I interviewed Nadeem Karim some time back and he told us about his approach to photography. However, in the last year a lot has changed and he went on to exclusively shoot film now. So I thought it would be interesting to learn more about his recent transition.
Nadeem, good to have you back. You were already featured here earlier. However, in the last year your style and approach changed quite a bit so that a follow-up is in place.
Can you elaborate a bit on your recent decision to exclusively shoot film.
Hi Terence, first of all, thank you so much for having me back, it’s been a while and indeed my whole approach has changed quite a lot. I always had the desire to shoot film exclusively but I was a little too hesitant to do the jump due the little satisfaction I still felt towards digital at that time.
This slowly faded away the more I shot film. On my recent move to London, I felt the need to go full frame from my previous set-up [Canon EOS 600D] and buy a Canon EOS 5D MKII. I tried selling the 600D for three months and during that time I couldn’t use it. I was obliged to use my beautiful Canon AE-1 and I began experimenting with cheap films. The more I used my AE-1, the more my eyes were getting used to the full frame medium.
Then a little problem occurred. After I had sold my 600D, I put the money towards a 5D MKII body. To cut the story short, I sent the money to an online seller; the guy stole my money and never sent the camera to me.
I was devastated but for some reason I got over it quite quickly as I still had my lovely Canon AE-1 to fall back on.
It was then that I decided not to bother with digital again since shooting this way was cheaper. I kept on upgrading digital cameras every year and ended up spending almost £3000 in two years. Imagine how many films and processing I could afford with that kind of money.
What pushes you to shoot now? How did this change in the last year?
I absolutely love the different tones you can get with different films on different cameras; it’s always something new and unique. Researching for tones and grain is what pushes me to shoot these days. I would say that I am now looking into different things now.
Shooting film teaches me to slow down and makes me pay attention to the little details.
After switching to film completely, I started buying a few expired rolls to experiment with. With digital, although it is very close to reality and close to what our eyes perceive, I found the results to be very cold and empty. It always bothered me, which is why I kept on post-processing my digital pictures to look like it was shot by film. Now I hardly spent time on editing, since I never have to post-process anything, giving me more time to have fun shooting.
How did shooting film affect your style?
I love to not being able to see my shots straight away, I get to trust my instincts and visualize the shot in my head.
Depending on what film I use, I would use the rolls to suit the environment. For instance, using Portra 400 would be something I would think twice before shooting because it is a beautiful roll but it can also be expensive. I’m a big fan of the pastel colours that Portra 160 gives me. However, Fuji Superia 400 is a cheap/good quality roll that I would use every day. Fuji C200 is my favourite only because of the consistent beautiful greens it gives me.
I also love the fact that each camera pushes me to shoot differently, my Hasselblad would require me to be very slow compared to my AE-1, same goes to my newly acquired Mamiya 7.
Shooting film is considerably slower and requires more patience. When you go out to shoot, do you plan more?
Shooting film is definitely slower and in terms of spontaneity it’s not as easy compared to the digital medium (with AF functions etc…). I love it; it makes it so much more interesting and beautiful. The moment is unique, and I always remember every single shot I take. It’s a memory that’s engraved itself in my mind. I do prepare more before I shoot. I use my cameras in manual mode, I just love to have control over what I want to achieve. I still make time to note down in my notepad places I need to shoot for future references.
I also develop my own Black and White rolls so patience is definitely required, the whole process is just so exciting and to be able to share it with the world is fantastic.
What was the event that made you entirely switch to film?
A few events made me reconsider my choices.
As mentioned earlier, the guy who stole my money actually helped me so much. It sounds strange but that event made me fall in love so much more with film. I learnt to appreciate what I had and not what I didn’t have!
I also used to shoot around 2000 photos a day when going out with a digital camera, and only 2 or 3 of the pictures would make it; the rest would go to the bin. With film, on a 36 exp roll, most of the time I like around 30-32 of the shots, so I weighed out the pros and cons, and from there I never thought twice.
A few months after this, one of my very good friends switched to analogue as well. His name is Leon Antonio James; he is an amazing upcoming photographer. He’s my partner in film – we are complete analogue junkies, and his recent move to Analogue helped me keep to film.
You also recently moved to medium format film, an even more challenging medium. Why medium format?
I did! I went to Japan in Dec 2012, I met a photographer from Japan (he’s Taiwanese), named Stanley*. He had a 5D MKII, but also owned a Hasselblad, and prior to going to Japan, I had sent him an email asking if he could bring his Hasselblad when we meet. He kindly did and we walked in Tokyo in the rain, in the sun and through the wind from Shinjuku to Yoyogi Park, taking pictures with both the AE-1 and Hasselblad! I think it was the most beautiful day of my life. He’s also a good friend of mine and an amazing photographer.
Whilst there I took time to study how Japanese people took pictures, especially in Kyoto. The calmness and control they have in the execution when shooting just blew me away. After that, many people approached me asking me if I was Japanese [haha] saying that the philosophy behind my photography [in my still life] was very Japanese. I was so touched; it was the best compliment I ever received, as I rate them very highly.
I came back home [London] from Japan and started processing my 120 rolls; I was just speechless at the results, which made me want to own a Hasselblad of my own, and now I do.
Although I am not always a big fan of the 6×6 format, I do love Carl Zeiss lenses. I also recently acquired a Mamiya 7 to experiment with the 6×7 format. Medium format was a natural progression, and the 35mm format was beautiful, but I wanted to explore more. Maybe one day I will try larger format.
What projects are you currently working on?
At the moment I am working on understanding different films – their strengths and limitations. I want to learn to build a serie soon but I haven’t started thinking about it.
Is there a project you are especially proud of?
I have made a book to celebrate my first year in Analogue. I am very proud of this book as it is a collection of my best shots from 2011 to 2012. It means a lot to me.
Now let us have a look at some of your film shoots.
Thank you very much for your time!
Do not forget to checkout Nadeem Karim’s work:
Cargo Collective: http://cargocollective.com/knahadeem
Travelling Diary: http://knahadeem.wordpress.com/