Photographer & Artist
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SPECTRAL SHORES

A journal by photographer Jeanette Bolton-Martin
Collected field notes, thoughts & photographs

Return to the Analogue Wonderland

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I have a confession to make. Up until recently I didn’t have much interest in film photography.
(Sacrilege I know)
I could appreciate it, but didn’t particularly engage with it to a great degree.

To say I’d never engaged with film photography wouldn’t be accurate, growing up in the 90s, film photography was part of my childhood, in the manner of me running off with my nana’s cameras and photographing people’s knees, (we have a lot of photos of blurry knees knocking around). However, it’s not a medium that I can say I had an especially deep affinity for. It was a nice nostalgia, but I never felt compelled to work extensively with it. When I was in college I had the opportunity to do some film photography and work in the darkroom, but I’d be lying if I said I had some profound connection to the process. Film felt fiddly and high maintenance and working in the darkroom triggered my asthma. This aversion to time consuming processes is also what put me off working with medium and large format cameras at uni. In comparison to my SLR, the studio’s Mamaiya was a temperamental diva and I just didn’t like working with it.

Patience has never been my strong point. 
It still isn’t, which will be painfully obvious I’ve you ever see me waiting for a take out delivery. 

Despite my aversion to working with film itself, I adore the aesthetic. Through hours in Photoshop, more VSCO filter packs than you can shake a stick at, I poured time into getting my digital images looking as filmic as possible. Which was fine for a while. 

My draw towards film began slowly, and it grew from becoming a research nerd. I became fascinated by an album made by my grandfather; it was photos of his time on HMS Glory during WW2. This album formed the basis of my dissertation, working with it and diving into the research aspect of photography kindled a new appreciation for the photograph as an object. My journey into analogue started tentatively with instant photographs with my Spectra, later an Instax until I got to my masters and began experimenting with cameraless image making via cyanotypes. 

The further I move into research, the slower and more intentional my process has become, with a desire to work with mediums and processes that demanded I slow down, think through my images and let go of some control over the final outcome. This is also part of the digital process, but due to the instant feedback you get it’s a quicker and easier to react and adapt.
I’d also credit this shift and desire to begin working with tangible materials with getting older and more interest in the nature of time. Digital is still great, but I find film challenging and therein lays some of the attraction.   

Over the last year my film output has increased, working with an EOS 650 SLR and a collection of point and shoot cameras lent to me by my parents and inherited from my grandparents. Shockingly, despite my initial reservations about working with medium format I picked up a Lubitel TLR to play with and I’m currently saving for medium format SLR system… 

Now that I find myself in a quieter period, with time to reflect on what I really want to do with my practice, I’ve had an itch to dig deeper into film and analogue processes. My first port of call was to try some new 35mm and 120 film stocks which I picked up on the website Analogue Wonderland. I came across Analogue Wonderland via Elliott Knott (who recently wrote about his return to film) and Neil Piper, two brilliant photographers and ambassadors for the brand. 

Overall, I’d recommend them, between the range of stocks, quick service and my preference is to support independent businesses where possible (Amazon doesn’t need more money).
((I’m not affiliated with them in any way, just a happy customer.))

This online store has a brilliant selection of film stocks, including Cinestill.  I’m excited to try this stock; I follow a  lot of cinematographers and have a strong draw towards cinematography. I’d seen some of them using this stock in their photography work and it had a quality I was really resonated with me. I’m currently working my way through the 800T version with the 50 Daylight version waiting in the wings. 

Film has got me excited about photography again and I’m looking forward to seeing where deeper the incorporation of analogue processes takes my work.
(Hopefully not back to photographing blurry knees) 

On a final note, I’ve recently joined Ko-Fi! It’s the equivalent of an online tip jar and if you like what I do, any and all support would be appreciated. The money goes towards funding my work, and occasionally actual caffeine.

You can buy me a coffee here

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