Calvin Leon is an active photographer within the community and REC Philly Film Club Member. We have always enjoyed seeing the photos he submits to Member Shows and what he posts on Instagram. This week we decided to interview him and learn more about a project he is releasing.
PL: What got you interested in film photography?
CL: When I started, I was ironically interested in the accessibility to equipment. I wanted a DSLR when I first got into photography, but I couldn’t afford anything more than a used Canon Rebel, which really helped me get started but felt limiting. Film was $4/roll at the time and I was able to find some good starter cameras on eBay for a lot cheaper than digital equipment which I couldn’t really afford in high school. I very quickly realized I grew a preference to film over digital for many reasons other than price, which has impacted my shooting style and eye over time.
PL: What type of camera do you shoot with, and what kind of film do you usually use?
CL: This changes frequently, as I am almost always collecting half-functional cameras, but for this most recent project, I used my trusty Nikon F3 and a $5 reusable point and shoot off eBay. I’m not married to a specific stock, but I find myself typically using whatever is the most economical (Ultramax 400, Ilford HP5, Gold 200, Tri-X 400).
PL: Can you tell us more about these photos? Where were they taken? What inspired you to make a calendar/zine out of them?
CL: My most recent collection is from a trip I took to Iceland a few months ago. It was my first time traveling out of the country and there were so many new sights and landscapes that were special and impactful to me. I knew I wanted to share them through a physical medium, and I thought a calendar would be a fun twist to the typical zine release. This gives a lot of freedom with how people want to enjoy and experience the pictures, since they are removable and rearrangeable. Plus it stays visually interesting the entire year :)
PL: These photos capture a varying natural landscape that is very different from Philly’s urban landscape. What did you enjoy about capturing a different landscape? What was challenging about it?
CL: I love Philly and I’m happy to call it home, but as someone who grew up in the Poconos surrounded by nature I admit I’m always looking forward to the next camping trip or hike. It was really refreshing to take in a part of the natural world that was very alien to me. I turned off my phone service for most of the time and it was great to just absorb what was all around me and let that be channeled through my eye. Something that was slightly disorienting was the sunlight - being so close to the Arctic Circle meant almost constant daylight, with the sun either being directly overhead or completely covered by clouds half the time. It made using natural light a challenge sometimes, especially not having a working meter.
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?
CL: The more I shoot with black and white, the more fond I grow of it. I’ve always been afraid of surrendering color entirely, but I think it can lead to some really striking images. Color never fails for capturing the atmosphere of a scene, though, so I like to switch back and forth. Truthfully, I think my ability to edit black and white is stronger than my skills with color - sometimes I don’t trust my eye or monitor when it comes to tones, and B&W really lends itself to punchy and dimensional final results.
PL: Out of all of these images, which is your favorite and why?
CL: I have to say that it’s probably the photo of our friend Stefani the cow (we didn’t know if she already had a name so we settled on Stefani). She was very friendly and was such a good model. I love the way the light falls on the right side of Stefani’s face and creates shadows on the left, the way her friend makes a nice backdrop behind her, the way the fencing divides the photo and makes her head pop out, and the way the foliage adds some interest in the top left. It’s honestly a little too good of a photo, and I wish I could send Stefani some apples or something as a thank you.
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!