Instant Photographers – an interview with Karl Child
Here at Paris Polaroid Tours, we love chatting to people who share our passion for film photography and the beautiful city of Paris.
Meet Karl Child, a keen Polaroid photographer and founder of Shoot Film UK – a buzzing platform featuring artists’ work, publications and a forum dedicated to sharing thoughts, experiences & tips for shooting film.
Hi Karl! How did you come across film photography, what attracted you to it?
My parents always had film cameras when I was young so I had always known about film photography and I’d try to use theirs when I could. I have always been around photography because of family and friends, being in the skate scene in the late 90’s I’d often use disposable cameras at skate-parks. When I was fifteen I got a little kodak digital camera with a printer that you could sit the camera on and get print within minutes, I used it a lot and enjoyed watching the prints come out but it was really just a hobby. After doing some travelling in 2008 – 2009 I went back to England and decided to study photography at university as a way to refine my practice which really helped me understand photography on a whole new level. During university we shot a lot of black and white film and processed it in the darkroom. I bought myself a Bronica and was given a mint Canon A1 with a few lenses, that kind of set me up with everything I needed really. I use the A1 as my main camera now and use the Bronica when I want to do big projects. My girlfriend bought me an SX70 for Christmas last year which has become a slight obsession and I’m always looking for new cameras to play with. The whole process of shooting film keeps me coming back time and again. Having to properly meter light, study the scene you want to capture and set everything up properly before pressing the shutter. Having to slow down completely, I feel much more immersed in the entire moment with a film camera.
What kind of subjects/places to do like to capture on film?
I wouldn’t say I have a specific subject I enjoy photographing. I photograph because I enjoy the feeling of taking pictures. I love exploring new cities and walking streets, so I take a lot of photos whilst I’m walking. The urban landscape fascinates me as much as people watching, I like finding things that interest me and capturing moments I see as beautiful. That could be the way the light falls on a particular street or the shapes of shadows cast by surrounding architecture, it could be an ornate door or the remnants of human presence. I like to take photos that make people stop and think, something that may be seen as ambiguous or « ordinary ».
Which camera and film do you like to use most and why?
I have different cameras for different situations really. I love my Canon A1, it produces great images, it’s relatively small and lets me take control of everything. I enjoy using my Bronica but must say I don’t use it as much as I probably should. My Zero 2000 6×4 wooden pinhole camera is amazing and I love experimenting with that but again it spends more time asleep in it’s box than out with me. My SX70 is like the A1, I love to shoot with it, it’s compact but the film is costly, so I shoot as much as I can but not as much as I’d like. The limited frames do make me think about the images a bit more than if I were shooting 35mm though. In terms of film there’s a few that I haven’t tried that I’d love to like the Kosmo 35mm B&W film released this year, the new Rollei Vario etc, but I always seem to shoot Fuji C200, it’s a cheap film but produces nice colours and I’m always noticing the red tones it captures.
As a lecturer in photography at the City of Liverpool College, what are your views on tourism and photography today?
When you think of tourism and photography you immediately think digital cameras and smartphones, they’re everywhere you look. I have no problem with that, I think digital photography has worked wonders and people produce amazing images but it’s just not the same as film for me. I try to teach as many people as possible that film isn’t as difficult or as scary as they think it is. I think people travelling to different cities experience the entire trip through their devices and social media and don’t really see what’s in front of them, which is a shame. Having the opportunity to leave the digital world behind and actually look at their holiday destination, capturing only the places and people they want to remember in that moment through the use of instant film or indeed any kind of film is something I would recommend for anyone to try and do. I recently moved to a small city in Germany and I’m slowly but surely building up a little archive of images of the area shot on 35mm film. Going to new places is really satisfying because you notice things that people would probably miss or ignore in everyday life. Those are the kinds of things I’m searching for every time I go out with my camera and I think shooting film helps me slow down and observe these moments.
We found out you recently exhibited at the Louvre Museum, tell us more about this opportunity!
The exhibition at the Louvre was a great opportunity thanks to the Exposure Awards, I submitted some work I’d shot in China to their call for entries to the City theme. The contacted me and said they wanted to include my work and it was subsequently shown in the Louvre exhibition the same year. I always tell people to submit their work to open calls because you never know what may come of them. After having the work in Paris I had work shown in California through a separate open call I’d sent work to which was great. Some are free to enter, some ask for a fee to cover general admin and show costs etc, others ask you to send them your framed prints if you’re successful. The key is just to read their guidelines carefully and if you feel your work meets their requirements send it over! It doesn’t take long and the results can be very rewarding.
With Shoot Film UK, you aim to support film photographers around the world. How do you go about the mission to keep film photography alive?
I wouldn’t say Shoot Film UK keeps photography alive as such, the amazing artists around the world are doing that job just fine. Shoot Film UK acts as a platform for those artists to present their work to like-minded people. I set up the site last year and had no idea which direction it would go in but I’m happy to say it’s gone further than I ever imagined. I’m now sharing work to a global audience, supporting film photographers through open calls and artist features, shining a spotlight on those who are spending their time and hard earned money on shooting with film. It’s a place for people to go who just want to look at pictures, share theirs or read about what people are getting up to. I like to think it gives film a purpose. Many people shoot film, send it off to a lab and get the negatives back but never really do anything more. Shoot Film UK offers those people the opportunity to share their work, their experiences of a particular film stock or camera model, receive feedback and offer advice etc. Shoot Film UK is more of a hobby for me that shooting at the moment and I really love meeting new artists, sharing their images and building the community online. I’m excited for its future and I’m hoping to bring Shoot Film UK into the physical world in the near future too!
♦ Contact Karl Child