I'm fairly sure that this week's interviewee doesn't need an introduction. Walter Rothwell is a multi award winning photographer and co founder of Street Photography International Collective. His website and Instagram feed are filled with striking street and documentary images from around the world.
Section 1 Background
Share your favourite image / print shot on ILFORD film and tell us what it means to you?
This image is from a documentary I made in a leprosy hospital in Bangladesh. I was 19 when I started the work and it was the first time I had properly traveled to shoot. The NGO picked me up at the airport and as we drove into Dhaka the air was damp and sweet. The roads were lined with palm trees and life was happening all around; I remember thinking 'this is what I want to do with the rest of my life'. Years later, I ended up living there and regularly returned to the hospital to carry on documenting the wonderful work they did. Sadly, it has now closed.
Just in case anyone doesn’t know who you are or what you do can you give us the overview?
I'm a documentary and street photographer based in the UK
How and why did you get started shooting film?
When I started there was no choice! I studied photography at Bournemouth in the early 1990s when digital was in its infancy. They had some powerful computers (for the time!)and I watched people manipulate photos in a way I had never seen before, it made me uncomfortable even then. As I watched the capabilities of Photoshop et al grew year on year I made the conscious decision to stick with film. Truth and integrity are vital in street and documentary and I will happily show anyone my negatives and contact sheets. I can't imagine anything worse than having to hide your RAW files in case people see how much is post production.
Who has been your biggest photographic inspiration to date?
Hard to narrow it down to just one as different work appeals for different reasons but the list would start with these: Don McCullen, W. Eugene Smith, Sebastião Salgado and Edward Weston.
What is the best piece of photography tip or advice you have ever received?
Never publish anything you won't be happy to justify in the future.
What film photography related projects are you currently working on (or are in the pipeline)?
I have been shooting a documentary at the Pyramids of Giza since 2007, the progress of what I'm recording is out of my control. It's gone on far longer than I ever intended, the families children I photographed when I first started are now getting married and having kids! I was aiming to finish it this year but that's no longer looking possible, hopefully next year....
What / where is your next shoot and how do you decide what film / kit you will use?
I've had a lot of time to go through my contact sheets during lockdown and a couple of ideas have come up. The one I'm looking forward to needs to be precision shot on one roll of film as the contact sheet will effectively be the piece of work. I will have to dedicate one Nikon F6 to the project and keep careful notes, something that goes against my usual way of working but I'm looking forward to starting once things get back to 'normal'.
What are your photographic goals going forward? (Can be business or personal).
Seems to be a recurring theme but its not been a great year for plans and goals. 2020 is pretty much going to be a write off so I'm trying to adopt a zen attitude with regard to future developments. When things do improve I have a book proposal ready to go and as soon as it's practical I'm going back to Egypt.
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.
You've already interviewed several of the photographers I would recommend but a couple well worth taking a look at are:
Ashley Carr, @acarrphoto on Instagram, has a great eye for finding elegant compositions in the most ordinary places, his tonal rendering is also spot on.
The daughter of the great photographer James Ravilious has started a Twitter account dedicated to her father's work, he was a photographer with great sensitivity.
Give a shout out to your favourite photographic retailers (name, location and website).
For the last couple of years, Ag Photographic in Birmingham. https://www.ag-photographic.co.uk
Give a shout out to your favourite lab service, if you have one, (name, location, website).
I seldom use labs but one place that's built a fantastic and active film community is Rapid Eye in London. I'll declare an interest as the owner is a friend but with the addition of the new photo book cafe a few yards down the road, it really is a great place to check out if you are an analogue photographer.
Section 3 - Favourite kit
What film cameras do you own and which is your favourite? (Please send us a picture of it if you can).
I've been using Nikon cameras for over thirty years and their final one, the F6, is pretty much perfect. (Although losing the removable viewfinder of all the other F cameras was a shame). I also use a Hasselblad Xpan which I have with me the whole time. I have some others I occasionally use including a Nikonos diving camera for shooting in the monsoon season and a couple of compacts - the Nikon 28 and 35Ti.
Aside from your camera, lenses and film what accessories make it into your camera bag?
A lens cloth.
What is the best piece of photography kit you have found or been gifted?
One piece of kit that has made a huge difference over the last decade is a Nova FB print processor. It's basically an upright dev, stop and fix tank with temperature control. The chemicals last for a few weeks with minor refreshing and it means I can just print without having to spend 20 minutes mixing chemicals for trays or having to throw them away afterwards. My other vital bit of darkroom kit is a RH Designs Zonemaster. I have it calibrated to Ilford Multigrade RC and it makes it possible to meter all the areas of the negative so I have a good idea of the required dodging and burning before I have done the first print. The only time I now need a test strip is when I'm split grade printing.
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?
I have been printing on Ilford Multigrade for as long as I can remember and have stacks of 12x16 boxes around the house. I still print everything and then scan the prints, it's such a vital part of photography for me. The wonderful thing about darkroom printing is the total immersion in the process. No distractions, no TV in the background or internet just a click away, time and thought are totally dedicated to the image.
Nominate one other person you think should fill in this form and we will reach out to them
- Kris Askey http://www.krisaskey.com
All images ©Walter Rothwell
About The Author
Walter Rothwell is a multi award winning, internationally published and exhibited photographer with work held in private and national collections. With over 30 years of experience, he has worked with clients ranging from blue chip companies to charitable foundations, news and media, as well as the arts. He has also been the keynote speaker at many photography festivals and events. His work has been exhibited at, amongst others, the Paris Salon de la Photo, Saatchi Gallery London, The Mall gallery London. Walter has had work published in many photography magazines and has had stories featured in titles including The Independent, Harper’s Bazaar, London standard and Time Out London.