Industry Insight: Studio C-41

Introduce us to Studio C-41.
Hi, The Art of Film! First of all, we want to say thank you for inviting us to do this interview, Steven and I are very excited to be part of an amazing photographic community! Studio C-41 is a podcast about photography! While most of our conversations is heavily focused on analogue, we love all forms of photography.

What drew you to selecting podcasts as your outlet to celebrate film?
Bill: I found myself loitering around Dunwoody Photo, the last lab in Atlanta. I took a heavy interest in film and developed some great friendships there. It led to becoming great friends with Michael, the lab owner, and another photographer that helps out at the lab, Steven. I found myself spending most of my lunch breaks talking to these guys. After a couple years, and a 3-hour dinner, I pitched the idea to Michael and Steven saying, “If we can sit here for three hours talking about film, I think we can turn this into a thing!”.

Steven: The easy answer? Bill asked me to do it! I really am passionate about the art form that is photography, and film photography in particular. We joke about me being a know it all, but I just genuinely love this stuff and will sit and talk about it with anyone who will listen. The chance to sit down with some amazing people and record and share our conversations was a no-brainer.

Studio C-41 is just a youngster! Do you feel like the channel has changed at all since its beginnings back in 2017?
Bill: Absolutely! Originally, the idea started as an extension to the Atlanta Film Photographer’s Facebook group. We wanted to interview local photography businesses and photographers. After our first interview with KEH Camera and Japan Camera Hunter, back around Episode 5, we quickly realised that the focus needed to be wider than just Atlanta. We changed our goals and the show is recorded at home in addition to the photo lab. Steven: I feel like our ramblings have become much more specific, just as nerdy, only more focused. But really, I kid. Bill summed it up great, we’ve really been able to mature a lot this year. It’s crazy to listen to those first couple of episodes and hear how far we’ve already come!

You’ve chatted to some big names in the film industry! Interviewing Kodak must have been incredible, tell us about that experience.
Bill: I honestly do not have words to describe the experience on the tour. I’ve said there are trips that photographers have to take to change their perspective on their craft. For me, Tunnel View at Yosemite and the overlook at the Snake River and the Grand Tetons, both spots Ansel Adams photographed. Now, this trip to Kodak, even Rochester. The trip to Kodak changed me. I have a whole new appreciation for the people that make this film. It is a day that I spent with my wife, great friends, and made new friends. The factory is not open to the public; however, they’re working on building a centre where people can visit the factory campus in Rochester.

This trip showed that Kodak really cares about the film community. They’re very in touch with the resurgence and kicking that off with bringing back some awesome emulsions.

Steven: I still get giddy thinking about that whole experience. I mean, it’s freaking Kodak! It was pretty much like getting to visit the Wonka factory, you know without the murdery rivers of chocolate. I’ll take film over candy anytime.

Walking through Eastman Business Park and then getting to record in Kodak Tower in the Kodakery space was seriously incredible. It felt like being inside of photographic history, but not a history that was simply in the past. It was vibrant, and living, and very much in the present – working hard to ensure that film has a long and bright future.

I totally echo what Bill said. Kodak and Kodak Alaris care about the film community. The people there truly are passionate about what they do, and it shows. They couldn’t have been more gracious and welcoming to us. That whole trip will stay with me for the rest of my life.Tell us about the team behind Studio C-41.
Bill: My journey into film photography started with the unfortunate passing of a close family friend. He knew I very much enjoyed photography. Loren left me his Yashica 635 and a Kodak Retina IIa. He travelled though many parts of Asia in 50s and 60s with these cameras. I wanted to bring life back to these cameras. I got them serviced and started to use them. Little did I know that it would be the catalyst to meeting so many people and the start of this podcast.Steven: I grew up with a film camera always being around; both my mom and my grandmother were constantly documenting things. Being a kid, I wanted to do what the grown ups were doing and have my own camera, I can’t imagine how much money my parents spent on plastic drugstore cameras, film, and processing for me over the years.

Fast forward to me graduating high school and I had no idea what I wanted to do with myself, other than not take any more science and math classes! My parents encouraged me to take time off and work a part time job so, back in September of 2003, I got hired at a Wolf Camera. I fell in love with the whole process of photography, from learning to shoot with my newly purchased Canon AE-1, to being able to develop and print my own film in the lab – I was hooked. It all clicked with me like nothing had before and I wanted to learn everything I could. After working at Wolf for two years I went back to school and earned my BFA in photography from Georgia State University here in Atlanta. It was one of the last schools around to still have a full colour and black and white darkroom and I fell even more in love with film photography while I was there.

I ended up staying at Wolf Camera for about nine years. In 2012 the timing was right for me to leave Wolf and go after photography full time. I had been shooting digital as, like many others, I felt this was the only way to work with clients. It was right about then that my wife, Amanda, suggested that I start shooting film for my client work. She knew how much I loved it and saw it as something unique I could bring to the table. I am so crazy thankful to her for making that suggestion! Bringing film into my client work has completely changed me for the better and without it I think I would’ve gotten burned out years ago.Are you currently working on any personal photography projects?
Bill: I have a few personal projects that were placed on the backburner because of Studio C-41. We’re experiencing a lot of growth. I would say Studio C-41 is my current project, however, it is not ‘my project.’ It is a project for the photographic community. When I need that creative outlet, I will do a shoot here and there.

Steven: The one project for me that I feel that is becoming a cohesive body of work is photographing the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I’m originally from Calgary, Alberta in Canada, which is less that two hours away from Banff National Park and some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. There’s just something about those mountains that I connect with like nothing else. I’m not sure what it is that inspires me so much about that place. Maybe there’s a part of me that just knows it’s where I was born, but going there always feels like going home. I’ve been lucky enough to travel back up there several times over the last few years and it never gets old. I’ve just started curating the photos I’ve taken there as far as how I’d like to present them, but I already know this in particular will be a lifelong project I’m only scratching the surface of.What’s your camera, film and subject of choice?
Bill: I’ll be honest. I am film agnostic. I will always love the Fujifilm and Kodak emulsions; they are consistent and dependable. However, these are very interesting times. We’re seeing an explosion of cottage industry emulsions like CineStill Film, JCH Street Pan, Street Candy, and many more! I just want to try them all!

Film camera prices have skyrocketed. Experimenting has gotten a little tough. Most antique shops have figured out what’s happening with film cameras and in many cases the prices reflect that. However, bargains are out there! When I come across one I will try to experiment!

As far as camera choice, 35mm: my father’s Minolta X-700 with the 28mm f/2.8 Rokkor. When it dies, I don’t care how much it will cost to repair it, it is special to me. Medium format: I’m currently shooting a Mamiya 7. I have always loved the 4:5 format and this format is very close to it.

Steven: Oh man, I have a hard time narrowing that down! For portrait and landscape work my camera of choice is definitely my Pentax 645n. I picked it up a few years ago when I was trying to find the right medium format camera to use shooting weddings and fell in love with it. It’s fast, has a super intuitive control layout, and has been really reliable. It also has autofocus that actually works well, which is pretty rare in medium format. The 645n has been far and away the best fit for me in what I want in a medium format camera, that is until Bill gives me his Mamiya 7 ;).

When it comes it instant film, my Polaroid SX-70 is my go-to. There’s a number of instant film cameras that I love to shoot, but that one was top of my wish list for years. Once I finally picked one up it’s had a permanent spot in my camera bag. Everything about shooting that camera just feels right, plus its lens is crazy sharp. If Polaroid Originals were to come out with a modern version of the SX-70 that takes I-type film, I’d be the first to order one.

My real desert island camera though is my Canon AE-1 Program. I freaking love that camera. Like I said my first SLR was an AE-1 and there’s so much about those cameras that I just love. The compact size of the camera and lens system is so nice that I always have it with me. The old FD glass is fantastic, and more than anything, I shot with that camera so long now that it just feels perfect in my hands. I know how it’s going to behave and can get the exact results I want out of it.

My go to film stocks for portrait and wedding work are Portra 400 and Tri-X. Portra 400 is so crazy versatile and forgiving when it comes to exposure, and Tri-X handles pushing so well – especially in medium format – plus I love its tones and classic grain.  For landscape and travel Ektar 100 is my mainstay, but I’ve recently fallen in love with Ultramax 400 for a crazy solid 35mm film. I’ve been a big fan of Fuji Acros 100 (RIP) so I’ve recently started shoot more T-Max 100, 400, and now 3200 and really been loving the results.Have you found yourself leaning more towards shooting film rather than digital since beginning Studio C-41?
Bill: One of our common mantras on the show is, “Film is just a tool.”. For purposes for workflow, I am very much digital. When I’m on a deadline to deliver content, it will be digital. However, recently I did a shoot on 4×5 for the resolution the client requested. I don’t make my work with digital a secret. Since starting Studio C-41, I’ve started shooting significantly more film for personal work, film reviews for the site, and for Instagram.Steven: Yep, like Bill said, it’s just a tool. For some people film is the tool that really speaks to them creatively and make sense for them to shoot, but for others that tool is digital. They’re both equally valid and can be amazing means of expression.

Personally, I connect with making images on film in a way that I just don’t with digital. All of my personal projects, landscape work, and most of my portrait work is done on film at this point. I still shoot hybrid (film & digital) for weddings for some practical reasons, but the more film I shoot at a wedding, the happier I am with the work I produce. As far as Studio C-41, I don’t know if I’ve started shooting more film since we began, but it’s given me a great excuse for all the film I do shoot!

If it was your last podcast ever and you could interview anyone in the film industry, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?
Bill: Dang…This is such a tough question. I don’t have any plans to end the podcast, but I’ll narrow it down to two people.

I’ve been incredibly inspired by Ansel Adams. He really tapped into the philosophy of photography and its emotional connection between the viewer and the image. Over two billion images are taken every day. Despite photographers complaining photography has devalued, I believe photography is more important today than ever.

From a business aspect, George Eastman for sure. The man was brilliant; he democratised photography for the world. With the technological advancements we have today, I couldn’t imagine what he could accomplish.

Steven: Well, Bill already took my first choice with Ansel Adams! Right up there with Ansel for me is the founder of Polaroid, Dr. Edwin Land. Aside from George Eastman, he did more to revolutionise and advance photography from a technological standpoint than any other single person in the last 100 years.

What does the future hold for Studio C-41?
Bill: Video. Photography is a visual medium, it has to be the next move. We’re exploring different show formats. I’m working with a production team who are passionate about film and we want to deliver something far more in-depth than daily vlogs and gear reviews. I love gear reviews like any person and they get a lot of views on YouTube, but that is not our goal. I can’t dive into the details of the of my ideas (yet), but I promise we’re working on something special.

Steven: Is it too broad to say all the things? For real though, I wouldn’t put anything past Bill and what he’s able to make happen with Studio C-41. I feel incredibly lucky and am so grateful to be a part of this.

If we were going to make any future plans right now, my vote is to continue our worldwide film factory tour. We could go hang out with Ilford in England a bit, and definitely head over to the Polaroid Originals factory in the Netherlands, and then maybe even stop by Italy and see how things are going for the guys at Film Ferrania. Sounds totally doable! Right, Bill?

Lasting thoughts:
Shoot Some Film, Dangit!

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