Interview
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Interview: Han Phan

“Shooting film feels more immersive and all-encompassing: I can’t just rapid-fire shoot a roll of film; everything takes forethought.  It’s challenging but that’s what makes it fun and when you get a great shot, it makes shooting on film so worthwhile.”

MH – Why do you shoot film?

HP – I’ve only recently started shooting film about 2 years ago.  Prior to that, I had a Canon 5D Mark II and Sony A7iii and had been shooting digital since high school.  I now exclusively shoot film and made that decision because I absolutely love the challenge of and results from film photography.  Shooting film feels more immersive and all-encompassing: I can’t just rapid-fire shoot a roll of film; everything takes forethought.  It’s challenging but that’s what makes it fun and when you get a great shot, it makes shooting on film so worthwhile.

MH – How would you describe your style?

HP – I don’t think I have a style yet.  I shoot neighborhoods because these are the streets I walk daily so I want to preserve via photographing them; I shoot portraitures because I want to try to capture human rawness; and I shoot landscapes because it’s beautiful.  It’s really whatever catches my eye, but absolutely no definitive style.

MH – Has your style changed since you first started photography? If so, in what way has it changed and what brought on that change?

HP – Yes, definitely.  I started out with point and shoot cameras: Contax T2, Olympus XA (pretty much p&s, at least how I was using it), Minolta Espios, etc… and I would use them like they were digital cameras.  Basically, just walking around and aimlessly taking photos of everything and anything, which basically was me taking photos of nothing.  And by that, I mean there wasn’t a purpose behind my taking those photos.  They meant nothing because I was just excited that I was shooting film and wanted to get through a roll for the sake of finishing a roll.  Things are very different nowadays because I know what I like to photograph.  It takes me weeks to finish a roll of medium format and a few months to finish a roll of 35mm.  I think that’s due to my slowing down, seeking out subjects to photograph that won’t feel like I’m shooting just to shoot, and I’m happier with the results I’m getting due to this.

MH – What is your favorite film?  Camera?

HP – Favourite film in 120 is undoubtedly Portra 400 because it is consistent and for 35mm it’s Colorplus because it’s just as good as Portra but (was) more affordable.  And currently, my favourite cameras are the Mamiya 7ii and the Pentax 67ii.  Get back to me in a month because I am just starting to shoot with my new (to me) Graflex Series D 4×5 camera and I think that might be my favourite once I see those huge negatives.

“It’s strange, but it isn’t so much what a photograph LOOKS like, but what it makes me feel.  The photos that resonate most are the ones that evoke a feeling of awe/surprise/anger/joy/whatever or ones that are able to depict an entire narrative in just a single shot.”

MH – Is there a camera you thought you’d never part with but ultimately did? If so, why did you part with it?

HP – The Leica M6.  I think I pined for it for a good month, a friend found one for me for a great deal, I bought it, used it… and I absolutely did not enjoy it.  Don’t get me wrong, the ergonomics are cool, it is sleek and such a timeless camera, but it didn’t make my photos any better than my Nikon SLR’s or even my Leica M5 (which, at the time, was a third the price of the M6).  I sold it within a month of owning it.  Then a few months later, I picked up another one to give it a second try.  Same results.

MH – What is a personal goal you have for your photography? 

HP – I want to be able to make a zine I am proud of and that means something to me.  And I want to be a paid film photographer; I want my work to be good enough that others think it’s worthwhile to hire and pay me to make photographs of/for them.

MH – What do you look for in a photograph?  Is what you find compelling in a photograph different when it’s one of your photographs compared with a photograph taken by someone else?

HP – It’s strange, but it isn’t so much what a photograph LOOKS like, but what it makes me feel.  The photos that resonate most are the ones that evoke a feeling of awe/surprise/anger/joy/whatever or ones that are able to depict an entire narrative in just a single shot.  I could only wish even one of my photos could affect someone.

MH – What is your favorite shot you’ve ever taken?  What’s the story behind it?

HP – My most favourite photo I’ve made is of my mom.  I shot it on the Mamiya 6 last year, pre-COVID.  I only get to go home maybe three or four times a year, and this was during my summer visit.  Right before I left, I shot this photo of my mom and it isn’t even anything great but she’s beautiful and the love of my life and the fact that I got this candid shot of her makes me very happy so it’s my favourite photo.

MH – What do you see for the future of film photography? 

HP – There is a huge resurgence.  It’s been ongoing for years, but maybe its resurgence isn’t as linear as it has been and more exponential.  But my outlook is kind of bleak: cameras are super expensive now (ie: Mamiya RB67 and Mamiya 645 this time last year was HALF the price), Kodak just raised its film prices for the second time this year, the expired stuff will eventually run out so there’s still a ton of film stocks a lot of people won’t ever get to shoot (I’m looking at you, $100/pack FP-100C), etc.  However, it is so much fun and anyone who shoots film is so immersed in the community (lifestyle?) will never give it up regardless of these things, and it’s super cool to see more people engaging in shooting film.  I hope I am entirely wrong and companies like The Impossible Project invest in the future of film and revive it via new, affordable film cameras and film stocks.

MH – What is your favorite part of the film photography community? Do you think that attribute exists only with the film community or does it extend to digital photography community as well? 

HP – I absolutely love how the film community is so supportive.  Everyone I’ve met has been nothing but kind and informative and willing to teach an amateur like me.  It’s so overwhelmingly positive.  I’ve also made some really great friends from it: there are two dudes I talk to at least once a day who are the realest/coolest guys, and we met through the film community.  There’s a group of women from all over the world I’m in a groupchat with and we do nothing but uplift one another and give advice, film related or not – it’s beautiful.  This community is the coolest thing I have ever been part of and I think this sort of thing exists anywhere in some capacity.

More of Han’s photos can be seen below

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