Marina Llopis is a film photographer and self-proclaimed analogue camera nerd living and working in Bristol. Having developed a passion for photography from an early age, the Spanish-born photographer packed her bags at the age of 18 and moved to Japan to study photography and further develop her creative practice. Soon after moving to Bristol in 2018, Marina started running the IFWEFILM photography workshops with the aim of inspiring people to find their creative voice in the beautiful world of analogue photography. Alongside her workshops, Marina runs a popular Instagram account where she posts interesting content about film cameras, sharing practical tips, knowledgeable reviews as well as her thoughts on her tireless photographic experiments. We caught up with Marina to find out more about her love affair with film photography, her Japanese experience and the upcoming Nagoya Workshop Experience taking place in Bristol on Sunday 16th of June.
Marina, how would you introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you?
I am a film photographer and a nerd of analogue cameras and unusual films. I was born on the beautiful island of Mallorca but most of my heart resides in Japan. On my days off, I love doing mini trips. I also love going places surrounded by nature where you can do long walks whilst taking pictures.
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
Surprisingly, I still have several, but the one I remember the most is when my father and I used to go camping in the mountains of Mallorca. It has always been magical to me watching a night sky full of stars after having been enjoying the heat of a bonfire.
How did you get into photography? What was your journey like?
All this started when my father gave me, at the age of thirteen, my first analogue camera. I started playing with it without really knowing how it worked, but I had a great time using it whilst walking around, or doing portraits of my friends. As I was taking more photos, doing mini photography courses and discovering new artists, I came across Japanese photographers like Rinko Kawauchi, Shoji Ueda or Takashi Homma who captivated me. In my last year in high school, I fell madly in love with the country after visiting my sister in Japan. When I graduated from high school at 18, I took my suitcase and went there to study photography.
During my 5 years of stay in Japan, I studied photography for 2 years at Nagoya Visual Arts College where I built up my knowledge of film photography. At the same time, I worked 2 years in a photographic lab in Nagoya where my passion for film increased more and more. After graduating and moving to Tokyo, I worked for one year as a staff member mounting lighting sets up at IINO MEDIA PRO studios. Back in Spain, I worked for one year in another lab and I am currently working in another lab while I’m running film photography workshops in Bristol. Looking back to my beginnings, I have always loved photography and I have always tried to do something related to it both in my personal life and in my professional life, as it is my passion.
Why is photography important in this day and age? What are the larger things it plays into?
Photography is essential. There is no doubt about it. Apart from the fact that photography forms part of our collective understanding, as well as helping us build a legacy for those who come after us. It is also a powerful tool to share ideas and thoughts. On an individual level, for me it is a great tool for self-knowledge. Through photography you can see what things are important to you and how you relate to your own reality.
You seem to shoot exclusively on film. What is the magic for you of analogue photography?
For me, analogue photography, unlike digital photography, is a very personal and intimate journey. We live in an era of instant and effortless gratification. With digital, everything is clean and edited to perfection. However, for me shooting on film is like putting your soul in each careful shot, instead of selecting one photograph among hundreds. It is a tangible and personal process, in which you can experiment in a thousand ways and in which you learn step by step how to observe your surroundings with different eyes. For me, shooting on film allows me to be present in the moment and to be more aware of what surrounds me.
Looking at your portfolio, we noticed that a large part of your work is portraiture. What do you seek when taking a person’s portrait?
Unlike what a portrait photographer might want to transmit, my portraits don’t seek to tell the story of people portrayed per se. Rather they are part of the concept or the feeling that I want to express in that moment. I believe that every time we press the shutter, especially when we do portraits, there is always a reason. Perhaps because unconsciously we are capturing aspects of ourselves reflected in the subject. This is one of the things that intrigues me the most.
In one of your latest series, Japaneed, you seem to be moving away from the themes you’ve explored though portraiture and travel, delving into a more conceptual, introspective domain. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this project? What kind of message or impact did you want to convey?
In my third year living in Japan and my last year in the photography college, I realised that I needed to express my thoughts towards Japanese society. Those aspects that you can only see when you live and work in Japan for a long time. At first, Japaneed was meant to be a self-portrait project telling my own experience, however that concept changed when I talked about the project with my friends who resided in Japan. When we exchanged thoughts about life in Japan, it turned out that we practically agreed on everything that we thought about life and work in Japan. Therefore, this project stopped being about me and instead it became about the experience of being an outsider in Japan dealing with its many quirks and customs. Japaneed is a project consisting of a series of portraits in which the characters represent different feelings and thoughts towards their respective lives in Japan. Through the various portraits of each of my subjects, I wanted to give voice to a number of topics, such as: the frustrating moments in learning the Japanese language, the hierarchy of Japanese society, the world of job hunting in Japan (called Shushoku Seikatsu), the tendency to create rules for everything and not being able to think outside of the box... and so on and so forth.
You are also the founder of IFWEFILM. What motivated you to start running film photography workshops and what do you aim to equip your students with?
IFWEFILM was born from the idea of helping people to enter the wonderful journey of learning analogue photography from a more personal perspective. I want them to truly experience film photography, to get inspired and connect with themselves through it. My goal is that, from the first moment, they can acquire useful knowledge that they can put into practice immediately, without drowning in technicalities. All this, whilst they gain a step by step confidence and enjoy their reality with different eyes.
What’s a must have in your gear bag?
In my daily bag I always carry a notebook and a pen, a little pouch where I have some spare films, LR44 batteries and a little marker and, last but not least, a point and shoot camera. When I’m out shooting somewhere, I take my Pentax ME Super or my Hasselblad 500C, plus a light meter on top of what I mentioned before.
What are some of your favourite shooting locations? What is it that draws you to them?
Where I feel most comfortable and where I most enjoy taking pictures is undoubtedly in places surrounded by the natural world, I especially like to go to places close to the sea. I guess this is because I was born on an island and I’ve spent most of my childhood in the Serra de Tramuntana, Mallorca.
OK, now a tough one: what’s your all time favourite 35mm film camera?
In my case there is only one 35mm camera in the center of my heart: Nikon FM3A. I fell in love with the Nikon FM3A when I used it for the first time at the photography college in Nagoya. It has all the things that I need in one camera: a fast shutter speed, an exceptional viewfinder where you can see the aperture, the shutter speed that you’ve set and an accurate camera light meter.
Any words of advice for aspiring film photographers?
Although analogue photography may seem kind of difficult or intimidating at first, it really isn’t. By learning certain basic concepts, practicing and experimenting, you will realise that it is a wonderful journey that allows you to see your life with new eyes.
You currently live and work in Bristol. As a photographer and city-dweller, can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with the city and its people, and how does this relationship influence your lens-based practice?
After my stay in Japan and a short period of one year in Mallorca, I wanted to experience what it was like to live and work in England. So when I looked at which city I was going to move to, Bristol showed up as an ideal place: a quiet city with many young people and a wide artistic and cultural offering. After almost a year of living in Bristol, I think that it is a great city. Without going too far, you can enjoy wonderful places full of nature, such as Ashton Court or Eastville Park and feel inspired by them.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently, I have put on pause some artistic projects that I had been working on in order to dedicate my time to IFWEFILM. This includes creating content every day like: cameras and film reviews, tips, my thoughts about experiments that I’ve done, and also preparing everything for the workshops.
What do you hope to achieve from photography in the future? And what trips or photography projects would you love to do?
I would like within the next 5 years to be able to create around IFWEFILM a solid community of people passionate about analogue photography and to share my passion of analogue photography with people all around the world. I must confess that one of my crazy dreams is to be able to build from scratch a camper van and make it into a rolling darkroom & lab so that I can do workshops all over the world. It would be awesome!