Member Moment: Sofia Baltopoulos

Film Club
Sofia Baltopoulos is a Film Club Member whose work was recently featured in our Best of the Year exhibition. Her images capture still and intimate moments that are colorful and tell a story. This week we decided to get to know her more and share some of her favorite images with the community. 

Photograph of pink fabric hanging off of barbed wire fence

Photograph of Farmer's Market display of food

PL: What got you interested in film photography? 

SB:  I was born in 1987, so growing up we only had film cameras.  My mom always had a couple of cameras laying around, so I got started borrowing her Canon Rebel, and if I was lucky her Nikon FE (Which I eventually got to keep).  Photography has always interested me, so I always brought cameras with me on trips and just to shoot for fun on walks etc.  I eventually moved to digital, but I never really found my footing there.  I don’t edit my photos, and with digital you can take so many photos of the same scene and then spend hours trying to choose or edit the best one.  With film, not only is there no instant gratification of seeing what you shot, but you also only have so many frames on each roll so you better make it count.   

It was only the past couple of years that I really jumped headfirst back into film photography.  I feel like everyday I try to fight against this world of instant gratification, so shooting on film helps me relearn patience.  It has also helped me learn to really consider my shots before I take them.  It has its downsides as I have definitely shot entire rolls just to have them come out blank, but thats part of it!  

Photograph looking over highway

Photograph of person looking over lake in a city

Photograph of Asian sign on gates

PL: What type of camera do you shoot with and what kind of film do you usually use?

SB:  I shoot with many different cameras.  I have a bit of a problem with “rescuing” cameras from thrift stores and working on them.. I have probably 15-20 cameras, but really focus on using about 5 of those regularly.  About half of the shots from this selection were taken on a recent trip to Tokyo and were shot on a Fuji Discover 100 Zoom that I found at Goodwill for $8..  There are a few taken with my Canon TX, which is one of my favorites, and a few with this heavy old metal Argus/Cosina STL 1000 from the 70s.  Shooting fully manual is my preference, but I like a point and shoot camera for travel because they are compact and easy to carry around.  I use some expired films (often Kodak Gold 200), but most often I shoot with Fuji 400 Superia.  I haven’t really broken through to the world of “fancy” films yet, but I will get there! 

Photograph of trees in park

Photograph of glass window on street covered in graffiti

Photograph of tree budding

PL: What are some qualities that you like about color film?

SB:  I love how one vibrant object can become the subject of a photo.  When I am out walking, I am drawn to color.  If I see something out of the ordinary in a city space, especially if its colorful, I will always take a photo.  It feels like a little cheer nestled among the grey undertones of the city.  I take photos to find joy in everyday experiences.

In addition to that, I rarely use flash.  I rely solely on natural light and love to study the way light can change the appearance of things.  I often shoot the same scenes or areas on different days to see the ways in which they change.  

Photograph of mosaic sign in the ground

Photograph of horse in foggy pasture

Photograph of Barbara Kruger artwork at Moma

PL: Many of your photos have an intimate quality to them. When taking pictures, what are some objects or elements or feelings within a scene that inspire you to take a photo?

SB:  I take photos of things that I find beautiful.  Sometimes that could just be the sunlight hitting a building a certain way, or sometimes it will be gorgeous flowers in full bloom on the trees.  I very rarely take photos with people in them, especially strangers, as I feel it is an invasion of their privacy.  Taking photos is something I typically do alone, and is a nice escape from my very busy life- so for right now, I focus on outdoor scenes.

Photograph taken from above of private terrace

Photograph of chairs on a balcony

Photograph of bouquet of flowers

PL: There are many different types of scenes within this collection of images making it seem you are someone who always has their film camera with them. What does it mean to you to be capturing your experiences through film photos? 

SB:  I do always try to have a camera with me.  One of my favorite parts of traveling is taking photos, so I often bring a couple of different cameras on any trip I take.  Photos have a way of bringing you back to the moment you took them.  I have a couple of rolls of scans that I took on a trip to Greece to visit family about 20 years ago, and I still go back to those photos quite often.  Nowadays, my eye has changed and I continue to evolve as a photographer, but I do still use photos to remember times I have had.  The thought that we can capture moments that otherwise would be fleeting is kind of magical. 

Photograph taken through a fence looking at parking lot

Photograph of lake

Photograph of board holding stacks of papers

PL: Out of all of these photos, which one is your favorite and why?

SB:  As most people do, I have a hard time appreciating my own photos.  If I were to pick one, it would probably be the image of the wood blocks hanging on the wooden board.  That photo was taken at the Gotokuji Temple in Tokyo and each one of those wood blocks has a little wish written on it and is left there in hopes that it will come true.  Aside from the meaning behind the photo itself, I love the way the light plays with the wood blocks and how the trees have created interesting shadows throughout.  

Photograph of Chinese figures on display

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