MR LIDUDUMALINGANI MQOMBOTHI is a writer, filmmaker and photographer. He is the winner of the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing and in the same year, was awarded the Miles Morland Scholarship. He was recently at the Time of the Writer Festival in Durban and took time out to chat to us about his obsession with photographic film.
“I started shooting film at the beginning of October 2016, after some months of rethinking the way I was making images. I was making images on digital cameras then, and a part of me felt that I was not thoroughly thinking and feeling the images, that the large part of my photography was taking the image instead of thinking about it first and then feeling the moment. Film photography appeared to accommodate the idea of thinking and feeling an image before making it. Shooting on film has in reverse, informed much of my photography now, even when shooting on a digital camera or smartphones, the process has a lot more thought and feeling to it.
“Film photography appeared to accommodate the idea of thinking and feeling an image before making it. Shooting on film has in reverse, informed much of my photography now, even when shooting on a digital camera or smartphone, the process has a lot more thought and feeling to it.”
(The quality of a photograph) all depends on the processing of the film negatives. Some processes are quite digital and the film images then have a digital feel to them. When processed with great care, precision and patience, the difference is in the colour reproduction and the grain, which is the reason that none of my images are ever edited, often there is nothing to add, and even if there is something that is off, I appreciate that the image is not perfect, it doesn’t have to. Film looks and feels nearer to the subject, where digital manipulates the colours to suit its own perception of colour. The major difference for me, is really in the thinking and feeling an image, more than the aesthetic, as an image can be beautiful and not work, but an image that feels right is always beautiful.
(Cost) is the Achilles’ heel of film photography, (and that) depends on the type of film. The basic film, both colour and black and white, can cost anything from R35 to R60 and then the most expensive cost anything from R130 to R300. It costs R35 to process and R35 to scan one roll of film. Black and white is a lot more expensive to process, costing at R80 and R35 to scan. And so if, say, in a month one shoots five rolls of film, that is expensive to process and scan. The prices also depend on the place but because there is less and less people shooting film, the prices keep rising.
“Film looks and feels nearer to the subject, where digital manipulates the colours to suit its own perception of colour.”
Kodak and Fuji make the best film, with the near perfect colour reproduction and contrast capturing. Kodak, Ilford, and all its lesser superior films like Kentmere, and then Fomapan are my go to for black and white images because they balance the light and dark areas well, which is important for black and white photography. I develop (film) at Orms and Cameraland, both based in Cape Town. They know me now so we have a relationship. I also trust the processing of the images and I never ask for any specific treatments on any images. Though film photography is in a sense a dying art form, there has been a renaissance in South Africa, more exciting, in young black photographers, which I absolutely love.”
Interview by Mr Siphiwe Mpye
All images shot on film, by Mr Lidudumalingani Mqombothi