Interview with Dan Stevens about his Collection, The End of Film February 24 2014, 0 Comments
CS: Tell me about “End of Film”
DS: One of the reasons I was drawn to photography was the magic of film, this delayed yet at the time instantaneous, way of capturing what I noticed. There was a technical challenge and a tactility of mechanism in the camera with its own aesthetic. Then there was the chemistry, the process, the work that you had to go through to be rewarded with your image. As I’m speaking I’m casting my mind back to the Bristol Arts Center when I was 14 years old doing an evening class learning how to process and print black and white photographs in about 1978. I associated the process of noticing and recording things and then realising it, making it a reality that other people could see which was the processing of the film, then the printing. It was all part of the overall appeal of photography. So years later, for my 21st birthday I was given a camera and the reason I wanted it was to record my life, a sort of diary. I’d always been interested in how things looked and it was the easiest way for me to record my observations.
CS: Was it about communicating?
DS: It was purely as a diary, encouraged by my mother who was much more literary. I had none of those attributes but still noticed things and had the desire to record.
CS: So film was important to you?
DS: Film was part of the process, in around 1999, 10 years into my career as a photographer, digital cameras were available and the internet had started. There was initially a great excitement for all the benefits that digital photography had, but I soon discovered that there were a lot of good qualities associated with film that were going to be discarded, namely the texture, feeling and colour and sense of hand tactility. There were commercial pressures to shoot digitally, the results disappointing and as such I clung on to the romance of film. Simultaneously I was having to develop new skills in using digital. The End of film was inevitable and I’ve always liked puns. It was while I was cutting up negatives to go into their sleeves, I was just looking at literally the ends of the film that would have been clipped to the film holder while being dipped into the processing solution and there are two interfaces here because the end of a roll of film is partially exposed, the tip protrudes from the canister so it exposed to light, then there is a boundary between where it enters the film canister, partially exposed to light and then fully protected and unexposed. At the same time there is a boundary between the chemicals and the air space above as with dip and dunk machines. It was a kind of analogy of one thing becoming another. This accidental intermediate range was suddenly very interesting and each film had its own signature pattern. The vast majority were pretty boring because the transition region was pretty narrow, but occasionally you get this wonderful broad band going from totally exposed to light creating these beautiful oranges to unexposed which stays black. This series of images have come from negative film, but I’ve noticed equivalent patterns on positive film. Incidentally, it is purely a property of the film and the process and has nothing to do with the lens. So this series is concentrating on the aspect of photography that was my interest and becoming absent. Why I find them intriguing is that the patterns are at a molecular level and remind me of images you might see in chemistry, they are kind of universal and could happen anywhere in the universe where there is light. Ultimately it is light interacting with molecules, you can see similar patterns in space. They have an other worldly atmosphere. They remind me of a Rothko painting or a Turner sunset.
CS: I’m totally taken with these circles and elipses.
DS: To make a drum scan you have to put the film in oil to make it stick to the drum. The orange circles are where an air bubble has formed in the oil. The light bounces around the border of the air pocket in the oil forming a kind of internal refraction absorbing part of the light.
CS: What year were they shot?
DS: I first started collecting them in 2005. I made some high res drum scans in 2008.
CS: Are you a photographer or an artist and how does that question make you feel?
DS: It’s an interesting question because I had no art education at school, I don’t remember a single lesson. I was considered a scientist at school but I was an accomplished musician and my artistic side was present in music. I fell into photography after University and initially approached it from a practical point of view but quickly, subconsciously, I was behaving as an artist, noticing things and recording them, but it’s taken many years to call myself an artist. I wasn’t practicing what I considered to be an artists role, I was commercial, but I did develop a sense of my own instinctive point of view.
CS: What to you is art?
DS: I suppose it’s a manifestation of a person’s observation.
CS: Do you like to challenge or comfort?
DS: Comfort. I’m a people pleaser rather than confrontational so producing something as abstract as this is a departure for me, it’s quite new
CS: Which are you doing with this project?
DS: I suppose I’m purely showing people what I have noticed and think is quite cool, appealing, in the same way that someone might photograph a sunset or write a story.
CS: What’s next?
DS: To possibly be a bit more pro active in the creation of these patterns, Up until now I have purely collected ends of film that have been processed for jobs so I have an understanding of how the films have come to be the way they are and would like to spend more time in a lab perhaps with larger sheets of film seeing what patterns I can create.
The full Collection is available to buy at www.tint-art.com and will be Exhibited at The Other Art Fair, London 24-27 April 2014.