Kelsey Smith on His Medium Format Journey, Night Photography, and Love for Lomography CN 800 Film

Today we're catching up with LomoAmigo Kelsey Smith. Since he last spoke with us in 2023, the Georgia-based photographer has been up to a lot, sharing with us his recent rekindled love for night-time photography, the magic of medium format, and the nuances of shooting with Lomography Color Negative 800 film.

Photos by Kelsey Smith shot on Lomo 800 medium format film

Hi Kelsey, welcome back to Lomography Magazine! What have you been up to since your last feature with us?

Hi, and thank you so much for welcoming me back! It's always a joy and a huge honor to be here!

Since our last chat, my life has been a whirlwind of photographic adventures. I've jokingly said to friends that I've been so immersed in my work that I've barely had any time to breathe — and there's more than just a hint of truth in that, but I’ve honestly loved every minute of it!

Recently, I've been reconnecting with a longstanding passion of mine: long exposure night photography on medium format film. This isn't a new venture for me, but rather a return to form that I've always found mesmerizing. Taking a hiatus only made me appreciate it more when I came back.

These night escapades offer a unique twist to my ongoing exploration of the American suburban landscape. It's almost like stepping into an alternate reality. The same streets and neighborhoods that I capture under the sun reveal a completely different, yet intimately known character when draped under the cloak of night. The play of shadows and light, the elongated trails of passing cars, and the serene stillness that night brings, all contribute to a surreal and captivating experience. As always, Lomography 800 has been my faithful companion during these nocturnal journeys. Its ability to render stunning, vibrant images in low light conditions has allowed me to capture the night's essence in ways that continuously surprise and delight me!

Can you tell us a bit about your background with medium format photography?

I got into medium format back in 2017 when I first got my hands on a Mamiya 645E. The moment I saw those huge negatives, I was completely blown away. There's something truly magical about the size and detail that medium format captures, and experiencing 6x4.5, which is actually the smallest of the medium formats, was just the beginning of this love affair.

The leap from 6x4.5 to the expansive vistas of 6x9 negatives was nothing short of mind-blowing. It's like each frame offers a new world to explore, a broader canvas to paint photographic stories on. Over time, my fascination with medium format has only grown, leading me to experiment with a variety of cameras, each unique in their own way, but all of them are a blast to shoot.

Today, my go-to cameras for medium format are the Fujifilm GW690III and the Yashica Mat 124G. Both of these cameras have their own unique charm and contribute a different flavor to my work. The GW690III, with its incredible sharpness and wide frame, is perfect for capturing expansive scenes with rich detail that you can look at for an hour and continue to find small details you didn’t catch originally. On the other hand, the Yashica Mat 124G, with its twin-lens reflex design, offers a more intimate and contemplative shooting experience. Taking it out on the streets never fails to start conversations with so many different types of people and that is always a fun experience. Together, they form the backbone of my medium format photography, allowing me to continue exploring this beautiful and captivating format.

Photos by Kelsey Smith shot on Lomo 800 medium format film

Is your approach to shooting medium format any different than when shooting 35 mm?

Absolutely! My approach to shooting medium format differs significantly from how I handle 35 mm, especially with my Fujifilm GW690III. I've found this particular camera to be my night-time companion. There's something special about setting it up on a tripod and capturing scenes under the cover of darkness. The tranquility of the night, combined with the camera's capabilities, creates a unique photographic experience that I deeply enjoy.

Shooting at night with a medium format camera on a tripod allows me to slow down and really connect with the environment. It's a more deliberate and contemplative process compared to the often spontaneous and quick nature of shooting 35 mm, where I seldom use a tripod. This contrast not only adds variety to my work but keeps my passion for photography fresh and exciting. It’s like exploring two different worlds within the same artistic realm — each with its own rules, challenges, and joys.

What aspects of Lomo 800 120 film make you go back to it time and time again?

There are several aspects of Lomo 800 that draw me back to it consistently. The most captivating feature for me is its unique saturation, warmth, grain structure, and color palette. These qualities align precisely with what I look for in a film stock. The way it renders colors brings a certain vibrancy to the images, yet it still maintains a natural feel. It’s almost as if you’re looking at the world through a warm, nostalgic lens that enhances the scene without overpowering its true essence. The grain structure of Lomo 800 adds another layer to this appeal. It's fine yet noticeable, giving the photographs a texture that feels both timeless and grounded. It’s this blend of clarity and character that makes each shot not just a photo, but a story in itself!

Photos by Kelsey Smith shot on Lomo 800 medium format film

Moreover, the versatility of Lomo 800 is something I can't praise enough. Whether I’m shooting under the harsh midday sun, in the soft glow of twilight, or even in lower light conditions, this film adapts beautifully. It consistently delivers results that surprise and delight me, capturing the mood and atmosphere of the moment just as I perceive it.

In essence, Lomo 800 has become an integral part of my artistic expression. It’s not just the film I use; it's a key ingredient in the recipe of my photographic style. Its unique look compared to other stocks on the market is what keeps it loaded in my camera time and time again, ready to faithfully record the world as I see and feel it.

Ultimately, Lomography 800 is more than just a film stock to me. It's a reliable creative partner that consistently helps me translate my vision into the tangible form of a photograph. Its consistent performance and the unique aesthetic it lends to my images are why it's a staple in my photographic tool kit and will remain a staple for years to come.

What kind of gear do you usually have on hand when shooting medium format photography?

Aside from the Fujifilm GW690III and Yashica Mat 124G, which I’ve already gushed about, I also really enjoy shooting with the Kiev 88, the Soviet Union's take on the Hasselblad. This camera was a gift from my father-in-law, and it's an absolute blast to use. But let me tell you, it's as finicky as they come. Using the Kiev 88 is like a dance — you've got to know the steps perfectly, or you're bound to trip up. For example, always remember to cock the shutter before changing the shutter speeds. This is a very important step because if you turn the shutter speed dial without winding the body first, you risk damaging the shutter and locking up the camera. Making this mistake leads to an expensive and inconvenient repair (don’t ask me how I know). It's these little nuances that make working with such a camera both challenging and rewarding. Despite its peculiarities, for better or worse, it always makes for a memorable shooting experience.

Each camera has its own personality and challenges, but that's part of the fun. It’s about embracing the quirks and using them to create something truly unique.

Photo by Kelsey Smith shot on Lomo 800 medium format film

Do you have an all time favorite shot taken on Lomo 800 120 film?

I do! It's a photo of an old-timey barbershop that instantly captivated me the moment I laid eyes on it. The shop had this timeless quality, as if it had been perfectly preserved from a bygone era. It was clear that it hadn’t changed in decades, and that sense of historical continuity was what drew me to it. Looking closely at the photo, you can even see a framed picture of Elvis inside the barbershop, adding a neat touch to the whole scene that I absolutely adore. It's these small details that often bring a photo to life, creating a deeper connection to the moment captured.

The barbershop, with its vintage charm and an air of nostalgia, was just begging to be captured on film. There was something deeply moving and almost poetic about this space that had withstood the test of time. Shooting it on Lomo 800 120 film felt right — the film’s rich tones and texture complemented the timeless character of the scene perfectly.

What makes this photo even more special to me now is the fact that the barbershop no longer exists. It’s a bittersweet feeling, knowing that this place I stumbled upon, which felt like a portal to the past, is gone. But I’m grateful that I was able to capture its essence when I did. It’s a reminder of why I fell in love with photography in the first place — the ability to hold onto moments that, once gone, can only live on through the images we capture.

Do you have any tips or tricks for those interested in making the jump from 35 mm to 120 film?

My first piece of advice is to just simply go for it! If you're already familiar with shooting 35 mm, you'll find that many of the principles transfer over quite well to medium format. Sure, loading 120 film might seem a bit daunting at first, but trust me, after a couple of tries, it becomes second nature. In some cases, it can even be easier than loading 35 mm film.

One key thing to keep in mind when transitioning to medium format is choosing the format size that resonates with you — be it 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x9, or any of the other more niche formats. Each format offers a different look and feel, so think about what suits your style and what you want to express in your photos. Once you’ve decided on that, start exploring cameras that support your chosen format. This approach will help you find a medium format camera that truly aligns with your artistic vision and preferences.

The world of medium format opens up a whole new realm of possibilities in terms of image quality, depth, and detail. It’s an exciting journey, one that can enrich your photographic experience significantly. So, dive in, experiment, and enjoy the process of discovering a new dimension in your photography!

Photos by Kelsey Smith shot on Lomo 800 medium format film

What are your hopes for the future of film photography?

My hopes for the future of film photography are deeply rooted in its continued growth and flourishing. I have an immense appreciation for the film community — it's a space I cherish more than anything and wish to see thrive far into the distant future. In many ways, I see Lomography not just participating in, but actually leading, the ongoing revival of film photography and it's incredibly inspiring to witness.

One of the most heartening aspects of this revival is seeing so many young people, who didn't necessarily grow up with film, embracing and enjoying it. It's a testament to the timeless appeal and unique charm of film photography. And yes, saying this does make me feel a bit old, even though I'm only 27! I can remember shooting film as a small child and stealing my dad’s plastic point-and-shoot all the time, so it's amazing to see a new generation discovering its magic.

Looking ahead, my dream is to continue shooting film well into my 80s, with my trusty cameras by my side. And I hope the same for everyone in the film community. I want us to keep capturing the world through this beautiful, tangible medium that connects us not just to our subjects, but to a rich history and a vibrant, ever-evolving community. Here's to many more years of loading rolls, clicking shutters, and developing negatives, keeping the spirit of film alive and well.

Do you have any upcoming projects or shoots that you can share with our community?

Absolutely, I've got a few exciting projects on the horizon! Currently, I'm taking my time to carefully craft my next photo book. It's a journey of exploration, not just of different places and moments, but also entirely new subject matter. I'm on this quest to learn and absorb as much as I can, and it's been incredibly fulfilling.

One of the highlights coming up later this year is my first wedding shoot that will be done entirely on film. I'm super excited about this — capturing such an important day on film feels special and I can't wait to see how it all turns out.

Lately, I've also been diving into themed shoots, which have been a whole lot of fun. My most recent one was cowboy-themed and it was just awesome. These themed shoots offer a whole new creative playground that I haven’t fully explored before and I'm loving every bit of it.

In the meantime, I'm still promoting my current photo book — signed copies are up for grabs on my website. Alongside all this, I'm shooting as much as possible while juggling my full-time job. It's a balancing act, but one driven by immense passion and love. And who knows, maybe 2024 is the year I go full-time with photography. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and my camera ready!

Anything else you'd like to share?

Really, I just want to say a huge thank you for having me back for another interview. It means the world to me to have this platform and opportunity to share my passion with like-minded individuals. Collaborating with my favorite film company and getting to talk about the art of film photography is something I always cherish and enjoy immensely.

Also, I'm always up for a chat about film! If anyone comes across me on social media — and you'll find me posting quite regularly on almost all platforms — please don't hesitate to reach out. Whether it's to talk shop, share tips, or just geek out about film, I'm all ears.

If you're interested in keeping up with Kelsey and his work, make sure to check out his Instagram and website.

written by eloffreno on 2024-02-25 #gear #people #medium-format #120-is-forever #saving-120 #a-future-for-120

Lomography Color Negative 800 (120)

400 ISO still not fast enough? The Lomography Color Negative 800 120 film will bring you fantastic results at all lighting conditions.

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