#326. Bellamy Hunt (JapanCameraHunter) on film better than digital, collector gear and photography in Japan
Most of your photography is done in a routine environment while testing gear for your customers. How do you find inspiration in locations you’ve visited so often ? How do you keep your creative juices flowing even in a repetitive context ?
A lot of the photography I do to test items is done locally to me, and I really enjoy seeing how different lenses and cameras change the way you see these places. For me that is part of the fascination, seeing how things are rendered differently. I find that quite exciting and that helps me to stay creative and happy with my own work.
You say your more personal work is done while traveling to other regions or countries, to acquire cameras, for instance. What do you look for in terms of subjects? What makes you press the shutter?
I cannot really pinpoint what makes me what to press the shutter, but I guess I am interested by shadows and interesting faces. I kind of search out light points so that I can use them to my advantage. In Hong Kong for example, the shadows in the afternoon can be very distinct because of the high buildings. You can have fun with that.
Your job allows others to pursue their passion with exotic or classic gear. What would you recommend for those who don’t feel that passion ? Any recommendations on how to be more focused as a photographer rather than simply point and shoot ?
Don’t focus on the gear so much. If you find something that you are comfortable with then shoot with it. I guess in terms of being focused, having a project or series really helps. Giving your work a goal basically. Find something that you want to photograph and see how you can push it and change it to suit your creative ideal.
I think the Nikon F3 is your favourite camera for sentimental and technical reasons. What is your favourite lens, regardless of price and mount ?
My favourite lens is a difficult one as I have tried so many. I think my personal favourite is my MS-Optical Apolqualia 50mm 3.5. It is not the fastest, but it has a really delightful quality. It is the perfect portrait lens, and portraits are something I want to work on more.
You have said that shooting with film is a calming experience. Why calming ? I sold – twice – my favourite camera ever, the Mamiya 7, because of the pain and misery involved in scanning. What is it that you find soothing in the film-based process ?
Hahah, I don’t have any love of scanning either. But having said that, scanning is one of the few moments that I get to do something for myself, which is quite rare nowadays. So I enjoy that time and that part of the process. But it is the shooting for me that I find calming. I take my time shooting and then I take my time before scanning, from shooting to scanning takes about 4 months.
What can film teach us digitals ?
I think it can teach you how to choose your moment, rather than spray and pray. Shooting shouldn’t be about shooting every single thing you see.
Leica has recently released a digital camera with no rear screen. At the time I found that absolutely ridiculous. For you, does this really recreate the fun of film or is it the worst of both worlds (no instant review, no darkroom involvement) ?
I can really see what they were getting at with this. But I think it was priced incorrectly and marketed incorrectly. They should have tried the old reversible screen thing as on the Epson R-D1.
Do you think digital plug-ins can recreate the same feel as films ? The mathematics of the shifts, dynamic ranges and scratches seem impeccable, but does a digital filter allow the same creative process as learning and knowing a film well ?
No, I don’t think they accurately recreate the feel, because it is not just about how things look. Film has a smell, a tactile quality which is all part of the process. You cannot replicate that feeling with a filter. You cannot really know the film until you have actually shot it.
What makes a good travel photo, in your mind ? When traveling, is it important to work with portfolios (or projects) in mind, or would you recommend a happy-go-lucky open disposition ?
You can do both, but I generally go with a purpose. I do a bit of research about what I want to see and what the place can offer me, then I go and see how it works for me. I like to do my travel stuff alone, as I like to take my time about things.
How would you qualify Japanese photography ? Are you attracted to some Japanese photographers in particular ?
Japanese photography is quite unique. The Japanese have a different view on life from many western ideals and it is interesting to see how that is conveyed in their photography. I like the work of Jun Abe, Keisuke Nagoshi, Junku Nishimura, Shunya Arimoto and many more. But they are what I am looking at right now.
What are your favourite places in Japan from a photographic point of view ?
Tokyo. I love seeing different places and you can do that all day long. The city is huge and never ceases to surprise me. You can go from mountains to ocean and still be in Tokyo, that is enticing.
About Bellamy and JapanCameraHunter
Bellamy lives in Tokyo and loves exploring the city, taking pictures and sharing his photographic knowledge with people. If you are ever in town, you can drop him a line. You cannot miss him, he will be the guy walking around with a camera, a camera bag, a camera T-shirt and a nice shiny head. Chances are you will see him in one of the many camera shops around town.
Bellamy sources quality cameras and other photographic equipment from Japan to customers around the world. Having built strong connections in the camera industry over the past several years as a buyer and broker in Tokyo he is able to quickly and expertly meet the needs of each customer on an individual basis. No matter what it is you are looking for Japan has it, and Bellamy can find it.