Jenni Berrios is a photographer (and Film Club Member) featured in our current gallery show University Student Show: Photography in the Time of Covid. We enjoyed the photos that she submitted to the show, so we thought it would be nice to get to know her and her relationship to photography.
Q: What got you interested in film photography?
A: I was in film class my first year, and I remember how hard it was adjusting to analog photography. One moment, specifically, was that every time I would take a picture, by habit, I would look at the camera expecting to view my images through a non-existent screen. I was so use to digital cameras that previewed my photos, which allows me to adjust the settings and take the “perfect” picture. When it comes to photography I was a perfectionist and my harshest critic. Film photography took that away, and it challenged me to wait and see what I captured. I started changing my techniques since I shoot primarily with Black & White 35mm film. I began to love film because when I developed film it became an intimate process, and the darkroom opened a deeper connection to my photography. Overall, what interests me in film photography is the intimacy, and being surprised by the end results. When I go out to capture images, I become more intentional with my photography because I value the film, and when I finish the roll, it hurts. I have a bad habit of preserving the film and limiting myself to one picture per subject. But I am trying to get better at letting go of that and force myself to take many pictures of the same subject.
Q: What type of camera do you shoot with, and what kind of film do you usually use?
A: I shot a Canon AE-1 with 35mm film, mostly at 400 iso.
Q: Almost all of your photos are in black and white. What qualities do you like about black and white film vs. color film?
A: I usually lean toward black and white film because I like to play with light and textures. I enjoy that black and white makes you think more strategically and compositionally. Even after, you don’t have to edit the image as much. I feel more so that black and white photography is so underrated.
Q: Many of the photos within this collection capture people. What do you like about photographing people? What is challenging about it?
A: I love capturing portraits, whether it be an actual person, pictures, or possessions; I love the story aspect they portray. I love capturing people in a moment and documenting what they are doing.
The only challenge I deal with is, being discrete when doing street photography. Many of my subjects are facing away or unaware that I am taking their photograph. In general, I aim to keep people anonymous, to create mystery when taking street photography because I am more interested in their actions than who they are.
Q: Some photos capture the subjects or scenes from a unique perspective. When you are taking photos, what are you thinking before you click the shutter?
A: Film allows me to be patient, so I often find myself waiting for the right moment to photograph a subject. I learned that I am very observant who pays attention to detail, which translates to Black and White photography. In my head, I translate what I am capturing to Black and white, and if I can see it in my head, I play around with the scene and see what I like most through my viewfinder. It can be like, “Wow, this is cool light,” or “Let me play around with this and see how it turns out.” Through trial and error, I now know what works, or if I don’t know how it would look, I challenge myself to experiment. Recently, I am experimenting with double exposure.
Q: Out of all of these photos which is your favorite and why?
A: I generally like photographing in El Salvador, so all photos that I captured there have become my favorite. But if I had to choose one, it would be the one my Abuela that I took in her store. She hated being photographed by anyone, and I’m surprised she did not hear the camera’s shutter and winding sounds. But that just shows how distracted she was looking out, waiting for customers because they were the only ones that would come to visit her. My Abuela lived on her own. All her children left to pursue the “American Dream,” and she was left alone because of it.
She remained strong and independent, being 68 years old. After her passing, I can still see that photograph as representing her strength and independence. In the moment of taking the image, I wanted to capture her loneliness and the obstacle of being separated from family members to fulfill a dream. Also, the symbol of power she represented for the community that loved her dearly. Her store was her sacred place, and I am glad I was able to capture that in the image to remember her in the area that brought her joy.
Everyday, Club Members take amazing 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!