Film & Photography with Aliki Smith

What inspired you to first pick-up a camera?

I wanted to make photographs. However, my reasons for continuing to pick up a camera have grown.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a few things.

On a community level, I put energy into She Shoots Film. She Shoots Film is an online publication that features and celebrates film photography by women. We maintain an online space and presence that encourages, supports and draws attention to emerging and seasoned film photographers that make with a womans eye. Currently we’re working on creating our first print publication, so it’s a very exciting time for us. Needless to write, I’m in utter awe of the selected artists’ work.

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On a personal level, I have a couple of projects that I’ve been working on. One is in regard to women I know. And the other focuses on the mother-child bond. Both are slow burners and likely to inhabit a piece of my life for some time. They are not time restricted, nor are they clearly objective related. They are fluid and organic. I also photograph people and things that are not bound to a series or theme.

A great part of my time is spent engaging with, fostering and nourishing a sense of community. Beside heading up She Shoots Film, I’m also a member of Shootapalooza and the Film Shooters Collective, so I’m involved in waves of work that encourages community, but I also allocate specific time to my own work. The steady maintenance and growth of my own practice of film photography is important to me. I usually feel a sense of deep compression if I haven’t made time to practice film photography. I experience a build-up of emotions and thoughts that need to come out somehow. It is at this point, that I simply cannot wait any longer. I must photograph and develop to release the tension and pressure.

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How would you best describe your type of photography?

I find my type of photography really hard to describe. And I think that’s because it’s my own work and it’s difficult for me to be objective. I’m often far too close to it. The distance that time can afford from an image can be helpful, however in my experience it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll grow increasingly impartial toward it. On the contrary, in some cases, I can revisit an image I have shelved for some time and feel even closer to it. A peer recently described my photography as “both dreamy and realistic, having a tangible, sensual quality to it that makes the viewer feel as if they might be seeing bits of another reality that exists just behind closed eyes…[finding] the beauty of the in-between and often unnoticed.” For the most part, I photograph women, children and occasionally I engage in landscape and experimental work. I’d like to think that my photography can speak to people, but I often feel as if the narrative is not completely formed or expressed yet which seems to fuel an unrealised desire to communicate at a deeper level each time I encounter an other or a thing in my practice. Internally, I push a little harder each time.

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What would we find in your kit?

You could find any one or a combination of the cameras below in my kit. I’m still working on some type of consistent method to what I choose to use, but essentially each provides a different sized negative and I use each in different contexts for different reasons.

  • Minolta SRT101 – 35mm
  • Yashica Mat EM – 6X6
  • Mamiya 645 Pro – 6X4.5
  • 4X5 Speed Graphic, Aero Ektar 178mm, f/2.5 – 4X5

More recently, I’ve been doing a fair amount of large format photography and this has affected the way I work within the practice. There is a very limited window of spontaneity in my practice of large format photography. The camera and lens weighs a fair amount – somewhere between five and ten kilograms. In physical terms, it means that it’s not the sort of camera that I could decide to sling around my shoulder for the day. I like the weight and the physicality of it. It also means that I intentionally plan to use it from the very beginning. The lens can be difficult to focus too. It’s a very large lens that has historically been used on an aerial camera. When mounted to a speed graphic it is an unorthodox coupling and although it’s more difficult to focus at shorter distances, it’s a joy to get in real close to see what transpires.

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What or who inspires you and why?

I’m inspired by many. I consider myself to be a cross disciplinarian and I’m greatly influenced by this in my photography. To me a photograph does not stand alone, but is often approached or perceived from a unique vantage point. I’m usually inspired by things that I can connect to in some way. I’m most definitely inspired by greats such as Sally Mann, Mary Ellen Mark, Diane Arbus and Francesca Woodman. Equally so, I’m inspired by contemporary photographers such as Marisa Redburn, Kathryn Oliver and Leslie Hall Brown. I’m also significantly influenced by words and music. Writers such as Simone de Beauvoir, Hélène Cixous, Judith Butler and Jessica Benjamin. And musicians such as St Vincent and Sia.

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Why do you pursue the practice of film photography and darkroom printing?

I practice film because I’m drawn into the practice and process. And I’m drawn in because it offers me a tool, processes and an outlet to communicate both with myself and the greater world. However, in writing that, I am less driven by the actual output itself and more enthused by the doings involved. The energy I experience in the doings provide me with a natural high. I enjoy the process. It’s methodical. However, within this methodical process that incorporates aspects such as shutter speed, exposure, other unique traits of your camera, development processes, there is a vast amount of space to move and integrate a part of yourself – to manipulate these aspects to create something your eye sees and to attempt to communicate it.

The above applies to darkroom printing also. I am curious about how the image will look when I print, but I’m more attached to the process itself. I enjoy the darkness, the anticipation, the feel of the paper, the standing at the trays, the timing, the chemicals, the fox darkroom community, all of it. And then the print. The print itself is often fascinating to me. I’m very much an amateur in the print room, but I’m committed to learning as I move along.

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What advice would you give for budding photographers?

If you’re new to film photography, then I would encourage you to keep it simple. Remove unnecessary complications. Immerse yourself in the act of film photography. Make mistakes. Lots of them. Do a lot of work and create, create, create.

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Where can people follow your photography?

@AlikiSmith – Instagram
www.morningwithyou.com – Website
Smith – Facebook