Lockdown Sessions: Hamish Gill Posted On 15th April 2020 To Magazine & Lockdown Sessions
For the second of our Lockdown Session interviews we cornered another well known face in the film community, Hamish Gill. (We're just glad he could fit us into his hectic schedule)!
Section 1 - The Beginning
Share your favourite image / print shot on ILFORD film and tell us what it means to you?
That’s a tricky question. The above image is the one that immediately came to mind. I don’t darkroom print myself, but I did print at a workshop at AG Photographic a few years ago and made a print of that image that I have hanging on my wall here in my office at home.
Matt gave us free rein after a while, so I ended up printing loads of them very slightly differently. I really enjoyed it too. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time in my life for a darkroom, but I often think I might well retire into one.
Just in case anyone doesn’t know who you are or what you do can you give us the overview?
My name is Hamish Gill, I am from Worcester in the UK where I co-run a creative agency within which my main roles are video production and photography. I also run a co-working space, The Kiln, am responsible for inventing pixl-latr - a product aimed at aiding in the process of digitising film - and finally I’m the person behind 35mmc.com, a community authored film photography blog.
What made you set up 35mmc and what were your initial plans for it?
After becoming a photographer professionally, I had begun to run out of steam with my hobby. Then one day I bought a Yashica T5 from my local branch of London Camera Exchange for less money than they were otherwise selling for. I loaded it with a roll of your wonderful XP2 film and went out snapping with it.
The results were stunning and really reinvigorated my enjoyment of the hobby. So much so that I decided to start a blog writing about 35mm compact cameras. Hence 35mmC(ompact). I did have some goals for it becoming a useful resource about compact cameras, though I didn’t expect it to grow to the extent it has.
Did you envisage it would be the success it is today and how do you see it evolving?
No, not at all. As I say, I suppose I had some desire to grow it, but really I was more interested in the positive impact I felt like it was having on my photography. I wasn’t very good at writing back then, but I did find that writing things down helped cement ideas and concepts in my mind. As such, I found it sped up my learning. Compact cameras can teach you to work with limitations and indeed how to harness them, but of course they still remain limited in their scope.
This is a shot I took with an Olympus AF-10 Super - A basic point and shoot that is easily harnessed for low light photography
As such, after a while I started finding ways to talk about other cameras. By that time I had other people writing for the site, so as soon as I opened the floodgates to other content about other cameras, the posts really started streaming in.
Who really came up with ‘5 Frames With’ you or EM?
HA Me, it was my idea. It came from a few people getting in touch wanting to submit quite small reviews or finite experiences with cameras, and was a blessing and a curse in the end. It got to the point that I had so much 5 frames content I was putting out 7 posts a week, but most of them were only 5 frames posts. This was fine really, but in October last year (2019) I decided to try and seek out more in-depth content.
Since then, the content has drifted a little away from gear. - Not entirely of course, - but I am very proud to now be sharing a lot more of peoples’ project work on the site. (Both film and digital), where writers often talk about how their kit helps them achieve what they were aiming for. I find this sort of thing very interesting - it’s not all about gear, but gear is definitely a big part of the process for many photographers.
If we only read one piece of content on the site what should it be?
Tricky. As of April 3rd 2020, there’s over 1.5 million words on the site now, and 1400 posts. 443 of which were written by me. As such, I’d challenge anyone to complete 35mmc… HA!
Joking aside, it’s a blog, there’s no start, middle or end, it’s always evolving and there’s always new content. So the best advice I could give to anyone is to dip into the home page and see if something catches your eye. I say to everyone who writes for the site, keep the content experiential (rather than prescriptive), and write about what interests you.
So to readers I would just suggest that if you don’t find something that ticks the boxes straight away, keep looking - there’s a bit of something for a lot of people there!
What has been your proudest moment / biggest achievement running the site?
Michelle asking me to write for the expert section of your site was pretty cool. (Thanks Hamish)! I wrote about Zone Focusing, and have had a few people get in touch to say how useful an article it was for them. I don’t really think of myself as an expert, so that was quite pleasing.
I’ve worked with a few brands; Leica, Zeiss, etc - that’s always (mostly) fun. In fact, I’m currently working with Pixii the burgeoning French digital rangefinder brand - I’m working to help them refine the camera pre-launch. That happened because David the owner of the company had read 35mmc, and through my words had realised that I was just the right person to understand the concept of his camera. That was a very satisfying moment.
That all said, I think the site as a whole is the thing that makes me most proud. The online film photography community is a wonderful thing to be a part of, and 35mmc has become one of the bigger websites within that community. It’d be hard not to be proud of that, even if it does make me feel a little self-conscious talking about it in these terms.
How and why did you get started shooting film?
I started shooting film in 1992 when I was 9. My Nan bought me the camera from a shop near where she lived in New Milton (I think) on the South Coast. I remember being in the shop and my Nan talking to the guy behind the counter. We bought some film for her old Bolex B8 8mm camera too. Of the two, it was the little Nikon that really caught my imagination. I still have a huge crate of the snaps I used to take with it in the loft, l have that camera too - I must take it out again...
Who has been your biggest photographic inspiration / influence to date?
Aside from my Nan who is at least initially responsible for all this mess, I would say it’s probably my high school maths teacher who inspired me the most - not with her photos, but with her words. I entered a school photography competition, she was one of the judges. I didn’t win, but she did tell me I had a “natural eye for composition”. Just a few words that she likely doesn’t even remember, but the encouragement they gave me… well, I would say that moment is probably one of the most pivotal in my life.
What is the best piece of photography advice or tip you have received?
Hmm… I’m gonna break the rules here a bit here as this isn’t technically photography advice, or indeed was it given to me. You know that Baz Luhrmann song ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’? The penultimate message in the song goes as follows:
Be careful whose advice you buy
But be patient with those who supply it
Advice is a form of nostalgia
Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off
painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth
The whole song is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, but that last bit has always struck me as being particularly relevant to me, how I think, and - specifically to the question - is how I approach furthering both my learning about photography and my attempts to teach it through the blog.
There are no absolutes in photography, and anyone who tells you there are is, frankly, wrong. Despite this, there is so much content peddled online that will give you “5 tips for how to take better photos of your cat” or whatever. Worse still, I often see photographer’s with blog posts claiming to have found the “best” way to, for example, develop and print a certain film. I see so many other photographers lapping this stuff up too, like there are no other paths to be explored.
All of these tips, tricks, nuggets of advice etc can and probably should be digested. But none of it should be taken as gospel. Yes the way people write and talk online might seem like it comes from a place of authority and experience, but all of it will be being polished for the sake of presentation. Everyone likes to be the expert, but really no one is when it comes to subjects like photography. There is just too much to know, and far too many variables.
The real trick is to find your own path, find what works for you!
I took this photo whilst out for a walk with my wife around Christmas time. I had a bit of a bad year last year, overthinking and worrying about my photography too much. In the end, this walk snapped me out of it. I wrote about that day and some of those thoughts here. The crux of that post was that I had reminded myself that I needed to follow my own path and do what makes me happy.
Section 2 – In Lockdown
What photography related projects (if any) are you planning to do while in lockdown? (processing, scanning, printing, business planning etc) / Do you have any photography tips / ideas / projects for people to try?
My main goal is to write more for the website. I found lockdown stressful to begin with, but now I’ve got used to not having so much of the stress of running all my businesses to the extent I usually do. I’m finding the headspace quite enjoyable.
Of course, bearing in mind what I have just said, you appreciate that I do my best to attribute as little real value to my “tips” as possible. Not least because I know this particular one won’t work for everyone.
But if you're anything like me, I can definitely suggest that you try spending some of your time writing about your photography. Writing about cameras has helped me understand what I need from them. Writing about why I take photos has helped me understand that too... and everything in between.
In short, when in a situation where taking photos is less viable - for me at least - writing about the subject comes a very close second! And, of course, if you want somewhere to publish that writing, the doors of 35mmc.com are always open to new contributors.
What key piece of advice would give others to see them through / staying motivated with their photography during the lockdown?
Don’t overthink. As I’ve mentioned, I spent a lot of time last year in one hell of a funk about my photography. It all came from a place of overthinking. I’m just glad I came out of it in time for this nonsense to kick off. If I’d been stuck in the house and feeling uninspired by my photography I think I’d have got myself in a right grump.
As it is, I’m not worried. I’m not overthinking what I am and aren’t going to take photos of, or when. I’m just taking advantage of what opportunities I do have when they come up (mostly snaps of the kids), and when they aren’t I’m writing instead… and I’m not overthinking that either.
Where is the first place that you will be shooting once this is over and what kit will you take with you?
Wherever I end up and whatever I happen to have with me at the time. Sorry, that’s a boring answer, but I honestly don’t want to think about it too much...
This pandemic has given many people the opportunity to reassess goals and ambitions. When the world returns to normal what are your photographic goals going forward? (Can be business or personal).
I recently wrote an article about the CoronaVirus wasn’t going to stop me blogging about cameras and photography. I concluded that post by saying:-
“CoronaVirus isn’t going to stop me blogging about cameras and photography, not because it’s an exceptional thing to do, just because its a normal thing to do, and I can’t think of many things that would make me more happy right now than a little bit of normality once in a while.”
Continuing in the theme of not overthinking, and - as I said in that post - carrying on as normally as possible, I’ve decided not to take this as an opportunity to reassess. Instead, I’m going to carry on as I have been. I’m going to carry on enjoying my hobby, and enjoying writing about it in whatever way takes my fancy and when. All power to those who want to spend time setting goals etc, but that isn’t for me… I just want to carry on as normally as I possibly can.
On a non-photography question - This is a bit more deep and meaningful but post coronavirus, what would you like the world to do differently (what lessons could we all take from this)?
One of those politicians (I think it was Gove) commented recently - just after Boris got it - that “this virus doesn’t discriminate”. I found myself uncommonly offended at this sentiment. The implication that Boris is special enough that the virus, if it was able, might somehow pick on someone lesser than Boris made me really quite angry.
We are all equal, and we all have value we can bring to society, be that as politicians, nurses, teachers and people who work in shops. This virus proves that. Not just in how it doesn’t discriminate, but also in how it has shown how valuable a part we all have to play in keeping the world turning. Whatever part we happen to play.
This sort of thing shouldn’t need proving, but unfortunately it does. Any societal, economic or political steps toward a more equal society that this virus forces - or even just encourages - will be for the better.
Section 3 - 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, to 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?
Ashley Carr (@acarrphoto - more active on IG) - I really enjoy Ash’s work. He takes a lot of photos of architecture that really appeal to me. Moreover, his IG account is very satisfying to look through and digest as a whole. I also have a great deal of time for him as a person - he loves a rant like me, too.
John Whitmore (@thedarkshed more active on twitter) - Me and John have very different approaches to film photography. I’m much more toward the digital end of the spectrum, and he has a darkroom in his shed. As such, we differ in a lot of opinions, but he’s the sort to accept mine as I accept his, and I have a lot of respect for that.
Sandy Phimester (@SandyPhimester more active on IG). Sandy’s work never fails to impress me. He takes a lot of photos of female models which very very rarely do anything for me. In fact, I would go as far to say that I avoid that sort of photography usually. This alone makes me know just how impressive I find his work. Beyond that, I’m also not usually someone who finds a need for explicit narrative in images. In my world, there is nothing wrong with images that just appeal on an aesthetic level. I am also a big advocate of picking the right tool for the job. The reason that I like Sandy’s images so much is that they do have wonderfully tangible narrative, they tell a story. Both one of the photographer and his subject. Beyond that, they are also beautiful to look at. Not because of the subject matter, before you accuse me of being shallow, - but because of the colour, contrast, composition and overall aesthetic is so well executed. And finally, he really knows how to choose his gear to accomplish his vision. He’s a very talented photographer, and on my mind at the moment as I am currently interviewing him for the website.
Give a shout out to your 3 favourite photography YouTube channels (apart from the @ilfordphoto one)?
I’m not a big watcher of youtube (despite having my own sparsely populated channel - does that count as one?)
Ethan Moses is well worth checking out, not least because he’s really bloody funny. He’s a stand up bloke too. (Somewhat demonstrated by the fact that he has mostly been 3d printing ventilator parts recently).
And, finally (because I am counting me). I have recently been introduced to EduardoPavezGoye who has inadvertently managed to inspire a new series of post on the website called The Whole Roll / #FullRollFriday
Give a shout out to your favourite photographic retailer (name, location and website)
I buy a lot of cameras from London Camera Exchange in Worcester, but it would be remiss of me not to mention Analogue Wonderland. Me and Paul have become good mates over the last year or so. He also has a good business brain and operates within this decade which is much needed in this industry, if you ask me.
Give a shout out to your favourite lab service, if you have one, (name, location, website)
SilverPan Film Lab. Duncan’s bespoke service is unmatched in my opinion. He’s too cheap at the moment too, so give him ago and get yourself hooked to what he does before he puts his price up. You won’t look back.
Section 4 - Favourite kit
What is your favourite film camera you own (or have owned/used)? (Send us a picture of it if you have one).
I’ve managed to get this far without swearing, but f***in’ hell, you know you can’t ask me that right…?! Loads! Here’s a few Leica M4-P, Plaubel Makina 67, Rollei 35SE, Nikonos-III, Pentax MX, Leica ia, Yashica T5 and a Lomo LC-A. Are they my favourites - maybe, they are ones I don’t think I will sell, but that’s no exclusive list……
Aside from your camera, lenses and film what accessories make it into your camera bag?
I find things like my little pen knife for trimming film leaders and making on-the-go “alterations” to my cameras useful. Black tape is useful too. It’s good for dealing with light leaks and covering over and editing the DX code on 35mm film. Other than those, which I try not to take out either to be honest. I prefer to carry as little as possible.
What is the best piece of photography kit you have found or been gifted?
My Nikon RF10 given to me by my Nan... It would surely be ridiculous to suggest anything else really.
As this is an ILFORD interview it would be remiss of us not to ask about your favourite ILFORD products. Tell us your favourite ILFORD film, paper and chems and why?
I wonder how many people will say HP5+ film…? That stuff is bulletproof. I don’t shoot it much these days, but XP2 is wonderful too! I can definitely recommend Ortho too - that film really surprised me (shots from my first experiences with it here)
Unfortunately, we’ve seen pictures from around the world of people stockpiling products such as toilet rolls, pasta, hand sanitiser etc. If you could stockpile one ILFORD product what would it be?
I wouldn’t, it’s f***ing immoral! (You got me swearing now - sorry).
Nominate one other person you think should fill in this form and we will reach out to them
Ashley Carr (We'll be in touch soon)!
Please supply links to any of your websites or social channels you wish to share.
About The Author
Hamish Gill is a professional photographer who shoots both film and digital. He’s been taking photos since he was a child and working as a photographer in one form or another for over a decade. He is also the person behind 35mmc.com and the inventor of pixl-latr.
You can find 35mmc here: 35mmc.com
You can find out more about pixl-latr here: pixl-latr.com