Featured Photophile, our recurring series showcasing talented amateur photographers, is back with more photo inspiration for you. Today’s FP features some really incredible photos from a shooter named Alan Chen. To put it simply, his shots are photographic perfection. With exceptional balance and thoughtful composition, artistic use of light and shape, and locales that make my wanderlust burn, Alan’s photos are inspiring and gorgeous. Take a look.
Hi there – please introduce yourself.
Hello, my name is Alan Z Chen. I am 26 years old, and now live in New York. I love cooking, riding bikes, skating, and food. I recently went back to school. Somewhere in there I find time to make photos. Thanks for having me on Casual Photophile!
When did you start shooting? What’s your favorite camera, and why do you love it? What type of film do you use, and why?
I started shooting about two years ago when I decided I wanted to capture moments from my life and travels. I’m grateful for the life I have, and want to create photos that make me appreciate it.
I really like making photos with my Hasselblad X-pan. I love the human-ness of the panoramic aspect ratio. I just never get tired of viewing a great urban landscape shot with an X-pan.
I shoot all types of film in both 35mm and 120 formats. Generally, I shoot more black-and-white at home, which I develop myself, and shoot more color when traveling. For B&W I like shooting and pushing Ilford HP5+ and Kodak Tri-X; I think it brings out some nice, dark blacks. For color, I like both Portra 160 and Ektar 100, using one or the other depending on the look I want in the finished photo. I shot some 120 slides last year and seeing the positives on a light table was a truly awesome experience. Every photographer should experience this, and I hope to shoot some more slide film in the future.
What are your favorite subjects, and why?
I love photographing urban environments. I grew up in various cities, and have always had an affection for urban spaces, architecture, and built environments. I’m still trying to understand the aesthetic emotions I feel in urban spaces, what I’m resonating to, and how to capture that emotion and experience in a photo. My goal is to capture those emotions and feelings in my photos.
Why do you shoot film? Do you also shoot digital? What do you think about the differences between film and digital?
I like the process of shooting film, and the time it requires to develop and make photos. I like that I sometimes don’t see de
veloped photos for weeks, months, or even a year later. There’s a special feeling seeing your own photos for the first time months after shooting them. When a moment is too fresh in your memory, the photo often can have less impact.
Besides on my iPhone, I don’t shoot any digital photography.
Context is important when discussing film and digital. For myself, digital doesn’t provide any benefits. I like the simplicity of my film cameras; I like how the look of the image varies with the film stock, and I like the overall process of making photos with film. I like that after scanning, the most I need to touch up is the color correction, contrast, and sometimes exposure. I’m not very interested in creating art on a computer, I prefer using physical tools, and film is better in that regard for me.
What is unique about your work?
I don’t think my photos are unique in any novel way, yet. I’m still growing and developing as a photographer. I make photos for myself, I shoot what I like to see, and try to capture the moments that I feel are significant to me.
How do you achieve your results?
Perseverance and honesty. I’ve found, as someone who does this as a hobby, experimenting and making photos is the only way to improve. Be honest when reviewing your own work, and be honest about why you’re making photos.
Shooting film helps with growing as a photographer. Film provides a certain simplicity in shooting, and a discipline in the development that has helped me learn more about photography.
Where do you hope your photography goes from here?
Well, I’m always thinking about how to better capture what I feel, but I would like to start experimenting with indoor flash and food photography. I absolutely love food and cooking, and I’d love to mix film photography in there.
Do you have any advice for new photographers?
Keep your tools simple at first, and don’t spend too much time reading about tips for composition, color, etc. For new photographers, I think it’s better to test and experiment how you naturally compose and create photos. Contemplate what you like and don’t like about your own photos, and especially why you feel that way. I think reading about rules and guidelines for composition and other artistic elements in photography is most meaningful once you have a better understanding of yourself as both a photographer and a viewer. I also think taking time between shooting photographs and reviewing photographs is meaningful.
Where can people see more of your images?
Many thanks to Alan for sharing his work with us. If you’d like to have your photos featured on CP, tag your photos with #featuredphotophile on any social media post, or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.