FotoFilmic: A photographer at Agence VU since 2005, most of your published work – including your two most recent series in Turkey “Sweet Nothings: Schoolgirls of Eastern Anatolia” and “Where Gold was Found” in Almeria, Spain – prove the traditional canons of documentary aesthetic and practice – photographing on black-and-white film – uniquely relevant in the digital era we now live in. Can you talk a little about how this artistic choice and philosophy translates both in terms of challenges and advantages (or rewards) in your work and with regards to their publication?
Vanessa Winship: I’ve always worked with film using black and white as my preferred expression. Using film is part of my process. In the early days I used black and white film because it was associated with an idea about truth, black and white was considered the real thing. I also used black and white film because it was less expensive than colour and I could control the whole process myself, I still process all my own film. Today I still use black and white film, in part its because the world we live in is in colour and I want to make a distinction between the world we live in and a photograph that is a representation of that world.
F/F: You are known to use many different film formats ranging from 35mm to large format: what is your process to match and intuition a particular subject or series of work with one or several film formats? Has this rationale evolved through the years, especially in recent times in the context of a now dominant digitized standard?
VW: I use different formats according to the subject I’m working on. I use 35mm for the work that is more observational, and large format for formal portrait work and landscapes. Both methods have their own value but require different approaches. Essentially the camera is a tool to express an idea.
F/F: What is your own relationship to digital technology in the field of photography? Do you photograph digitally as well, and if so for what purpose?
VW: My partner, George Georgiou, works almost exclusively using colour and digital technology. I like both his use of colour, and have come to appreciate some of the many advantages of using digital technology. However I’ve not fully engaged with digital technology though I believe it’s just a question of time, and finding the right project to use it. I use digital technology for printing. I scan my negatives and print my images using inkjet material.
F/F: You are based in London, UK but travel the world frequently for extended periods of time, spending over a decade in the Balkans from Belgrade, Athens to Istanbul and more recently Almeria. How is the film photography industry in those places? Is it still possible to find good processing labs and retail stores there or is it essentially gone? What about London?
VW: I no longer live in London. As I said earlier I process all my own film so it’s never been an issue finding a lab, though I do know that there are fewer and fewer labs around the world, London included. So far I’ve had no problems sourcing black and white film.
F/F: FOTOFILMIC is dedicated to promoting the new generations of photographers attached to film today: what essential advice or recommendation would you have for them?
VW: Concentrate on your ideas, remember that this is more important than what camera or film stock you use. Keep it simple and keep on going, it’s a long slow road.
F/F: 2014 saw the first major retrospective of your work from the 1990s through in Madrid at the MAPFRE Fundación? First, congratulations of this amazing achievement! How does it feel to have one’s photography endorsed in a way into the history of the medium? Then: what is next? Any new exciting projects on the horizon?
VW: Many thanks! Yes I know I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to show and share a large body of my work. Besides the obvious endorsement it’s allowed me the chance to look back and reflect on what I’ve created. I think it’s an essential part of the process of growing. As for new projects, I became a grand mother recently so I’m enjoying that moment …but it’s not really a project.
F/F: If anything was possible, what would be your ultimate dream photography-wise (or else)?
VW: I’d like to be more articulate both with photographs and words.
© All images by Vanessa Winship
FotoFilmic’s FILM TALKS series is all about sharing experienced views, artistic endeavors, industry outlooks and how to reshape the contemporary practices at the center of the film photography medium today. FILM TALKS invite advanced artists, independent publishers, photo editors and art dealers, as well as the broad creative crowd of visual arts to engage in insightful dialogues with FotoFilmic about film photography in all aspects.