"Film is dead"
conversations with Aidan Ho








Interview by Pravin Nair
Photography by Aidan Ho

Non existent, or better yet, a work in progress is what Aidan humbly says his work is. Just 24 years of age, Aidan tells MULA that he started photography just about a year ago. “I like shouting “FILM IS DEAD!” just for fun, even though it definitely isn’t. I’ll most likely have a camera on me wherever I go just in case, and am quite shy about my photography.” 

TAKE US THROUGH YOUR JOURNEY IN DISCOVERING YOUR LOVE FOR FILM PHOTOGRAPHY.  I’m 24, and I started shooting with film at the age 23. That’s right, it’s only been a year since I started shooting! I had used many digital cameras as a kid and in my high school years, but I always thought, and sometimes told, that I wasn’t very good at it. It all started when I was on holiday in the UK, and I snagged a full film SLR set, a Chinon CE-5 with lens, for 75 Ringgit but right after that I started my architecture degree and the camera went into a shelf to be forgotten for 3 years while I drowned in assignments. When I finished my degree, I finally had time to dig out the camera to use it. I put a roll of film in and sent it for developing, but unfortunately, the roll turned out to be blank ahhhhhh! Anyways, second roll turned out great and I’ve been hooked since then.

IN MODERN TIMES SUCH AS OURS WHERE EVERYONE IS ABLE TO TAKE BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS ON THEIR PHONES, FILM PHOTOGRAPHY IS A CLEAR JUXTAPOSITION FROM THE NORMS OF SOCIETY. PERSONALLY, WHY DO YOU USE FILM IN THIS DAY AND AGE?  Simply put, I shoot film because inserting an SD card into a camera will never be as satisfying as loading in a roll of film. Shooting film is such a hands-on, experimental, tactile experience, which I did not find when I used digital cameras. It’s like comparing using photoshop on a computer, to hand drawing something with a pencil. No one can say that the pencil is obsolete just because the lines it makes aren’t as perfect as the one’s on a computer. Both have their pros and cons, but right now film is the medium for me. Also, with the limited number of shots (36 pictures per roll of 35mm film and only 10-16 picture per roll of 120mm film) and each shot having a price to it, I have learned to take the shots that matter. 

DEFINE YOUR STYLE OF FILM PHOTOGRAPHY.  My style is currently non-existent! It’s a work in progress! I’m not confining myself to shoot a certain way, or a particular set of style or subject matter. My true aim was to get more comfortable and confident with the handling of my chosen cameras and I did that by shooting as much as possible, in different ways, and in different conditions. So, do check back in a few years, I just might have an answer then. 

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE FILM CAMERAS FROM YOUR COLLECTION? DO YOU ALSO HAVE ANY PARTICULAR FILM STOCKS THAT YOU LIKE OR FREQUENTLY SHOOT WITH?   My favourite cameras that I own are the, Mamiya RB67, which is a big 120 medium format film camera that weighs 2.4kg in its lightest configuration, but I’m a big guy so it works out nicely. The Nikon F2, great selection of nikon/nikkor lenses, built like a tank, will outlive me and all my children. Olympus XA2, my daily-carry point and shoot, which is tiny, well designed, and taking pictures with it is simple and fun. My fav film stock would have to be Ilford’s HP5+! It’s a 400 ISO black and white film that has great tones and grain and its extremely versatile. For colour film, I primarily shoot Portra 400, or Fuji pro400h for more serious shoots. You can’t go wrong with those on medium format. Oh, and I use Fujifilm C200 for everyday 35mm with friends and family.

TO CREATE A CERTAIN MOOD IS EVERY PHOTOGRAPHER’S MAIN GOAL. WHAT’S YOURS?  Okay, so as of now, I don’t think I’m aiming for anyone to feel a specific mood, but I’d like people to resonate and feel something, anything, from looking at my photos.From what people have told me, a mood or emotion felt from some my photos is loneliness or a certain emptiness. I’m not sure if this says anything about me.

BLACK & WHITE VS COLOR. WHICH OF THESE DO YOU PREFER SHOOTING WITH? DOES USING EITHER OF THEM CREATE A CERTAIN MOOD THAT YOU’RE LOOKING TO ACHIEVE?  Ah, this is a tough one. I’d say I’m comfortable shooting with both but would prefer shooting black and white because I believe there’s more depth to it. It brings more emphasis to shapes, form, and the subject matter without having to worry about colour composition. Everything just looks classier in black and white, and sometimes a scene that would look bad in colour can be saved in greyscale. There are ways to achieve the same mood with both, but some scenes definitely benefit from the use of one or the other. Also, black and white film is generally cheaper than colour film. 

WOULD YOU SAY THAT KUALA LUMPUR AND YOUR FRIENDS PLAY A BIG PART IN YOUR PHOTOS?  
I’d say Malaysia rather than just narrow it down to KL. Bright and vibrant, hot and sunny, noisy and smelly (at times), it’s hard to not draw some influence from there. 
My friends definitely do as well! Most of the portraits I’ve taken are of people who are very close to me and I am grateful for their time, patience, and their trust in me. Take pictures of the people close to you, even if the pictures don’t turn out great. At least you’ll have pictures of them to remember and memories to cherish. Also, they will be more patient with you if you screw up (no promises). 

“STOP WITH THE STUPID FACES MANN” IS ACTUALLY ONE OF MY FAVORITE PICTURES. WHAT WAS THE SIGNIFICANCE BEHIND THE PHOTOS?  Ah, that was taken one night as I was out at the Petaling Street area. My friend’s face was lit by a lone streetlamp, and while I was trying to take the photo he kept moving and making funny stupid faces in rapid succession. So, I told him to please stop, and took a picture as he smiled and looked away, and then he took off running for some reason. That picture might have been taken on one of my first few rolls of film. You can see in the 2 pictures after that, I wasn’t so concerned with slow shutter speeds then, simpler times.

ARE YOU ONLY FOCUSING ON FILM PHOTOGRAPHY OR DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS IN FILMMAKING?  Not right now, but maybe someday!  

 

DO YOU HAVE ANY CONTEMPORARY/ FILM, OR FASHION PHOTOGRAPHERS WHOM YOU TAKE INSPIRATION FROM?  Of course. I’m doing a lot of research and am going through the work of many well known photographers, like Robert Frank that just passed away recently, Vivian Maier, William Eggleston, Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama, Alec Soth and I could go on and on. I also really love Arnold Daniel, both as a person and a photographer hahaha. Besides that I also take inspiration from other photographers on instagram, one of my faves being @wendy__morgan, who takes pictures of everyday things but in such a wild way! So many more that I can’t list them out.

SO AIDAN, WHERE DO YOU THINK FILM PHOTOGRAPHY IS HEADING TO?  It’s on the up and up! Right now, it’s at a stage of just coming back from the dead, with a huge resurgence of young people like me getting into it. Who knows, it may be the latest passing trend, but it definitely is. There are many film stocks that have been discontinued, but some have brought back, and even new films popping up as of late. I’m really glad for this as it would be unfortunate if film did die off just as I was starting off.

 

AND WHAT WOULD WOULD YOU SAY TO YOURSELF AND YOUR AUDIENCE 5 YEARS DOWN THE LINE? I’d say “Woi, take off your lens cap lah”, and then tell myself to stop buying cameras, to keep taking pictures even if I feel like I suck, and to get a digital camera, because we’re broke and film isn’t getting cheaper! To everyone else, I’d say, make memories, it doesn’t matter how, as long as you do. Also send me a message if you wanna shoot, I’m always down.