Amanuel Ephrem is a Film Club Member who is currently featured in our Member Show Seasonal Reflections: Spring. The images he submitted to the Member Show caught our attention so we decided to interview him this week to get to know him a bit better and share his images with the community!
PL: What got you interested in film photography?
AE: When I was young, I discovered a collection of negative film strips at home. I asked my mom about them, and she explained how these negatives were taken with a camera, processed in a film lab, and printed to end up in our photo albums. These photos were from the late 90s and early 2000s, but at that time when I asked her film photography was being replaced by digital photography. This sparked my interest in photography, and I received a point and shoot camera as a gift. I captured moments from family gatherings and vacations. After graduating high school, I acquired my first DSLR camera in 2017. In 2019, I noticed a resurgence in film photography and decided to try it out. I bought disposable cameras and took them on a trip to Ethiopia, although I didn't see the results until I returned to Philadelphia. During my time there, I stumbled upon my mom's old film point and shoot camera, a Canon Sure Shot Zoom-S, which still worked perfectly. It became one of my most frequently used film cameras, and I've been shooting with it ever since.
Film photography attracted me for various reasons. Its unique aesthetic qualities, the tactile experience of using film cameras, and the surprise factor when developing and seeing the final results all contribute to its appeal. Film photography produces a distinct look characterized by grain, color rendition, and dynamic range that can be difficult to replicate with digital cameras. Additionally, shooting on film encourages a more deliberate and thoughtful approach to composition and exposure, as there are limited frames available and no instant image review. Some photographers appreciate the slower pace and mindfulness that film photography promotes. Ultimately, the allure of film photography varies from person to person, but these factors contribute to its enduring appeal for me.
PL: What type of camera do you shoot with and what kind of film do you usually use?
AE: The camera’s I use are a Canon Sure Shot Zoom-S, Canon AE-1 with a FD 28mm, and 50mm lens; Canon 1N-RS with a EF 28mm, 50mm, 70-200 L III, and 11mm fisheye lens; Fujifilm GSW690ii medium format camera. The film’s I use are Cinestill 400D & 800T; Kodak Ektar 100, Gold 200, Portra 160 400 800, and Tri-X 400. Many other film stocks to be tried out in the near future.
PL: There are a mix of black and white and color photos within this collection. What are some qualities that you like about both black and white and color film?
AE: The qualities I like in black and white film are the dramatic effects that arise from the absence of color. This absence can enhance the impact of certain scenes or subjects by highlighting specific details and emphasizing emotions. Without the distraction of color, black and white film allows for a greater focus on light, shadow, and texture, resulting in a timeless and nostalgic look.
The qualities I like in color film are its vibrancy and realism, which enable capturing the world in a more realistic manner. Color film represents the actual hues and tones of the subjects being photographed. Additionally, the expressive possibilities of color film lie in its ability to offer diverse color palettes that can be creatively utilized to convey meaning, symbolism, or evoke specific responses from viewers. This contributes to the mood and atmosphere of a photograph, allowing for the communication of specific emotions and enhancing the overall storytelling.
PL: Some of your photos capture people in candid or posed positions. What do you enjoy about photographing people? What is challenging about it?
AE: I enjoy photographing people because it allows me to capture emotions, expressions, and unique moments. It can be a way to tell stories, convey personality, and explore the human condition through visual art. Photographing people also offers opportunities for collaboration and connection, as photographers interact with their subjects to capture their essence. That said, there can be challenges in photographing people. Some common difficulties include ensuring the subjects feel comfortable and relaxed, dealing with unpredictable lighting conditions, and capturing genuine emotions or expressions. Additionally, I may face some technical challenges like focusing, framing, or dealing with fast-paced situations.
PL: Many of your photos have a beautiful quality of light. Is there anything that you purposely do to achieve this quality? What inspires you to take photos of objects that are nicely lit?
AE: What I really do to achieve this quality light is during the golden hour, I seize the opportunity to capture stunning images by taking advantage of the soft, warm sunlight that graces the moments after sunrise or before sunset. This magical time of day bathes the surroundings in a flattering and gentle illumination, producing captivating photographs. Additionally, the angle and direction of light play a crucial role in shaping the mood and dimension within a photograph. By exploring various angles and positions in relation to the subject, I can experiment with shadows, highlights, and textures, ultimately creating captivating and visually captivating compositions.
I’m inspired by various factors when selecting objects to capture through my lens. They are often enticed by the allure of beauty and aesthetics, seeking out visually captivating shapes, colors, textures, or patterns that, when bathed in appealing lighting, amplify their inherent allure. Additionally, certain objects hold symbolic or narrative significance, and photographers skillfully manipulate light to evoke specific moods, convey emotions, and weave compelling stories. Moreover, the interplay of light and shadow serves as a constant source of inspiration, compelling me to explore and experiment with different lighting conditions, ultimately unveiling the visual impact that each scenario brings to objects I capture.
PL: Out of all of these images, which photo is your favorite and why?
AE: My favorite image is of a dirt biker wheeling during golden hour. It was taken on the day of Game 5 of the 2022 World Series when my cousin (@tkfliks) and I decided to attend the tailgate party outside Citizens Bank Park to capture the vibrant atmosphere. As we were walking along Pattison Ave. towards the ballpark, we heard the sound of a dirt bike in the distance. Intrigued, we both started scanning the surroundings in hopes of capturing a moment with the rider. Suddenly, we spotted him and he began wheeling. With my eyes glued to the viewfinder, I followed his movements and started panning. Just as he reached the crosswalk, I snapped the photo, hoping it would turn out to be the perfect shot. When the film was developed, I eagerly searched for that specific image. To my delight, it turned out exactly as I had envisioned: not overexposed or underexposed, everything in frame, and the focus centered on the dirt biker.
Every day, Club Members take exceptional pictures. If you are not a Film Club Member yet what are you waiting for? Join today to support the photo community in Philly and to start saving money on film processing!