the people who develop, scan and sometimes edit your pictures. They are a wealth of knowledge, and they are always happy to give you advice. So please, send your rolls to a reputable lab!

Don’t overthink every shot you take. Personally, I do think film helps you to be more intentional, but you have to be careful not to overthink everything because you might miss some beautiful shots while waiting for the perfect one. It IS a balancing act between these two elements – mostly because each roll has a very limited number frames (roughly 12 to 36 depending on the format) and the cost involved (when you know that each frame costs you x$, you are less tempted to shoot and pray).

Share with us your favorite film shooter and why?

This question is a tough one, and I will be rebellious and name two.

First, I would say that Wendy Laurel’s work profoundly moves me. This lady is crazy-talented and creative. She is a master in the art of evoking emotions, especially with colors.

Second, who doesn’t know Yan Palmer? She’s an amazing storyteller, a beautiful soul and I’m lucky enough to call her my mentor. Her work is visual poetry, and no one photographs love in all its forms like her.

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ABOUT THE ARTIST :  Julie Guertin currently lives in Melbourne with her husband and four children. She is a film photographer. She loves experimenting with colours, textures, and light.



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