William Hopkins in Conversation with Andrew D. McClees, about Turn and Face the Strange:
Andrew D. McClees (ADM): Hi Will we’re here to talk about your upcoming zine project, Turn and Face the Strange. Before we get into it, can you tell me about yourself and your background?
William Hopkins (WH): Thanks Andrew! First I want to say thank you for interviewing me, and for your work with the community. Frozenwaste.land is doing really great work with and for film photographers.
I currently live and work in southeast Michigan. I relocated here after living my entire life in the greater Philadelphia area, and it was time for a change. By training and trade I’m an analyst and developer in the tech industry, but by vocation I’m an artist and photographer. It’s how I interpret the world around me and I try to share that perspective with others through the visual arts.
I was interested in photography as an art form starting in college, where I took photos with a Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot my parents gave me, but it wasn’t until more recently in 2014 that I started learning real photographic principles with my first DSLR. In the interim, I started shooting film with a Kodak Tele-Instamatic 608 (a 110 format camera).
ADM: Can you explain the title of the Zine, and give me a one sentence description of what the zine is about?
WH: I’ve been a big David Bowie fan ever since I first raided my dad’s record collection, so when I was thinking of titles for the zine Bowie came to mind. I couldn’t resist.
Turn and Face the Strange is a zine of 110 format photos, shot over a period of several years in Philadelphia, Yosemite, and Ann Arbor, for no particular reason [at the time] but that in hindsight represent my process of meaning-making.
ADM: Now that I have the basic concept/logline, can you talk about what the inspiration was for you to shoot the zine in a little more detail?
WH: When I started taking these photos, I had no intention of collecting them in a coherent fashion. I didn’t really even know that you could.
I just took the photos because I liked photography and wanted to convey something that I was feeling to whomever might view them. I was going through a period of transition in my life, graduating from undergrad, getting my first job, and moving away from my hometown. I wanted to record fragments of that process, for myself as a diary if for no other purpose.
Over the last year, I’ve really gone headlong into film and been inspired by all the zines I’ve collected (special shout-out to the All Through A Lens and Forte400 zines). I wanted to make something of my own without being precious about it, in the grand tradition of Xeroxed zines and punk aesthetics, so the somewhat grungy quality of 110 film jumped out at me right away.
Shooting the photos for the zine wasn’t really an intentional project, but the actual process of assembling the zine absolutely has been. I’ve learned a lot from it about how I want to express myself. Nick Mayo (@nickexposed) in particular did a great video series on creating a zine, and his example of the creative process (put on some jazz and lay out prints) really informed my own. In the end, my guiding phrase was “finding a sense of place through my photos”, and I wanted to give viewers a sense of the physical and spiritual places I’d been to in my photos.
ADM: What do you think the core features of your Photography are that relate to or help accomplished your goal of “finding a sense of place.” Or to you, what were the defining features or feelings that led you to choose the photos you chose for the zine?
Also how did you get turned onto 110 photography? That’s a pretty niche format, even for most film shooters.
WH: Great questions! I hadn’t really framed it in this way for myself before. I’ve noticed that I often shoot abstract photos that, by themselves or in the moment, don’t make sense to those around me. My friends and family are used to me stopping to photograph “the light” or some ephemera of the scene. I think photographers reading this will know exactly what I mean.
To me, those photographs (and moments) are driven by a desire to capture a sense of place. A place is, to me, the feelings and memories connected to it as much as it is the physical location. So in my photography, I try to freeze a slice, however small, of what I’m feeling or experiencing in a given place.
As I’ve tried out other formats and cameras (I’m currently smitten with a Yashica Mat 124) I’ve kept very much the same approach.
Whatever the equipment, there’s a here-and-now-ness that I want to capture on film.
As for how I got into 110, mostly by happenstance! The Tele-Instamatic 608 was one of the two cameras given to me by my family when I asked for film cameras they had lying around. I’d heard film was cheaper than digital, and I was hoping for some gems. Between my grandpa’s Yashica Electro-35 GSN and the Tele-Instamatic 608, I’d say I did okay! The oddity of 110 film really drew me in, and I’ve been shooting it ever since.
ADM: I know a lot of film purists tend to reject the notion of editing, etc. Do you edit much of your photos? Is there a specific color palate you tend to shoot for?
WH: To be honest, I really hate editing on a computer. It drives me absolutely up the wall. I work with computers and am an ex-IT person, but for some reason computer-based photo editing is not my jam. So I don’t edit my photos, but I’m not opposed to it in theory.
Until recently, I sent all my film out to be developed (and I still send my 110 film out). I’ve used The Darkroom and Fulltone Photo (where I still send my color film) and let them do some basic retouching in the scans.
In an ideal world, I’d like to start printing my work directly in the darkroom and use old-school editing techniques in the process. I have a great local-ish darkroom called Darkroom Detroit, where I’ve learned both processing and printing basics, but it can be a bit of a hike so I don’t get there as often as I’d like.
ADM: On sequencing, beyond taking inspiration in process from Nick Mayo, how did you sequence your photos, or what drove you to sequence things in the manner you did?
WH: I printed out all of the photos I thought I might want to use in the zine. I just used a handy office inkjet printer, nothing fancy. I already had an idea of the order I wanted, so I started by putting them into that order but I quickly learned that
Some photos really didn’t fit, and
The order in my head didn’t match the visual experience.
I used a blue and red double-ended correction pencil to make notes on all the photos as I went, suggesting page numbers and blank spaces. I generally kept them clipped together with a binder clip - spreading them out on the floor or a table just didn’t work for me.
At the end of the process, I shared a slide deck of the photos, in order, with some trusted confidants to give me their feedback. At this point, I’m happy with the layout and ordering, but need to actually try printing out a test run!
ADM: That sounds really great! Where can the readers pick up a copy of the zine? Also I’m not usually one to get into tech details, but what film did you use? And where did you get it?
Is there anything you’d like to add about the zine?
WH: I used Lomography Color Tiger film, some of the only 110 film left. The Film Photography Project also has some 110 options now, and I’ve stocked up for the next iteration of the project.
ADM: Thanks for talking about the zine!