UK-based Ilford may be the world’s most foremost maker of analog film. The format is still revered by some photographers even as many have had to largely move into the digital realm as a matter of practicality.
Joan Michel, a 28-year-old Jersey City-native, is a photographer whose work has graced fashion magazines and been in solo exhibitions at Raw Artists NYC and Base Gym.
As the makers of her preferred black-and-white medium, Michel was intrigued by Ilford and its YouTube film series #MyFilmStory, featuring profiles on photographers who utilize their film, when she discovered it a year ago.
“Ilford’s based in the UK, and I realized that the photographers that they featured were all from Europe and that no one was from North America, so I sent them a cold email …” Michel said, in an interview Tuesday.
In that email, the Filipina-American photographer introduced herself. She attached photos of her work, along with mini pilot-version of what her film story would look like.
A few weeks later, Ilford replied with some notes and expressed interest in Michel’s #MyFilmStory, which premiered Sept. 17 of this year.
In the short film, Michel talks about how photography has helped her overcome social anxiety and added to her general sense of confidence.
When she started out, most of the work Michel did was digital – a medium she acknowledged is more cost-effective than analog. But the more she’s produced work in the medium she loves, the more work Michel seems to get utilizing it.
“I take photos in analog,” Michel said. “I shoot short films in analog, or even just now I finished shooting a music video shot in film. And when I make contact sheets – the stuff that comes out in analog is stuff that I want to create. With digital, yeah, you can manipulate it and make it look like analog, but for me, I guess because I know so much, I know it’s not real thing and that discourages me from doing it. And I know not a lot of people shoot analog well. It takes a whole lot of time and process to understand the medium, compared to digital …”
Ultimately, Michel said she feels very fortunate to have clients who feel it’s in their interest to hire her to shoot in her ideal medium.
And she appreciates Ilford giving her a platform for not only her photography. “… But also how I got to voice how has photography has helped me cope like, literally like I said in this video, with situations where I felt uncomfortable. Being behind the camera helps me communicate with people by obviously giving me a reason to communicate with them, but also ... showcasing my results and demonstrating what it is that I’m trying to convey.”
For Michel’s film story, that’s as multifaceted as any – but it’s also distinct in some ways.
“I think that’s a big risk, in a sense, for a brand to even have someone who’s not necessarily like ... I don’t consider myself like a big photographer, in a sense, or famous whatsoever,” Michel said. “But the fact that they let me discuss this kind of topic and be able to even feature for their first North American photographer a female who’s non-white, who’s a colored person and is like talking about mental health issues or problems – I think that’s a big step for a brand like Ilford to promote that.”
Courtesy Joan Michel and Syd Sysante
jersey City-based photographer featured in Inflord's #MyFilmStory
Joan Michel, a photographer and Jersey City native, is featured in the latest entry for UK-based analog film company Ilford Photo's #MyFilmStory series on YouTube