I met kylethefrench on Lomography.com when I stumbled on his home after seeing one of his pictures featured on the main page (that would later go one to win a White Stripes-themed Rumble). It was an example of his light painting at its finest, which is something that would endear me to his his photography forever. Let’s see what this toy camera tinkerer extraordinaire had to say when I asked him a few questions!
How did you get started in analogue photography and what about it appeals to you?
For me I never wasn’t an analogue photography, I have never purchased a “real digital camera” with the exception I guess of my phone and laptop.
What was the first analogue camera that was truly yours and how did you come about getting it?
Actually I won a camera as a prize for selling a bunch of crap out of a weird cardboard box thing that the cub scouts called “a kit”. So I went around my neighborhood selling candles and ceramic mice and stuff. The more I sold the better prizes I could get. I was probably 10. I picked this camera that was a piece of crap but looked like it was all custom. I have bought a bunch of these at 2nd hand stores recently and they always have weird names and logos on them, like “Time Magazine” or some junk. The sad thing is I couldn’t figure out how to rewind the film and I ruined the whole roll and ripped it out in anger, then I cried and put down cameras for another ten years. I think the cam is sometimes known as Candraflex x-800. That was what mine was called I think.
What is your favorite toy/lomo/vintage camera you’ve ever owned, and why?
Ah the LC-A +RL is the pick. The thing is light, small and comes with a crap load of options, multiple exposure, accessory lenses, underwater housing, splitzer, it seems to never end. The best thing about the camera though is the perfect long exposure light meter function. You have a tripod mount, you have cable release option and all you need to do is go outside at night and the colors you get are insane, it is like slide film without the hassle, great, just great.
What is your favorite thing to do other than analogue photography?
Traveling, which has a similar kind of vibe to me as analogue photography. I get to see things I never have seen or will see again. I learn about the world, myself, other folk. It is all about learning and communicating till I turn back into dust I guess.
What five things you always have with you when you’re shooting?
Extra film, a film changing bag because with analogue you never know when a film may get stuck or some junk and you can’t risk losing anything ever. An extra flash, spare batteries, and yeah maybe a good attitude.
If someone off the street asks you, “Why analogue?” (or “What the hell is that thing you’re holding and why can’t I see the picture you just took?”), how do you respond?
Yup been asked this about a zillion times and I always say that there are things that you just can’t do without analogue film. Examples include slide film, long exposure and the joy of double exposure which the people always argue that you can put effects on your digital pictures to look like different film, set for longer exposure on your digicam, and merge digital images on the computer but my reply is that well you can’t send a roll to some guy in Brazil for doubling with digital merges. Plus this old cameras are history, this is how my grandfather felt when he took a picture at Skee’s Diner in 1936. He took a picture, crossed his fingers and waited a good while to see what became of it. Where is your patience friend? Sometimes life is about uncertainty and anticipation. Plus look how sexy I look with this thing around my neck. Have you felt the weight of this thing, it is in direct proportion to my own personal gravitas and I could smack a mugger upside the head with this.
What inspires your photography, or what is it that drives you to shoot?
I need to capture as much of my life before it ends I think. Everything disappears and I guess the pictures are my shot at the immortal. This may sound crazy but the first thing I do when someone in my family or friend group dies I go through all my pictures and pull out everything with them in it. They go into a DVD slideshow which is what I bring with me to the wake and I slip it to the main person in the receiving line at the casket. It is crushingly beautiful to me.
What is the one non-camera item that is essential to your photography?
Mini screw driver set. I use it to take apart my cameras and modify them. It is insane how many cams I have that do all kinds of crazy things that you haven’t seen. The long exposures, the multi exposures, the pinhole options, gasp. All of these changes you can’t really do unless you have the little screwdriver to take that cam apart.
What is your favorite type of film, and why?
Whatever 35mm color negative that I can find in the bargain bin. Despite my love of slide film of all kinds I just feel like the versatility of cheap ass film. You can redscale it, you can pinhole it, you can get it developed in a snap. I have never had a lab get nervous about doing your basic color negative in one hour and I love that security and freedom.
Any advice you’d like to share that has helped you with your own analogue photography?
Yeah don’t feel weird about taking a wacky ass old camera out onto the streets. People are going to tell you that it is stupid and that they are gonna stop making film and then what? The truth of it though is that nothing matters in the long run and some people think everything is stupid. If it makes you feel alive and creative and beautiful then it is all that there is, so never feel bad about enjoying yourself.