Film Por Vida with Christian Arias


Christian Arias is young film photography student from the East Los Angeles area. This young photographer takes his pursuit very seriously and is fascinated with all aspects of the photographic arts. Here are a fews questions I asked Christian to share here on Snapshot Galleria.

Introduce yourself to the readers by camera and film speed?
Calumet 4×5 View Camera. ISO 3-1600.

Los Angeles is a big city, Where do you grow up?
I’m born and raised in East Los Angeles.

I met you last year at the CONQUER LA meet back in October, what have you been up too? Are you currently working on any photography projects?
Ive been busy trying to promote/establish myself as a photographer. I took some time off from photography to work on some of my screen printing projects. I’m currently working on three main projects and have other side projects that i go back and forth with. I’m working on a documentary about East Los Angeles. This project evolves every time i work on it so its been one of my favorite projects.

I took a photography class that’s part of an exhibit currently on display at The Getty Center. Light, Paper Process Reinventing Photography is the concept for the class. The class granted us access to a master photographer selected by the Getty Center for a Q&A. Each master photographer reinvented photography in their own unique way. I highly suggest the exhibit to people who like traditional photography and those that like breaking rules when it comes to light sensitive equipment. The class forced us to rethink the concept and meaning of traditional photography or alternative process. The class has allowed us to display our work at The Getty Center for College Night The final part of the class is to display our interpretation of reinventing photography at Vincent Price Art Museum.

Your a fairly young photographer, why did you choose to dive into film instead of digital like your generational counterparts have?
I got into film photography when my English teacher in High School told me the first photographs were taken on glass plates. He ruined my life because I became obsessed with photography and glass plate negatives. He also saved my life because photography has kept me out of trouble and allowed me to look at the world differently. I took a history of photography class at ELAC to learn more about why photography was created and how it was created. I enjoy learning the history of photography because some of the photo processes revolutionized the way we see things and understand them. My goal in life is bring back some photo process and movements that pushed photography into an art form. I also want to learn all the photo process and keep them alive for other generation to come that like creating with their hands.

I like film over digital because film is full of magic, you make things appear and disappear with chemicals. You’re not worried about the instant gratification you get from looking at your camera screen. The more you look at the screen the less you’re worried about making sure your composition is right before you pull the trigger.

I love film because you’re forced to know how to properly expose your film if not you’re wasting money. You need to know how to process film if not you will be wasting money paying for photochemistry. You also need to know how to print your work and mat it before you are ready to call yourself a photographer. I hate digital because it makes you a lazy photographer with all the buttons you can push for help. You can’t experiment in Photoshop the same way you can in the dark room. Sometimes you make mistakes with your process and stumble across something interesting. I enjoy not doing what I’m suppose to in the dark room so I can examine the consequences of chemicals not reacting properly.

Whats your favorite thing to do in the darkroom? Also tell us your not so favorite?
My favorite thing to do in the dark room is play. I’m learning more about what chemicals are for and what they do to paper so I’ve been going crazy. I have a long list of things i like to do inside and outside of the dark room. Solorization seems to be number one because it reverses your tones.

My least favorite thing is having to leave the dark room when school is closed. I hate having to leave the dark room when I’m making improvements on my experiments. I’m a starving student trying to build my own dark room so if anyone has film, paper, cameras, enlargers that you are throwing away email me.

 I see your using a Calumet 4×5, why did you choose this camera? What type of film do you use? Any advice about first timer wanting to use this camera?

I was in the market for a press 4×5 camera or a 4×5 field camera but nothing was available for my price range. I ended up with the Calumet 4×5 because i like the quality of the photographs. I like how hands on the camera needs the photographer to be. The 4×5 also allows me to push the limit of my enlargements and not have to worry about any distortion.

I use Ilford FP4 125, Ilford HP5 400, Arista Ortho 2.0, Arista Ortho Halftone, and Kodak T-Max 100 and 400. All the films listed have a good dynamic range that allow me to get shadow detail and high light detail with processing and exposing. I will be shooting E-6 and C-41 now that I’m back in school and trying to process my own color film.

I would advice any first time user to buy a large format book or magazine to learn how to properly use a large format camera. View cameras require the photographer to know his or her lighting, shutter speed, aperture, and camera movements before he or she can create a photograph. If you really love photography for its labor intensive process and its one of a kind results a large format camera is for you.

East Los Angeles is a community of culture and history. How has your city influenced your photography work?

East Los Angeles is full of humble and hard working people. I like to photograph my people because they matter  and their lives are worth documenting.

You can see more of photographic work by Christian Arias on Instagram @photographmechris and on Tumblr.