Andrew Grochowski is a Film Club Member who currently has a photo featured in our Member Show Seasonal Reflections: Summer. The photos he submitted to the show caught our attention so this week we decided to interview him and share some more of his work with the community.
PL: What got you interested in film photography?
AG: Back in 2015, my partner in college did photography as a hobby and I took a liking to shooting film. Something about really planning out your shot was more intriguing than shooting digital (although I have been shooting digital a lot lately). After vocalizing this new found interest, my Mom told me that she had some older 35mm cameras somewhere in the house. My Mom did photography when she was in College and she was pretty excited when I told her that I wanted to give film photography a try. I found the cameras collecting dust in our basement and garage so I decided to give them a new lease on life. They are still fully functioning and are usually my go to when I want to shoot 35mm Film.
When I finally got the impossible to find batteries for the Cameras, I biked around the city and shot my first roll of film! I made the rookie mistake of opening the back case before rolling up the film and wasted an entire roll of film. I wish I could say I learned from my mistakes but I'm pretty sure I have wasted a few rolls by doing that. While frustrating, it really forces me to take my time which is something film photography requires from me.
After some trial and error, I started to learn a bit more about my equipment and how to make them work for me and I’m happy with the progress I’ve made since starting!
PL: What type of camera do you shoot with, and what kind of film do you usually use?
AG: I’ve begun to amass a small collection of cameras that I have a soft spot for.
For film stocks, I usually go with Kodak 400TX for Black and White, Portra for Color, and the occasional Fujicolor because who doesn’t love Fuji? I have been looking into other film stocks but I'm keeping it simple for now.
In regards to cameras, my first 2 were a Nikon F3 and Canon FT-QL I got from my Mom. From there, I purchased a Minolta Maxxum 7000 AF that I like using for some Rowing Photography I’ve done on the Schuylkill River.
More recently, I purchased a Rolleiflex and Rollei 35 from an Antique store while on a work trip. I was skeptical if they were going to work properly but they have produced some of my favorite shots (most of which I chose for this feature). I have recently been bitten by the medium format bug and have been chasing down Hasselblads and Mamiyas on marketplace ever since. So far I haven’t found anything but I’m optimistic I’ll find something soon!
For digital shooting, I have a Fujifilm X-Pro 2 that I have grown very fond of after diving into the film recipes feature! I started with an X-Pro 1 and took the logical step to the slightly more refined model. The digital viewfinder is something I will always love about the X-Pro Line. I also like the fact that it’s a mirrorless camera and it allows me to use lens adapters for all my old glass that I have laying around. I recently traveled to cherry springs state park and the film simulations allowed all the beautiful fall colors to really pop and the slim body made it easy to lug around all weekend.
PL: There are a mix of color and black and white images within this collection. What are some qualities that you like about both?
AG: I love using black and white film for the heavy contrast! I tend to do a lot of black and white photography when it snows, and when it does I will go on a short walk with a roll of film and just shoot to my heart's content. I also prefer it in low light situations because it can be a bit more forgiving with light requirements. That being said, I have shot a lot of black and white on bright sunny days and it always produces spectacular images. I’ve also dabbled a bit with double exposures which can be much easier when shooting black and white because of the high contrast.
As far as the qualities of the images, the dreary tones you get from black and white give off this eeriness that I am oddly fond of. Additionally, it gives off an old timey feel that just feels right when shooting on a camera that was built well before I came into existence.
On the other hand, it can really help focus on an entire scene and not just a singular subject. I recently had some friends pick a photo I took of them in black and white for their save the dates because they liked how they were a part of the image but the location in the background told more of the story.
I currently have a love/hate relationship with color because it can be a bit more unforgiving if you can’t get a good light reading. Since I’m currently using an app on my iPhone for light readings, it can sometimes be touchy when choosing a subject. This could be solved with a dedicated light meter but I just haven’t picked one up yet. My love for color photography really shows in the photos of the Mystic River Bascule Bridge with how the brass plate becomes the focal point when contrasted by the black cast iron steel surrounding it. Portra 400 will do that to you. My hatred for it comes when I think the image is going to come out one way but my aperture was a bit more open than I wanted and it just drowns out all of the color. More user error but a great craftsman always blames his tools, right?
PL: Within this collection of photos there are industrial scenes as well as natural landscapes. How would you describe your style of photography? What do you like to take pictures of most?
AG: I prefer mostly static scenes when I’m shooting film. Both industrial scenes and natural landscapes allow me to take my time and verify that all my settings are right where I want them. This all goes back to how film photography really forces me to slow down and take my time for each shot.
I sometimes have difficulties describing my style of photography because I just capture a lot of different things. I probably have over 500+ images that I have taken and there isn’t much consistency across them. I hope to share more of these images over time but I can be very critical of what I want to put out there.
I will say, my infatuation with Philadelphia, its Skyline, and its little quirks hidden in alleyways are what draw my eye the most when taking pictures and are the one constant in my photos. I was born and raised in this city and I am always finding something new hidden around a corner. My Rollei 35 has been a welcomed addition to my collection because I can just pick it up and toss it in my jacket pocket for the day and capture anything I want. It can be cumbersome to carry around an SLR, let alone a Medium Format Camera, in a bag all day while exploring the city.
As far as what I like to take pictures of the most, it’s whatever catches my eye. It could be my partner, a bridge, a thought provoking sticker on a light pole, or a weird mushroom on a trail. They all caught my eye in some way so it’s worthy of a frame to two.
PL: The variety of viewpoints within this series of photos is engaging. When photographing, what are you thinking before you click the shutter?
AG: Honestly, what goes through my mind is, “Is this worthy of a Frame on this roll?” This became something that goes through my mind a lot when shooting medium format. I try to get as much as I can out of a roll since you only have 12 shots and with how film prices have been lately, you really want to make them all count! I think I get really annoyed with myself when I take 12 pictures on a roll and I only like 50% of them so I try my best to minimize that.
One thing I have noticed is that I tend to shoot a lot from a lower perspective. This is normal when using a waist level viewfinder but I also find myself crouching down a lot to take a photo when I’m using a rangefinder or SLR. I tend to look up a lot when looking for subjects so it’s not uncommon for me to find something at eye level and just ever so slightly crouch below it to get the right angle.
PL: Out of all of these images, which is your favorite and why?
AG: My favorite image out of this group is the one I took of the William Penn statue on top of City Hall. I took that photo early on in my exploration of film photography and I was very surprised when I got the scans back from the team at Photo Lounge! The dark silhouette contrasted with cloudy sky is very appealing to the eye and it’s a photo I will always be proud of taking. I'm so proud of it, in fact, that I will soon be getting it tattooed on me in conjunction with a tattoo of my first camera.
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