I’ve been taking portraits on 35mm for over ten years, often developing and printing them myself in a home darkroom. But after years of working within the narrow parameters of what I knew – what serves as an interesting back drop, which light sources cast complimentary shadows, almost exclusively using a 50mm lens – I decided to go back to the basics and explore the potential of analogue film.

In 2022, I started experimenting with live music photography. There’s always gigs to photograph in South London’s vibrant music scene and I happened to know a few bands who wanted some photos to use as promotional material. I needed to create high contrast images which I imagined would be hard to do in low light, so I decided to push Ilford HP5 3 stops to 3200 ASA, have my aperture wide open at f/1.8 for a shallow depth of field, and have my shutter speed down at 1/30th or 1/15th of a second to get some motion blur and maybe even light trails from the stage lights. I also tried my hand at double exposures, prepping a roll of film with shots of the tower block skyline of Thamesmead and out of focus lights before rolling the film back to the start.

Surprised at how good the results turned out, I kept experimenting more. I wanted to see if I could control these aspects of motion blur. That’s when it occurred to me to combine photography with another passion of mine: motorbikes. As a classic bike enthusiast and proud owner of a 1960s BSA, I decided to take my camera out with me to some of the classic bike events that I often see advertised. The Malle Mile beach race in Margate was where I first got to grips with any kind of sports photography – using markers to set my focus and keeping a steady hand as I timed panning shots which capture the bike in focus and the wheels in motion. Choosing your shots like this and essentially directing action is a real adrenaline rush, and that eager feeling of not knowing what you’ve captured until you get home and develop it is something totally lost on the digital mob. I’ve been taking my camera to more motorbiking events since, capturing the death-defying stunts of Ken Fox’s Wheel of Death and mastering the art of motion blur.

Right now I’m interested in doing more process-orientated stuff. I want to carry out more experiments in the dark room and try different mediums like gel printing and screen printing etc. The results of these will be uploaded on the site soon.

-Hector, August 2023

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