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‘It’s a really easy process’

Robin Ferrier to lead film photography workshop June 9 and 16 at the PARC
A close-up of fine art photographer Robin Ferrier.

The developed world brims with advanced digital technology and novel graphic design formats, but in Robin Ferrier’s eyes: nothing beats black and white on film. 

Colourless photography is an art form, and a rather classic one at that. It yields striking silhouettes and contrasts, not to mention an awesome level of detail. Large format cameras boast megapixel counts in the hundreds as opposed to the dozens like their digital cousins. 

Exhibit A: the late Rodney Graham’s work in the Audain Art Museum. Seven feet tall by five feet wide, yet when you get close, there’s not a hint of pixelation or degradation in quality to be spotted. 

Ferrier wants to share his passion for old-school photography with others, which is why he’s running a two-part film development workshop on June 9 and 16 at the Point Artist-Run Centre (PARC). 

“Film is a different language than painting, a different language than sculpture and a different language than digital photography…but it's still communication,” Ferrier says. 

No doubt the man understands what he’s talking about. Ferrier studied photography at Ryerson University in the 1970s and fine arts a decade later at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. He’s committed 20 years to being a member of the film industry: production stills, art direction, set design, you name it. His multimedia talents have also taken him into woodworking, portraiture, sculpture and fashion editorial photography. 

“Robin’s just a really creative individual,” commented PARC artistic director Stephen Vogler. “He was also part of our printed photography exhibit last summer, and he’s an all-around talented artist.” 

Black and white 

Both Ferrier and Vogler have witnessed the renaissance of certain older technologies like vinyl records, Polaroids and film. Some people are for various reasons fascinated with the bygone era of analog, for it brings a certain aesthetic and appeal that can’t be replicated digitally. 

“Film cameras have declined since the digital age as far as volume around the world, but…there are lots of new kinds of film being put out there now by all kinds of different companies. You can read about it in any photo magazine. They always talk about the resurgence in classical black and white photography.” 

Many possess vintage cameras gathering dust in attics and closets, and that’s where the PARC’s new workshop comes in. 

Day one will involve a straightforward orientation about how to use a film camera and how to obtain proper exposure before participants are let loose to begin shooting. One Sunday later, they’ll learn how to process film and scan two of their best pictures into digital format, generating archival prints. 

Although film is more expensive now than in decades past, the medium can still be viable—particularly if one knows how to develop it at home. 

“If you could learn how to process film in the kitchen or something—you don't need a dark room—then you can bring your cameras back to life, so to speak,” Ferrier says. “It's completely archival. The negatives will never be deleted. It’s a really easy process, and an old camera is all manual. It's a process that slows you down and makes you consider the image you're trying to make, rather than digital spray and pray.” 

Fine art photographers are cut from a different cloth than many of today’s professionals and social media influencers. They conceive of an idea or message they want to share before picking up their equipment. Their work is meticulous, for they’re in control of how each image coalesces from the get-go. 

Shutter speed, aperture, film speed…these are the languages that Ferrier and his peers deal in. By manipulating specific elements of their photos, they can set a tone and create a mood with no two shots turning out alike. 

Discover more about the PARC’s Black & White Film Photography and Developing Workshop at Registration is required.