Allysse Riordan is our 58th In Focus interview. An image maker, writer, sound artist, and microadventurer (not necessarily in that order). Allysse's work takes us on a journey in a particular space and time, noticing the small details of life, meeting strangers, exploring new landscapes, and delving into their inner world
Section 1 - Background
Share your favourite image / print shot on ILFORD film and tell us what it means to you?
It is difficult to choose one favourite image. They shift and change as time passes. Some images I dismissed originally, become new favourite as I find them months/years later. My current favourite image shot on Ilford film is this one:
It is an eerily simple photograph, a fleeting moment on my commute. A bunch of daisies, disregarded on the pavement. Did a child drop them on the way home? Did an adult carry them and let them fall there? The scene must have happened a short amount of time before I showed up or else the wind would have carried them away, pedestrians crushing them underfoot. But there was no trace of anyone around. On another level, I simply love the contrast of white against white, of flowers out of place, of a found scene beautifully arranged without my intervention. There is a lot to be read in this one image and I keep returning to it for that very reason.
Just in case anyone doesn’t know who you are or what you do can you give us the overview?
I’m Allysse Riordan and I faff about with cameras. At least it’s how I like to describe what I do. I photograph my environment with a focus on nature. People are often absent in my photographs or simply there without being the main subject. The more I photograph, the more I am drawn to minimalist compositions. I have recently been exploring wide and ultra-wide angle. There is challenge in filling such a wide frame with very little and yet have an image worth looking at. In a sense, I try to capture moments of peace on film. This does not necessarily include beauty. This is about pausing and taking a moment out of time to look, listen, breathe, be. For me this is linked to the natural world, hence my focus on it.
How and why did you get started shooting film?
Like many people, I first shot film as a kid because that’s all there was. On vacation, I would be allowed a disposable point and shoot during holidays, and if I were good enough, I could sometimes borrow my mom’s camera (a point and shoot as well but not disposable). Then I got into digital and – like many people again – gradually fell out of love with it. One day at my uncle’s place, I found a Minolta SRT101 and a couple of lenses. I asked him if I could have it. At the time, I didn’t have intention to shoot it. I liked the look of it. Until, one day, I remembered I still had a few rolls of film from when I was a child. I loaded the camera and got shooting. That first roll as an adult came out blank, but I loved the experience of shooting so much that it did not deter me. Instead, I purchased a fresh roll, got shooting again, and well… I haven’t stopped.
Who has been your biggest photographic inspiration to date?
It is hard for me to pinpoint one person as my biggest photographic inspiration. The #BelieveInFilm community on Twitter has been and still is my biggest inspiration. Folks there are experimenting in all sorts of ways which makes me curious and want to try more. They share images and knowledge freely. I have learned so much from everyone in that community, from ways of seeing to ways of working.
What is the best piece of photography tip or advice you have ever received?
This is not a tip I heard in relation to photography but art in general. I can’t remember where I heard it either. It certainly wasn’t directed at me specifically, but it has stuck with me, so I’ll share it here too. That advice is: play.
Don’t take yourself too seriously and allow elements of play in your practice. I sometimes forget and have to remind myself. Play is so important. It’s what drives experiments and learning. And it reminds us (me?) that fun is allowed in the act of creation.
What film photography related projects are you currently working on (or are in the pipeline)?
Having written earlier that I am exploring wide and ultra-wide angle. I have an ongoing project that uses a telephoto lens. With this lens, I am creating abstract images of my neighbourhood. I am exploring shapes and depth (or lack thereof) in the intersection of roofs, walls, etc. I live in a fairly modern suburban area where everything looks the same and can be densely packed. So there’s a lot to explore.
A second project, I have only just started work on explores the relationship between photography and memory. I realised earlier this year that I had not scanned any negative in 2021. I had taken photos and developed them (though not all) but never scanned them. A fact, I had not realised until I started to look for the images in my hard drive to label the negative holders. This sparked me to wonder about why I hadn’t scanned and yet vividly remembered most of the images. It is very early days on this project so I expect it to change but the core will remain photographic images and memory.
What/where is your next shoot and how do you decide what film / kit you will use?
I rarely plan shoots per se. I always have a camera (or three) in my bag at all time. In fact, my everyday bag is a camera bag.
Occasionally, I will visit specific places with the idea to photograph. Often those are local areas, I explore on foot or from my bicycle.
The camera is a Minolta SRT303. I use a 24mm to 50mm zoom lens most of the time. I now also have a 19mm lens for those wide shots. The Minolta is always accompanied by a pinhole camera. That is either a Reality So Subtle 6x6F and/or the Chroma Cube. More recently, I’ve purchase the Reto Ultra Wide and Slim and a Lomography LC-Wide. I tend to use those cameras as note making cameras rather than for anything serious. They are a tool to capture moments that are brief and passing, ones I don’t have time to get any other camera out of the bag for. I carry one or the other at all times in a pocket or a hip bag. I like the idea of allowing myself to capture an image with spontaneity as a visual diary. This is something I am trying this year. I suspect I'll have a lot of rejects but in the midst of it, I'm sure I'll have a few keepers and a few ideas about different ways to approach image making.
In term of film, it’s easy. I either shoot Ilford FP4 at 200 or Bergger Pancro 400. My decision of one over the other is entirely based on light. I am considering shooting slide films - black and white and colour. I find the idea of holding a positive image very appealing. I'm not sure if I'll stick to it but if I don't try, I'll never know.
What are your photographic goals going forward? (Can be business or personal).
After a tumultuous two years (who has had a quiet peaceful two years?). Things have began to settle in my life (personally and professionally). Which is allowing me to focus more on my photography. Up until then, I have mostly been a snapshot photographer. So this year and going forward, I want to work on my photography. I feel I have reached a point creatively (mentally and emotionally). This is where I can start seeing threads through my images. So I want to explore those, especially minimalist photography and abstraction (just dipping my toes there). To help work on my images, I am aiming to read about theory and philosophy of photography more often. I am curious about the why of images and image making. I am also learning to print - digital and analogue. It’s very early days as I’ve only started in December 2021. Long term, I want to become a better printer, but all in good times. That will take years.
Section 2 - Shout outs
We all need a bit of inspiration and love so this is your chance to tell the community about yours – from the film photographers whose work inspires you, the labs you trust with your film, your ‘go to’ film photography stockists, your favourite community darkrooms or just anyone in the community who you feel deserves a special mention.
Give a shout out to your 3 favourite film photographers (not photography hubs) currently active on IG or Twitter and briefly tell us why others should follow them.
- Jo Turchet - I love Jo's approach to landscape and trees in particular. Her images are always beautifully composed and often serene. I often lose myself in her images.
- Chris Boland - Chris's images have a casual relaxed look to them. He explores the cities around him both at home and in his travels. His imagery feels like casual snapshots, images you wouldn't think twice about and yet I keep returning to his work (you can see plenty of his photos on YouTube too.
- Sroyon Mukherjee - I only recently discovered the work of Sroyon and got chatting to him. I love the curiosity that drives his images. He questions the why and reflects on his own work and practice. This shows through his images and in turns make me think about my own whys.
Give a shout out to your favourite photography YouTube channels (apart from the @ilfordphoto one).
I do not shoot large format but I enjoy Matt Marrash channel tremendously. He focuses on large format but a lot of what he talks about applies to all photography. He is concise and a fantastic at passing on technical knowledge in simple terms. https://www.youtube.com/user/mat4226
Give a shout out to your favourite photographic retailers.
For materials, I often use First Call Photographic. And of course yourselves for paper and chemicals. Although, I have at least one local shop I can buy film from, I find it easier to do online.
Give a shout out to your favourite lab service, if you have one.
Section 3 - Favourite Kit
What film cameras do you own and which is your favourite?
Far too many is the answer to this one!
I have a Minolta SRT101 which I rarely use these days but will never sell. It is the one my uncle gave me and that opened the door to photography and community for me. I have upgraded to a Minolta SRT303 which is my every day carry. I also have a bunch of lenses for those but tend to only use the 24-50mm zoom and 19mm at the moment.
Reality So Subtle 6x6F, Chroma Cube, Homemade pinhole 35mm camera using a not quite fully functional Pentax ME Super). A variety of other homemade pinhole cameras.
Medium format cameras:
Bronica SQ-B, Holga 120n, G.B. Kershaw 450, G.B. Kershaw Penguin.
Point and shoot cameras:
Reto Ultra Wide and Slim, Lomography LC-Wide.
Some kind of Polaroid 600 camera, Lomo LC-A with Lomography Instax back (sadly I don't have the door to that LC-A so can't use it on its own). If I only had to keep one, it would be the Minolta SRT303 with the 24 to 50mm lens. It's my workhorse and my most flexible camera. I use it on a weekly basis and do not have to think about any of the settings any longer.
Aside from your camera, lenses and film what accessories make it into your camera bag?
A mini tripod for pinhole photography, a cable release for the rare occasion I may need one, an external rangefinder for my cameras that don't have a focusing screen, and a cloth. Notebooks and pens are also always present to jot down ideas and thoughts.
What is the best piece of photography kit you have found or been gifted?
Dave kindly gifted me the Polaroid 600 camera and G.B. Kershaw Penguin. I love both but have a soft spot for the Polaroid camera. Which makes me fascinated by the idea of instant images. I don't shoot it as much as I'd like as I can't just slide it in a pocket or a bag without loosing too much space, but when I do, it is always a joy.
As this is an ILFORD interview it would be remiss of us not to ask about your favourite ILFORD products. Tell us you favourite ILFORD film, paper or chems and why?
That's easy. Ilford FP4. I was not expecting to fall in love with this film. When I started the search for a regular black and white film to use, FP4 was on the list but I was not putting any money on it making the cut. And yet it blew me away. It is such a versatile film that seems to handle everything I throw at it - bad exposures, good exposures, the occasional trichrome, caffenol, etc. I couldn't name a favourite paper as it's an area I've only began to explore. Chemicals, I mostly use the Ilford Rapid Fixer so I'll name this one. It's easy to use and does the job well.
Nominate one other person you think should fill in this form and we will reach out to them.
Ela Elm https://twitter.com/AllThingsEla
About The Author
Allysse (she/they) is an image maker, writer, sound artist, and microadventurer (not necessarily in that order). At the source of their work are their journeys and every day life with a focus on nature. Through non-fiction pieces and imagery, they recount the personal stories they encounter in daily life and during their travels, taking the reader/viewer/listener outdoors with them. They become the guide through which the audience can embark on a journey in a particular space and time, noticing the small details of life, meeting strangers, exploring new landscapes, and delving into their inner world.
Find out more and follow Allysse at: