Mike Bell (b. 1988)
What kinds of things do you most enjoy photographing?
Looking at my photographs, it’s portraits on landscape backdrops. I shoot everything, but a picture is better with a person in it (in my opinion). It just has more of a feeling than just a plain landscape. Whether it’s just for scale or whether the individual is adding a certain mood. The female form and femininity have always intrigued me. A female figure can add a softer mood which I enjoy. My photography may even be feminine if I think about.
Describe your photographic style.
I’d love to think it’s heading a fine art route, but realistically it’s just getting more simple – very little to no lighting, and the same with my post post-production. It’s personal. My photography has always been about me and my feelings. I do like to create aesthetically pleasing work but it boils down to my personal attachment to that person, place, moment or feeling.
Photography is a lot about the journey. How has it influenced your personal life and the way in which you view the world (around you)?
Photography has given me a reason to pull over and enjoy the things that I would of just passed by. I don’t think I’d feel or be who I am without it. Anyone I’ve really spent time with has had to endure a camera in their face from time to time. Film is just where I am at at the moment. I started my photography on film with a Nikon F601 and I moved onto digital a few years later, now I’m back to film. Who knows what I’ll feel like tomorrow.
Photography is also about capturing a moment in time. What is your approach to a shot, and your approach to a new body of work?
A moment in time is rarely captured through an eye piece. You need to be present in a moment for it to be a moment for you. Obviously you can capture someone else’s personal moment or their expression on their face depicting their moment, but I often wait for a moment or create one that somehow displays how I am feeling or what I have felt at that point in time.
My mood definitely reflects in my photography, although I rarely enjoy photographs of people smiling. Unfortunately, I don’t to put together projects or new bodies of work – I tend to go somewhere new and just photograph.
Is photography your professional career? Or do you work in another field?
It used to be, but I have fallen onto another path and it’s great. I started off with band photography as a passion and made some cash doing events and corporates when I first started out. I have done a lot between then and now. I run a small cinematography, photography and post-production business called Capitol Collective with a great friend, cinematographer, editor and photographer, Chase Beynon. I have been doing commercial DOP work recently which has been the most exciting avenue and adventure I have taken yet. Photography is now more my personal time thing.
What gear do you shoot with? Specifically camera arsenal and film stock.
I’m a bit of a sucker for Yashica TLR’s, I have a few. The first medium format I shot on was probably a Yashica C and is still one of my favourites. Square is amazing. As far as medium format goes, I’m loving my Mamiya 645, the Mamiya 80mm f2.8 turns backdrops into smooth paintings. It’s a bit big for adventuring but somehow always makes an appearance.
My general purpose SLR has to be the Nikon FM2 and a 35mm. I try to change up as much as possible, though I find my comfort zone with a camera. The same goes for film, I basically shoot on whatever I can get my hands on locally and for cheap. I do like Ilford HP5 and a Portra 400.
Growth is important for any artistic craft. How do you stay motivated and enthusiastic about your work?
I honestly don’t do much, I just like shooting.
I look at photographs all day – the Internet, Instagram and photography books. Trying new cameras and film is always exciting too.
What are your influences? Please list other photographers you look up to or things that generally inspire your image-making process.
There are so many, and so many great local guys; Karabo Mooki, Thomas McWilliam, Ross Maxwell, Ross Garrett, Angela De Klerk, Cale Waddacor, Duran Levinson, Jonno Swart, Bronwyn Gardiner, Jono Wood, Nolan Lister, Jarryd Watson, Mitchell Harper, Russell Grant.
What else do you enjoy? (Hobbies, etc – Any other creative exploits or interests?)
Mostly just the occasional hike and night spent in the car somewhere random with good people.
Any tips for aspiring film photographers?
Keep doing it. You might not love everything you do, but as long as you love doing it.
What lies on the horizon (any plans for series, exhibitions, travels etc)? And what do you hope to achieve in the future?
I have some travels in mind this year, let’s see what happens.
All photos by Mike Bell
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