It’s the final week of O3 Gallery’s current exhibition, ‘Lo-Fi, a Celebration of Creative Analogue Photography’; a group show featuring the work of 10 different photographers. The exhibition is set across 3 venues; The Jam Factory, the Old Fire Station and of course the O3 Gallery.
As the exhibition draws to a close, we interviewed another of our exhibiting photographers, Julia Brow. Julia is a USA born, London raised student studying Geography (BA) at University College London. Before starting her degree Julia took a gap year, spending three months studying photography at Art College followed by four months travelling, much of which was documented on analogue cameras. Julia describes her interest in photography as mostly artistic, it is the experimentation that she enjoys which applies less to digital photography, and hopes to pursue it further, perhaps post degree.
How does it feel to be part of the O3 Gallery’s Lo-Fi exhibition?
I’m very excited about it. This is the first time my artwork has been exhibited in a gallery and everyone at the O3 Gallery has been so friendly.
As one of our younger artists, with digital being the dominant medium, what drew you to work in analogue photography?
I’ve always been attracted to film photography; it has a sense of nostalgia about it. When I was 15 I found my mum’s old SLR in a drawer and started shooting with it and I haven’t stopped since. I like the anticipation you get from waiting for your film to develop, especially when you’ve been experimenting with it as I often do. Film has a quality that just can’t be replicated in digital photography, even when using Photoshop. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for digital photography and its instant gratification, I just prefer to use film.
Do you draw influence from any particular artists or photographers?
I admire a number of different artists and photographers. I like the work of the French street artist JR, who takes photographs and blows them up to huge sizes and pastes them on walls and so on. I’m not sure if I’m influenced by anyone in particular – I get ideas from what I see in galleries, museums, books, while browsing online and through experimentation.
You used some pretty unusual techniques both during and after the development of your films, could you explain what they were?
In my Beirut photomontage, I’ve experimented with forced light leaks on redscale film, which is like normal colour film that is exposed on the wrong side. This was following some accidental light leaks which I liked the look of, as they appeared to ‘set fire’ to the images. Luckily, I didn’t completely overexpose the film!
Some other experiments I’ve done involved treating the film prior to using it in a camera. My photomontages ‘Hard-Boiled’ and ‘Par-Boiled’ were created by soaking the film in bourbon whiskey and boiling water, respectively, before use. The different treatments (others included soaking in vodka and in lemon juice) had weird and wonderful effects on the emulsion and the colours of the film. When I took some of my ‘chemically-treated’ rolls to the lab, the technician told me to try using a hair-dryer to create colour casts, so I did that next. I’m always looking for new experiments to try; it’s part of the fun of shooting on film rather than digital.
Beirut; light leaks on redscale film
Does the cost of processing film from analogue photography ever make you want to go purely digital, or does the result compensate the extra expense?
Analogue photography is expensive, but it makes you value each shot more. When you take photos on a digital camera, you might take thousands and never look at them again, whereas the limitation of having only 24 or 36 shots makes you consider more before taking a photo. Saying that, I’ve been known to be quite snap-happy with my film and then have to wait for ages to develop them as my (student) budget won’t stretch to developing more than a couple of rolls at a time! Investing in a decent negative scanner has been a good way of cutting costs for me.
I previously had access to a darkroom and it was great, it really cuts your costs and you have much more freedom to experiment with printing processes such as using liquid light. I miss it
You have used a variety of analogue cameras throughout your work, was each used for a specific reason or as a matter of experimentation?
I always shoot my ‘chemically-treated’ rolls of film using my Olympus Trip, given to me by my sister and my brother-in-law. It helps me tell the difference between the effects on the film, as everything else is kept the same.
Otherwise, I just change camera for the sake of it or for experimentation. I have a collection of about twenty or so inexpensive cameras, either plastic toy cameras or vintage. My favourite is probably my Canon AE-1 SLR. I love the distinctive ‘Canon cough’ it makes when the shutter button is pressed, although it’s not very helpful when you’re trying to be sneaky!
Many of the photos are from far-off lands, do you always travel with an analogue camera or is digital your go-to?
I usually bring a couple of different analogue cameras with me when I travel for flexibility: a toy camera or disposable when I’m worried it might get damaged, plus an SLR for all the other times. Sometimes I bring a digital camera along as well if I want to take more photos than I can afford to take on film, usually my GoPro. Last year, I went travelling for four months and had to restrain myself to about 10 rolls of film, so I supplemented with digital.
And finally, if you could only use one camera for the rest of our life, what would you choose?
Probably my Canon AE-1, it’s pretty reliable and I don’t expect to ever get bored of using it!
For enquiries about Julia Brow’s work please contact O3 Gallery:
T: 01865 246131
To find out more about the current exhibition, visit O3 Gallery or keep an eye on our social media channels: