This beautiful image wasn’t created and edited on a computer. Local photographer David Kirby shot, developed and created the image at home in his dark room. Such is his passion for traditional photographic methods he has set up his own blog, Twelve Small Squares, complete with tutorials on shooting and developing photographic film. Here he explains why he prefers film over digital and why he likes it right here in the city of Preston, Lancashire.
Who are you and where are you based?
My name is David Kirby, I’m 29 and I was born in Preston. I have lived here all my life and have just recently moved out towards Kirkham.
How long have you been a photographer?
Just over 2 years now.
What drew you to photography?
I started getting into photography as something to do with my girlfriend at the time (now my wife). She had a camera and I thought it would be nice for us to be able to go out on photo trips together, as she would often come out with me doing things I was interested in – I thought it would be nice to return the favour! Photography started getting more and more appealing as time passed and now I’m a little obsessed!
What equipment do you work with?
I work entirely with film. My main camera is an old Bronica SQ-A medium format with 3 prime lenses and a couple of film backs. It’s pretty big and heavy so I almost always use a tripod. I also dabble with toy cameras every now and then such as Diana’s, and I shoot a few pinhole pictures from time to time.
Why film over digital?
Now that’s a question that gets argued over a lot! For me it’s the process. I like to take my time when I am making an image. I like to set up the camera, think about the composition, picture the final image in my mind and then work out how to get there. With digital it is too easy to just set the camera to auto or raw, fire off 30 pictures a second, pick the best and then tweak the heck out of it in Photoshop. Like the famous American photographer Clyde Butcher says, ‘if you’re going to make a piece of art why not do it properly?’
Because film costs money you learn to use it sparingly, shooting only when the conditions are how you want them to be. Then when you get it home there are an infinite number of things you can do to get a final image, from how you develop the film through to how you print it.
For me, sitting in front of a computer for hours on end will never beat working in the darkroom crafting an image and then seeing it slowly appear on the paper as you place it in the chemicals. Somehow it feels more ‘my own’, more like it is something I have made myself from scratch. Then at the end of it all, you have something real to hold in your hands instead of something to look at on a screen.
I’m not having a dig at digital photographers here, there are many, many photographers who produce astounding images shooting digital and to be honest I wouldn’t like to shoot an entire wedding on film. The digital process just doesn’t appeal to me though, I’m a chemicals man!
Do you take a camera with you everywhere?
I don’t. My camera gear is pretty big and to take it everywhere would take it’s toll on my shoulders! Nevertheless, whilst out and about I think it is important to keep your eyes open for things you can come back to shoot. I’m not really into taking portraits or street photography so most things that I shoot will still be around when I come back to a location with my camera.
Is there beauty in Preston?
Oh absolutely! A lot of people seem to mock Preston but I love it – it’s the perfect size! Sometimes you have to look a little harder to find something beautiful but it’s there.
Where are your favourite places to shoot?
I like a bit of variety in my photography. I enjoy shooting landscapes as it’s nice to get out into the countryside. I also like taking photographs of things in a state of decay so abandoned buildings and industrial sites are ideal for that. I also seem to end up at the coast a lot taking photos of boats, I’m not entirely sure why…
All images are copyright David Kirby.