Meet Photographer Bill Smith

Today’s blog is about Bill Smith an amazingly talented photgographer and artist. Bill took the time out of his day to sit down and answer a few questions about himself. He’s interesting and if you take the time to get to know him I don’t think you will have any doubt about his love for photography. Let’s get started.

Meet Bill Smith

Bill, tell us about what sparked your interest in photography.

I think photography has been a lifelong interested for me, there’s a photo with me as a three year old with a Diana toy camera in the early 1970s long before toy cameras became cool amongst the Lomo set. What I really wanted to play with was my dad’s Nikons and Leicas and of course I wasn’t allowed to. Fast forward to the late 1990s, I was working in marketing for a multi national agency I got a Canon Rebel from my parents with that subtle hint I was working too hard and I needed a hobby. Once my brother Alex got the photography disease too, it was downhill from there especially using older gear.

What goes through you mind before you take the photograph?

My photographs come to light one of two ways, first being spur of the moment I see something neat and I just have to take a picture of it. Secondly I am more deliberate I have an idea what I want to document taking into account what hardware I’m using, lighting, subject matter and the mood I want to capture.

Are there any particular subjects that you like to photograph more than others?

Early on I was mostly into landscape, streetscape and to some extent architecture but it was a talk I attended put on by Toronto photographer Toni Wallachy inspired me to get out of my comfort zone. So more recently I have been shooting portraits especially in medium format and sometimes in color putting to rest that nasty rumor I only shoot black and white.

Have any photo artists inspired you? If so, who, and why?

Good question, I think my main influences include Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier Bresson, Julius Shulman, Charles W. Cushman, Yousef Karsh, Troy Pavia aka Lost America on Flickr and curation sites like the Selvage Yard.

I know that you develop your own film and make your own prints; can you tell us a little about your process? Do you have a specific type of film, chemicals and photo paper that you prefer to use?

I have a multi purpose space (furnace room) for my darkroom in the basement, equipment wise I have a Devere 505 condenser head enlarger for medium format work and a Leitz V35 Color Head autofocus enlarger for 35mm film. Chemical wise for printing I use Kodak Dektol as my paper developer, it’s cheap and it works well.

As For film I have experimented a lot with different emulsions over the years and in 35mm I have been shooting re-branded Fuji Neopan 400 under Freestyle Photographic’s Legacy Pro banner and I am going back to Tri-x (got 200’ in the fridge) and I am planning over the long haul switch over Ilford HP5. For my medium speed 35mm film I have been working a lot with Plus X but getting bulk rolls has been a bit of challenge of late so I’m giving Ilford’s Delta 100 a try but most likely I will be going with FP4. Now with medium format I really love HP5, FP4, Fomapan 100 and Fuji Neopan Acros 100 which goes through my Rolleis and Mamiya C220f.

With Film developer my go chemicals are Xtol, D-76/ID-11, HC-110 and Rodinal, although I have been experimenting with a large jug of Tmax developer recently and that works really well with Neopan Acros 100 and Delta 100.

I know some photographers stand by standardizing with one film and one developer, I prefer to find out how to develop different films with different developers so I won’t getting caught if there is a supply issue for example when Rodinal was hard to find a few years back.

Now for color film I have become a huge fan of Kodak Ektar 100 in 35mm and 120mm formats since it’s introduction a few years back and I have been testing out the new Portra 400 in both formats as well.

What’s the worse thing that has happened during your film developing experience?

I love Fomapan 100 in medium format but loading onto Patterson reels that need cleaning, not so much. I wrecked the emulsion first frame from my clumsy fingers in the change bag. Of course another bad thing is having a wet roll of film after the final photo flo bath hit the floor. That’s about it, for now.

Can you tell us about your experience within the art community?

I co-founded the Oakville Camera Club with my friend Kieley Hickey back in 2006 with the thought we would have a dozen people hanging out and chatting about all things photographic at a coffee shop. Twenty-four people showed up at the first meeting and now our roster has 110 members. I also sit on the board of a local group called Art on the Bluffs, which programs exhibit space in Sovereign House.

Do you have any advice for new photographic artists?

The best advice I can give photographic artists is having a day career you also love and treat photography as your passion. It’s near impossible to earn a living as a fine art photographer.

Are there any projects, shows, or events coming up that you would like to tell us about today?

I just wrapped up a group show with my brother Alex and friend Les Lengyel at Sovereign House called City Days and City Nights. The goal of the exhibit was for people in the suburbs to look at urban environments as landscapes. We had good traffic and we sold some prints.

Going forward I plan to come up with a new project and spend 2012 being in creative mode and exhibit in 2013. Meanwhile you can see my work on my regularly updated photoblog

Thanks Bill for taking the time to share your photography background, artwork and experience with us. there are a few pieces of Bill’s work here, but for those of you who would like to see more of Bill’s work please check out his blog.

All photographs in this post are the property of Bill Smith Photography.


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