Film’s Not Dead: An Interview with Jake Nelson

Author: Sophia Modica

All Photos Courtesy of Jake Nelson

Jake Nelson is a freshman at Seattle U and a photography major. Jake has a keen eye for the world, which is reflected in his photos. He also shoots for The Spectator, the school newspaper. I wanted to talk with Jake about his specific styles of photography. Don’t let film photography be a dying breed.

Sophia Modica: How long have you been taking photos?

Jake Nelson: I started taking photos in my sophomore year of high school, so I was probably 15. So about 4 years now.

SM: What formats do you typically use? Which is your favorite?

JN: I use 35mm [film] the most. I have a half frame camera so it’s still 35 mm but the negative is half the size and it gets twice the exposures on a roll of 36 [exposures]. I also use 120 mm [film] sometimes but I don’t really like it as much. The negative is so big it looks more like digital, and also you only get 12 exposures on a roll. So it’s just more expensive and it’s not worth it. It’s cool though because it’s a 1:1 ratio, it’s a square negative. I have this little camera, it’s called a Robot Recorder, and it shoots 35 mm film but it does square negatives.

A man does a backflip into a pool of water, black and white photo.

SM: What differences do you see between film and digital?

JN: I think that film is a lot more forgiving. Cause I usually shoot with 400 iso film but when I shoot digital my iso is usually at like 1000. With light, I feel like film wants to get the light more. With digital I feel a really big disconnect from the photos, because it’s just a file. It doesn’t really feel like anything, but with film I scan the negatives and I hold them, I have a book of all my negatives. It’s a real thing.

A photo of a girl looking forward with a tooth drawn over her mouth on a wooden background.

SM: What are your hobbies outside taking photos?

JN: I like skating a lot. I like spending time with people. I kinda just like checking things out. I like seeing stuff, and just doing stuff. Which is pretty broad, but just being out and about.

A cemetery on a beach, black and white photo.

SM: How do these hobbies show up within your photos?

JN: A lot of my photos I don’t go out to take photos. I’ll be out and I take photos when I see something. With being out and about, I’m not out and about to take photos but a lot of the times they connect. With skating, I take a lot of pictures of people skating but those are mostly digital now.

Image of a skateboard grinding against a curb.

SM: What would you say to those who think film is a dead form of photography?

JN: I think it definitely is dying, which is really sad. But I don’t think it should die. I would tell them, like if it’s a photographer that says that, I would ask them if they’ve used film. And if so, why do they prefer digital. I would have a lot of questions for them actually. They would all kinda stem from why do you prefer digital over film? Is it just because of the convenience? If so, kinda f*** that. I just think film, except for the convenience, is a lot better. So the main question is why would you choose digital over film?

SM: I feel like with film it’s a lot more raw. Also, because it’s more of a personal process that you have to go through. So I feel like when people say “film is dead,” to me that’s, “is the personal process dead?”

JN: I definitely agree. There’s this one person, who I don’t really like and I won’t name, who I was staying with her friend one time and she’s into photography. She was like “I love photography because I just take a picture and I’m done”. I thought that was so stupid, there’s a lot more to it and maybe you shouldn’t be such a lazy bum.

Underwater photo of someone after jumping into the water.

SM: What photographers have you been inspired by?

JN: My favorite photographers are Henri Cartier Bresson, William Eggelston, W. Eugene Smith, and Jerry Hsu. Henri Cartier Bresson is a really early figure in street photography, and that’s what I like. What I like about him is that it’s really easy to see why his photos are really good. He’s like the godfather of composition. So it’s all really mathematics and sensible, but with William Eggelston it’s kind of the other way around. His photos are really good, it’s hard to say why, they just are.

SM: What messages are you sending through your photography?

JN: That’s hard to say in a broad sense, with some specific photos there’s definitely more clear messages. I guess, this is kinda corny, but like go outside. Kinda walk around. I really like when I find free stuff on the side of the road, and that kinda goes along with it, just be outside and do stuff. Don’t just sit inside all day, even if the weather’s bad, there’s still something to do.


Social media: @hawthorneburgerville


Sophia Modica | Only wears platform shoes | KXSU Arts Reporter

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