On a sunny day of May 2020, three friends across the U.S. decided to shoot the same film, Lomography 800 120, during a single day, as an experiment. Although each roll told a different story, they all had a genuinely warm and welcoming feeling. Po Chi Fung shot her roll in Ventura, California; Susan Adams photographed hers in Montana, and Sasquatch Mansfield shot his in Texas. What started as a simple project between friends now merged into an international project, calling all film photographers across the world to shoot any roll of their choice on August 1, and submit the result to be part of a zine. They decided to call their project BYOF: Bring your own Film.
Po Chi, Susan, and Sasquatch share this passion for film, having started shooting since they were kids, and met after a film photography workshop. Although they are scattered across the U.S., this hasn't kept them from building this project together. We asked them a few questions about BYOF, film photography, and everything in between!
Helly BYOF Team! Can you briefly explain what BYOF is?
Bring Your Own Film (BYOF) is a global film zine dedicated to gathering film photographers from around the world to shoot on the same day - August 1, 2020. Our goal is to celebrate film photography and increase the connection we have with others around the world through our favorite medium. We know there is so much more going on in the world than we get to see in our day to day lives, and we truly believe that we can increase our own openness and understanding of others by seeing how others live and what matters to them personally through their lens. In this crazy, fast digital world, we hope to inspire people to slow down and enjoy images in their best format, in print! We look forward to connecting with the global film community as we flip through our zine and savor each shared experience.
The three of us met through a film photography workshop, and after numerous conversations that started with, "Gosh, how great would it be if we did XYZ," we started on, "Wouldn't it be great if we shot the same film stock on the same day?" We all shot Lomography 800 on May 29th, 2020, on our Pentax 645Ns, and it was so fun getting to see what the day was like for the three of us in Montana, Texas, and California. That little experiment lit a fire under what we already started dreaming about - A WORLDWIDE DAY OF SHOOTING. Not only would we get to see what our friends were doing, but we would also get to see the whole world through the film community, and that sounded pretty dang neat to us.
How can people take part in it?
Shoot and submit! Shoot some film on August 1, 2020. Photograph your everyday life and what matters to you personally – your loved ones, your surroundings, a particular scene that makes you feel alive, and submit 1-5 images to us by September 1, 2020 via our website www.byofzine.com. It is free to submit and we hope you’ll join us from wherever you are.
Can you explain how you see the process happening?
After we receive submissions from around the world on September 1, 2020, we will be going through all the entries and curating the set of images for the zine. We will notify photographers with accepted submissions by November 1, 2020. To celebrate our first volume, photographers with accepted entries will receive a complimentary copy of the zine. Presales will begin in October, and we are planning for folks to have their zine in hand to enjoy by the holidays.
In such a digital age, why is it important to still have those film initiatives?
I think it is precisely because of this digital age that these film initiatives are even more important. We are constantly bombarded with images on social media platforms, so much so, that we cannot really appreciate the photographs we come across except for the fraction of a second it takes our thumbs to double-tap and swipe. We think these film initiatives help us work against that crazy current and remind us of the joy of really looking at a photograph in a tangible format while remembering that there is a person behind that lens telling that story. It’s a great way to get off the hamster wheel, share in a human experience and give our photographs the treatment it deserves.
Will the BYOF become a recurrent submission?
Yes! Our goal is to make this a biannual publication.
Are you looking for anything specific from the photographers?
Submissions have to be shot on August 1st and on film. You choose the film, format, and camera (not accepting instant film submissions this time). We sincerely wish to see images that illustrate what matters to you as an individual. No nudity and violence, please!
Why did you choose the motto “Shoot what matters most to you. Not what you think people want to see” as your direction?
The three of us are certainly guilty of posting images we think people would like to see at one point in our careers versus posting what we actually care about and love. We’ve had several conversations about that, and almost all of them end with the realization that the photos we love usually aren’t our most technically perfect shots nor the most artistic. Since one of our goals is to increase our connections to other film photographers, we knew we could only achieve that through personal work and by encouraging people to submit photographs that really matter to them on a personal level. This project is for us, not for our clients and certainly not for Instagram likes.
Lastly, do you have any word of advice for anyone wanting to start a project either as a film photographer or anything that has to do with film?
You can do it! Let’s just say that one of us on this team loves to just sit on ideas, and if it wasn’t for the other two with a can-do attitude, this project wouldn’t have happened. And really, what’s the worst that can happen? We each have so much love for film photography and a passion for keeping it alive. This is an incredibly supportive and giving community, and we’re making space to show up as you are, championing your film journey whether you’re a seasoned professional, avid hobbyist or just shooting your first roll. One of our favorite things about this project is all the relationships we’ve developed. We are so thankful for the conversations we’ve had with film photographers, film labs, and film producers around the world.