Robyn-portrait-cmyk

“A while ago my digital camera was stolen which forced me to only use film. I never felt the need to replace it and now I feel much more comfortable with film. In general I think it totally depends on a personal preference and it’s best to be open to both.”


INTERVIEW: LANI SPICE

PHOTOGRAPHY:  ROBYN PARK-ROSS

PORTRAIT:   ADAM KENT WIEST


When did you first pick up a film camera?

I got my front teeth really late as a kid but when I did my dad was so excited that he bought me a little camera as a present. It was an Olympus point and shoot and I don’t actually remember taking any photos, although I remember being really obsessive about having it with me all the time.

What inspired you to explore analog photography?

A few of my friends in high school were taking photography as an extra subject and that’s what initially inspired me to get into it. They were playing around in the darkroom, making photograms and messing around with effects and I was really captivated by what they were doing and the beautiful images they ended up with. I hunted down my dad’s old camera and after that, started messing around in the school darkroom myself.

Your photos seem to have quite an ethereal theme to them, would you say that’s how you perceive these moments you capture?

I think that film has an inherently dream-like quality but that’s a look that I specifically try to achieve. A lot of the time I am just trying to capture exactly what I am seeing in front of me. I’m more interested in photography as a medium for recording and documenting, from my living space and my pets to what’s happening in the city, rather than creating or constructing a specific look or feeling. I hope that any feeling or look that comes across is therefore a true reflection of those individual moments, whether it’s ethereal, awkward or joyful.

Is there a particular kind of film you enjoy using the most?

I’m quite scared of black and white film, but aside from that I’m not very fussy. Fujicolour Proplus II might be my number one choice because I think it’s really nice film and I can get it in 5 packs from Tothill’s Pharmacy. It’s a really fun place to visit and absorb knowledge from the camera geniuses who work there, and buying 5 spools at once eases my anxiety about running out at an important moment.

What cameras are you currently using and what is your dream model?

At the moment I use a Minolta X300 and a Canon EOS 500N. The Canon is really sentimental because it’s the same model my dad had when I was growing up and the camera I initially got into shooting film on. But the model has a factory fault so at some point the battery receptor stops working. When one dies I just hunt down the next one and my fourth one of that model just died the same death. I think I also have an attachment to that model because it’s not fancy or valuable so I feel like I can take it anywhere and do anything with it which is the defining feature of my dream camera. I don’t like the idea of having a camera I feel too precious about, I want to be able to take it everywhere with me. I was dreaming about getting a Pentax K1000 and I just got gifted one last week so am excited to play around with it.

_Canon-EOS-500NA525AD3E41B055984D256AE47958BACB

CANON – EOS 500 N

_Minolta_X-300580F92480472508C8CB8B65195D778E4

MINOLTA – X 300

What are your feelings towards digital and film? Which do you use more?

A while ago my digital camera was stolen which forced me to only use film. I never felt the need to replace it and now I feel much more comfortable with film. In general I think it totally depends on a personal preference and it’s best to be open to both. Both have limitations and benefits but for me at the moment I continue to feel most excited by shooting on film.

What truly draws you to shooting on film and what are the biggest frustrations around it, if any?

I am a bit obsessive about documenting things so shooting on film is appealing to me because it makes me a bit more conscious of each photo that I take. I have the potential to over-document things so film helps me value each individual image more. I also find the process of shooting on film really addictive because there’s a lot of anticipation and excitement involved. I have had some really frustrating experiences with whole spools being blank or not having film when I need it but I think those experiences are balanced out by the enjoyment of the process of using film.

Have you had any formal training regarding the arts or are you self-taught?

Not since high school but I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by really talented, creative and helpful friends who not only inspire me with their own work but are willing to sit through an onslaught of questioning from me. That’s really where I’ve learnt most of what I know and also through just messing around and making lots of mistakes and taking lots of bad photos.

Despite the mass appreciation for film, people still talk of it possibly being a dying art. Would you agree and why?

I’m not sure that there is mass appreciation for it in South Africa. It seems like a lot of people I interact with don’t see the benefits or the point and feel like it’s a waste of money. Despite this I feel lucky to be part of a community of people who appreciate it and I think that there will always be those people who choose to continue to use it for its value as a medium and that’s what will keep it alive.

You don’t consider yourself a photographer, yet you are constantly photographing your surroundings. Why would you like to distance yourself from this title?

I really love taking photos but I don’t feel like it’s a formal thing for me. I don’t want to make it seem more than it is for me which is more a compulsion to keep a visual record than anything else.

Many of your photos feature cityscapes, why is that?

Cities really fascinate me, especially Cape Town because the physical layout of the city is so oppressive, discriminatory and contradictory but aesthetically it’s quite beautiful. I’m really interested in how people move through and engage with the built environment and how they are able to reclaim public space in a way. I’m also really drawn to how layers of buildings make interesting patterns and textures

What are your thoughts on sharing your work online or through social media?

I really love having access to other people’s work online and I find it hugely inspiring and influential to see other people’s work curated by them personally. Despite that it’s not something I feel is necessary for me at this point. I’m still quite sentimental and private about my photos.

Whose work locally and abroad would you say has influenced you the most?

I find most of my influence from a broad range of local work, from Faith47, Pieter Hugo, Sebastian Borkenhagen, Anke Loots, Travys Owen, to name a few.  Anyone who I perceive as pursuing an individual style in their chosen field influences me. The National Geographic photographs have also been really influential to me. I also really love Aiwiewie’s black and white photography. I’m really influenced by that kind of work because it’s simple glimpses into his day-to-day and I think it’s really effective in capturing a mood and giving insight into his life.

Any plans for future projects involving your photography?

Next year I’ll be studying City and Regional Planning and I want to start a personal project that runs concurrently with my studies where I try and document different public spaces across Cape Town and how people are excluded from, or able to access, those spaces and how they engage with them. I also want to make some videos and be more adventurous with mediums I use.


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