When it comes fine art photography and techniques, many still prefer film. Film shooter Colin Poellot shares his analogue grind of ten years through his versatile body of work that draws inspiration from natural landscapes, urban environments, abstracts and sometimes people. A member of the Film Shooters Collective, Colin's also been exploring alternative print processes especially with silver gelatin prints.
Get inspired by this one-on-one conversation with Colin here in Lomography Magazine.
Hi Colin, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, how is the analogue grind nowadays?
Thank you so much for having me! The analogue grind is gritty and fun and smells like fixer. It is a great era to be a film photographer.
May you share to us, how did you start shooting in film? Why such an old medium over digital?
Well, I was born in the 1960s, so I grew up with film as the only option. But I only started to become serious about photography with a high-end digital point and shoot in 2004. That lasted four years before the sensor died and I was left without a camera. Shortly thereafter I was visiting my father and he gave me a strange contraption that turned out to be a 1946 Kodak Medalist II (medium format 6x9 rangefinder) that had belonged to my grandfather. I had to learn how to re-spool 120 film onto 620 spools to use it, but I brought it home and shot a roll of Tri-X as a test. The first shot on the roll was an accidental double exposure that blew me away, and the second shot turned out to be the first photo I ever sold. I was hooked. Here was a 60-year-old camera with no electronics to go bad, which had last been serviced before I was born and hadn’t been shot in years. Not only did it still work perfectly, it made amazing images that could be rivaled by only the most expensive digital cameras (which would be obsolete or dead by now). I’ve been a film addict ever since.
I don’t eschew digital as a medium out of hand. I use it at my day job. But for my personal projects, film is much more deeply satisfying. Everything about the process is tangible and tactile, from loading and shooting to developing the film, examining the negatives, and producing prints in the darkroom. I love the aesthetics and mechanics of the old cameras. And the unique quality of different films for different projects is endlessly fascinating. My youngest camera is a Mamiya C330f from 1977; the oldest a Kodak box camera from 1920. I don’t need batteries, don’t have any zoom lenses, and I’ve come to embrace the limitations of whatever camera I happen to be carrying as a part of the creative process.
You work on many genres and subjects, both in B&W and color, but which do you think is closest to your style and creative vision?
I’ve only been shooting film for about 10 years and I don’t know that I’ve grown enough or had enough experience to identify with a particular genre, subject or type of film as belonging to my personal style or vision. Perhaps that is why I’m so all over the map. I want to try everything and shoot everything, yet in the moment when I’m composing a shot everything is reduced to light, shadow, and patterns and separated from reality. That reductive nature of seeing the world is what informs my creativity. I find I go through cycles of inspiration - in the winter when it gets dark early and the weather is often inclement, I’m drawn to long exposure night photography and wandering in blizzards. In the summer, I tend more towards landscape/cityscape and street work. Lately, I have become more interested in multiple exposures and abstract imagery; focus pulls, motion blur and things like that.
You have an interesting series of shapely plants and trees! Where were these taken from? Is there any story behind the series?
Thank you! Trees and shrubs are some of my favorite subjects, and I find I shoot them wherever I am located at the moment. The combination of personality, architectural form, and endless variation draws me in every time. The same tree can appear completely different from different distances and angles—macro shots of gnarled bark, twisted fractal branches in silhouette, infrared foliage blooms against a black sky, the camaraderie of a forest or a lone sentinel on the edge of a cliff. What’s not to love about a tree?
Where do you draw inspiration from? Who are your muses?
I would say Sebastião Salgado was definitely an early influence. I have no formal training or education in photography. But living in New York City, I have access to a wide variety of museums where I’ve been exposed to many of the greats. I saw Salgado’s Migrations exhibit at the International Center of Photography Gallery in 2001 and was deeply moved.
Since I started shooting and have made an effort to study history a bit more, Bill Brandt has become a personal favorite. But I also draw a tremendous amount of inspiration from the contemporary photographers I interact with today on Flickr and Instagram and other online communities. I’ve been fortunate enough to become a member of the Film Shooters Collective, and the people there have a wealth of creativity and knowledge that has really helped me grow.
If you could work or collaborate with any photographer, artist or person, dead, alive or fictional, who would it be?
That is probably the easiest question here to answer. Hands down it would be David Bowie, in the late 1970’s, when he was working on his Berlin trilogy. I would love to shoot a series of environmental portraits of him from that time with my Rolleiflex. His artistic vision and depth is truly something to aspire to and I still mourn his death today.
Describe to us—what's a day in the life of Colin Poellot?
As I mentioned, I live in New York City, where I have a day job as director of audiovisual services for a large publishing firm. So a good chunk of my day is spent there where I am fortunate enough to be able to work with digital videography, photography, and other technical and creative projects. My day is spent helping people and working with technology in different forms. I commute via subway train or bicycle, both of which give me incredible views of the city both above and below ground. And I interact with thousands of people from all parts of the world every day. I occasionally get to work in amazing places where most people never get to go, like backstage at Carnegie Hall, or on a rooftop in Manhattan. It is a vibrant life full of variation and possibilities and I consider myself extremely fortunate to be where I am, doing what I am doing.
What do you usually do during your downtime? Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?
In my downtime, which is somewhat scarce, I mostly focus on music and photography. I play accordion in a bar band with my wife and a few friends, which is incredibly fun. My main physical outlet is cycling, which I can combine with commuting to get exercise. Other than that I love wandering the city, getting lost with a camera in hand looking for opportunities to take photos. There is a vibrant film community here in NYC and I’ll occasionally lead a photo walk or go to a film meetup. I’d like to get more involved with things like that: teaching aspiring photographers and working with others in the community to spread the love of the analogue grind.