Our 69th In Focus interview is with poet, former university instructor and high school teacher Lorraine Healy.
Section 1 - Background
Share your favourite image / print shot on ILFORD film and tell us what it means to you?
I took this image in January 2022. We had been having a lot of fog that was lasting longer than the usual early morning ‘til sunrise. I knew where I wanted to go. This place, Indian Slough, is some 70 minutes away from my house. I could tell when I got there that the sun was beginning to burn the fog and I had wanted to make it to an abandoned fish shack farther on this path, but it was not going to be possible. So I turned back and found this scene was happening, the sun beginning to peek out and reflecting on the slough. I think it’s meaningful to me because it reminds me that being prepared is important, research done, equipment checked… but also that I need to be flexible enough to know when to turn back and find other places. Which I did that day, and kept getting beautiful results.
Just in case anyone doesn’t know who you are or what you do can you give us the overview?
I am a poet, former university instructor and high school teacher, and photographer. I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and moved to the U.S. almost thirty years ago. I have several poetry books and chapbooks published, as well as an eBook on using Holga cameras. I have always had dogs who demanded tons of walking, so I’m out on different trails and terrain every day, no matter the weather.
How and why did you get started shooting film?
I started when I was 16 and film was all there was. I later took a class in basic black and white photography, plus developing and printing at the Foto Club Buenos Aires, and for a few years I was an active developer and printer of my own work. That said, I never felt like I could get either negs or prints to the precise degree of “tidiness” I wanted, so I moved on to using professional labs in Argentina and later in the US.
Who has been your biggest photographic inspiration to date?
Michelle Bates, Susan Bowen, and Ted Orland in Holga photography. Zeb Andrews in pinhole. I literally never saw the point of pinhole photography until I saw Zeb’s work in colour—I have never stopped shooting pinhole since then. Stephen Shore, William Christenberry, and William Eggleston in “road trip” or Americana photography, which is enormously dear to my heart and which transcends any one particular country really. I always find myself looking for those places in any country I go, where you get a glimpse of an authentic past.
What is the best piece of photography tip or advice you have ever received?
When feeling stuck, change the format, change the film, do things differently. I was told this by two of my mentors, photographers Sharon Shoemaker and Skip Smith. I have stumbled upon another piece of wisdom on my own: when feeling creatively depleted, take a class or a workshop. Learn something new.
What film photography related projects are you currently working on (or are in the pipeline)?
I have two or three projects that are open-ended, one about the old neighborhood cafés of my native Buenos Aires, and a couple that are perhaps two sides of one coin: a nostalgic view of an 1960s United States and a view of the forgotten United States. One looks at the remnants of an age gone by, the other one registers those edges that feel left as an afterthought, or, as my friend photographer Des Brough puts it, the failures of the American Dream.
What I’m really focusing on right this second is learning. I have signed up for three online classes with three very different photographers, Alec Soth, Bruce Percy, and Nick Carver.
I also want to get serious about using the 5x4 Pinsta Camera to print positives from my negatives.
What / where is your next shoot and how do you decide what film / kit you will use?
My next “big” shoot will be in New York City in early April 2023. I haven’t been to NYC in a few years now, and I’m especially excited about doing night photography there. Normally when I travel, I weigh carefully the pros and cons of each camera, depending on what it is that I want to concentrate on. For New York, I’ll be taking both Mamiya 6 with my two lenses (50mm and 75mm), one pinhole, tripod and shutter release. I’m planning on buying the film there, to avoid the powerful new scanners at the airport.
What are your photographic goals going forward?
I think I want to get better at it and keep enjoying it. As with my poetry, I’m thinking more about producing--more poems, more images I’m pleased with. I recently turned 60 and I have noticed a very clear retreat of my wordly ambitions, ha ha. I guess what I’m trying to say is I have achieved a modest success in my creative life; I feel content with that and I’m not thinking of any big goals, like a coffee table book or getting my work into galleries. But feeling like I’m getting better, like there’s growth happening, yes that matters.
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.
The entire #believeinfilm community on Twitter has been a source of good cheer, information, wacky wit, and general delight since I joined; a lovelier group of people you couldn’t find… They are so generous with their immense knowledge of all things film. Plus they are hilarious and refreshing. But since I have to pick just three:
Ade Taylor @Six_by_Six Where do I start with Ade’s work? His Derbyshire landscapes are so beautiful, they make me want to weep. He turned me on to the work of James Ravilious, who is his great influence. I think he is so proficient in the subtleties of exposing for all the films and lenses he uses, he can just let his soul loose on the composition. And I’m fangirling about Ade now, so I’m going to shut up! But look him up and follow him.
John Scarboro (aka Monobod) @JohnScarbro1 John is an absolute master of every camera he picks up. Pinholes, Holgas, toy cameras, Olympus XA, sprockets, no sprockets! He has a very tender eye on what he photographs, a sweetness that comes through no matter what he is pointing his many cameras at. I would love to meet John and Ade and go shooting with them.
Moni Smith @LifeatF135 Moni is a fantastic pinhole photographer and we have gone on outings together with the Seattle and Portland area pinholers, a loose group that includes past ILFORD interviewee Monika Danos and Todd Schlemmer, the maker of Terrapin cameras. I love Moni’s take on the world around her.
Give a shout out to your favourite photography YouTube channels (apart from the @ilfordphoto one).
-Adrián Otero Vila @aows Adrián describes himself as a semi nomad, minimalist, b&w photographer. His work is digital now but he still occasionally takes his Bronica out for a spin. He is immensely generous with his knowledge and his take on things delights me.
-Kyle McDougall @KyleMcDougall is another film photographer that has moved towards more digital work, but he still shoots and reviews an impressive amount of films and analogue cameras. Kyle has a calm, thoughtful approach in his photography videos not unlike Adrián’s.
-Nick Carver @nickcarverphoto is a cheeky, fun guy with a ton of technical knowledge up his sleeve and a degree of precision in his execution that his easygoing persona might belie. Watch him let loose in the California desert with his 6x17 field camera.
Give a shout out to your favourite photographic retailers.
I live rather remotely and going into the city involves a ferry and a longish drive, so I tend to order online. My go to places are B&H (www.b&hphotovideo.com), The Film Photography Project (https://filmphotographyproject.com), and Freestyle (www.freestylephoto.biz). When I manage to leave the island where I live and drive the 5 hours south to Portland, Oregon, I always stop by Blue Moon Camera (https:// bluemooncamera.com) and come out with a new wee something, a lens, a new film. And it’s a chance to see more of Zeb Andrews’s work, or chat with Zeb himself.
Give a shout out to your favourite lab service.
I try to spread the love, so I use three. I want all of these labs to stay in business forever.
-Old School Photo Lab (www.oldschoolphotolab.com) in Dover, NH, is unparalleled in customer service. I think owner Steve Frank and his “Lab rats” count most customers as personal friends. I know I adore them all.
-The Darkroom (www.thedarkroom.com) in San Clemente, CA, is another professional lab with decades of experience. They are very attentive to whatever you send them.
-Citizens Photo Lab (www.citizensphoto.com) in Portland, OR, is another very reliable lab, with prompt, professional, and no-fuss service.
Section 3 - Favourite kit
What film cameras do you own and which is your favourite?
My two Mamiyas 6, one of which I use to shoot 35mm panoramas, Yashica Mat 124G (currently left in Buenos Aires), Zero 6x6 pinhole, Terrapin 6x9 pinhole, Hartmann Titan 4x5. I have too many cameras, and some fall “out of favour” for a while, in which case I try to put them into other photographers’ hands. I don’t want film equipment falling apart on my shelf from lack of use. The Yashica is my favourite but it is feeling a tad too heavy now.
Aside from your camera, lenses and film what accessories make it into your camera bag?
Pinhole Assist app on the Iphone, a couple of shuttle releases, Arca-Swiss quick release plates. I just bought a Reveni spot meter that I expect will live in my bag.
What is the best piece of photography kit you have found or been gifted?
A “chimney” viewfinder for my Holgas. It’s a piece of plastic that sits on the hotshoe. You can’t really see anything clearly through it, but it allows me to center the image on the film plane.
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?
ILFORD PanF 50 makes me swoon. There is nothing like it for pinholes, especially when I pair it with the Terrapin 6x9. I wish it came in 4x5 so I could use it in my Hartmann Titan pinhole, but I know there are technical issues that don’t allow it.
Nominate one other person you think should fill in this form and we will reach out to them.
Maxi Magnano (IG @suffer_rosa) is an Argentinean film photographer whose work I love. He finds the small colourful details of the city scape and shoots them in a way that is ennobling and a tad melancholic. He is mostly a colour photographer but he has work in b&w too.
All images ©Lorraine Healy
About The Author
Photographer and writer, Lorraine Healy, is an inveterate traveler. A fan of the Great American Road Trip, she is documenting the remnants of Americana, storefronts, and signs, before they are gone. As evidenced by her recent series, East to West on Route 66, by using film and her favorite plastic cameras, the look of her images, themselves, reflect a bygone time.
Lorraine’s photographs have been selected for exhibition in galleries around the country and online. These include: the Holga Out of the Box Juried Show, TCC Gallery, Longview TX; the 9th Annual Juried Plastic Camera Show, Rayko Gallery, San Francisco, CA; the Somerville Toy Camera Festival, Somerville MA; and the Krappy Kameras XV Juried Show, Soho Gallery, New York City NY.
In 2015 Lorraine published an eBook on how to achieve the best results with a Holga camera, Tricks With A Plastic Wonder. She is also a frequent contributor of articles to online photography magazines including, The Lomography Society, EMULSIVE.org, Kosmo Foto, and others. The author of five books of poetry, her chapbook “Abraham’s Voices” also includes her photographs.
Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Healy is a long-time resident of Whidbey Island, Washington. Her images are held in private collections in Argentina, Canada, and the U.S.