Interview: 2019 Film Photo Award with Eliot Dudik and Aline Smithson

 

Photographic grants, funding, and opportunities for film photographers are a rare thing in the photographic community in 2019. We often see residencies, workshops, and funding for a variety of photographic projects that by default allow film photographers, but don’t specifically apply to them. We are proud to share with you that The Film Photo Award is here to change that! They have put together an impressive series of opportunities for the established, emerging, and student photographer who are searching for a way to continue doing what they love, shooting film! We are also pleased to share that the Analog Forever staff personally know those involved with this project and we are happy to endorse them as a 100% legitimate and worthwhile opportunity for film photographers to submit to.

The Film Photo Award is a brand new semi-annual award program offering three distinct grants of Kodak Professional Film to film photographers who demonstrate a serious commitment to the field of analog photography and are motivated to continue the development of still, film-based photography in the 21st century. With six awards per year of Kodak Professional Film to emerging, established, and student photographers alike, Film Photo Award seeks to provide talented and dedicated photographers with access to all that film photography has to offer, and to help facilitate new and ongoing film projects.

The program itself is open to all emerging, established, and student photographers worldwide,18 years old or older and with great pleasure we are happy to share that the first grant application period is now opened for the Spring of 2019! Photographers are encouraged to submit their applications and project proposals for one of the three unique categories listed below by March 31st, 2019. This cycle of the Film Photo Award will be judged by Aline Smithson, the founder of Lenscratch and curator and juror of exhibitions for a number of galleries, organizations, and on-line magazines, including Review Santa Fe, Critical Mass, Flash Forward, and the Griffin Museum.

The winners from each category listed below will be awarded photographic materials to embark or continue their projects, a feature and interview published on the Film Photo Award website and social media, and an invitation to jury the next award cycle (New + Continuing Projects Only).

New Project Award:

The New Project Award is designed to help photographers begin a new film photography project using Kodak Professional Film. Open to all emerging or established photographers worldwide,18 years old or older. This grant allows the photographer(s) chosen to select from: 200 rolls of 35mm, 200 rolls of 120, or 300 sheets of 4x5 film of one of the following emulsions: Portra 160, Portra 400, Ektar 100, Tri-X 400 / 320, T-MAX 100, or T-MAX 400.

Continuing Project Award:

The Continuing Project Award is designed to help photographers continue an existing film photography project using Kodak Professional Film. Open to all emerging and established photographers worldwide,18 years old or older. This grant allows the photographer(s) chosen to select from: 200 rolls of 35mm, 200 rolls of 120, or 300 sheets of 4x5 film of one of the following emulsions: Portra 160, Portra 400, Ektar 100, Tri-X 400 / 320, T-MAX 100, or T-MAX 400.

Student Project Award*:

The Student Project Award is designed to help student photographers begin or continue a film photography project using Kodak Professional Film. Open to students worldwide, 18 years old or older. This grant allows the photographer(s) chosen to select from: 100 rolls of 35mm, 100 rolls of 120, or 150 sheets of 4x5 film of one of the following emulsions: Portra 160, Portra 400, Ektar 100, Tri-X 400 / 320, T-MAX 100, or T-MAX 400.

*You must be currently enrolled at an institution of higher education at the time of submission. You do not need to be studying photography specifically to be considered. A scanned image of your student ID is required to verify current enrollment status


Interview


We had the opportunity to talk to the founder of the Film Photo Award, Eliot Dudik, and the first juror, Aline Smithson, to ask them about how this program came to be and about their expectations for the Spring 2019 cycle of grants. The first part of our interview will be with Eliot Dudik followed by our questions for Aline Smithson.

© Eliot Dudik, Falling Waters, West Virginia, from the series Broken Land - photographed with Kodak Portra 160

Michael Behlen: Where did the idea for Film Photo Award come from? 

Eliot Dudik: It has been a long time coming, but it began as an effort to promote film photography and Kodak Professional Film. Kodak Alaris, the company that distributes Kodak Professional Film, had supported my work and that of many other photographers without receiving much recognition for such vital assistance. I wanted to create a program that helped Kodak Alaris to continue support of dedicated photographers while also receiving appropriate recognition for their dedication to their customers. 

MB: You said it had been in the making for quite a long time. Can you describe to us the steps it took to make this happen?

ED: The current structure of the Film Photo Award is the product of evolution and much consideration. It went through many variations and proposals to the Kodak Alaris team, and we worked together for a number of years to arrive at the best possible outcome for both film photographers and the Kodak Alaris company. 

MB: How did your relationship with Kodak come about to bring them on board as a sponsor?

ED: I began working with Kodak, and ultimately Kodak Alaris, about six years ago. They thankfully appreciated my work, and supported my efforts. From the early stages of this relationship, I’ve been working with them to arrive at the larger sponsorship program we launched last week. 

MB: How did you decide on the amount of film to give to each winner in each category?

ED: I considered my own projects and those of other photographers. Of course, every photographer’s workflow is unique, but we ultimately settled on the current film award quantities based on an estimated average amount of film used for a project over a 1-year award period. 

MB: How did you get Aline involved? Was she always your first choice? Did you have a prior relationship with her?

ED: Yes, she was always my first choice. And yes, we’ve been close friends for quite a while. Aline is the most supportive person I know within the photographic arts community, and a damn fine film photographer. The Film Photo Award needed someone like Aline to help initiate the program. I’m excited to see what she selects for these first awards, and what those photographers make with the awarded film. 

© Eliot Dudik, Balls Bluff, Virginia, from the series Broken Land - photographed with Kodak Portra 160

MB: How do you see the Film Photo Award evolving over the next 12-18 months? 

ED: The Film Photo Award is keeping a schedule similar to educational institutions, so there will be two award cycles each year, one in the spring and one in the fall, for a total of 6 film awards by the time we reach December of 2019. The timing of the awards is specifically designed to get film into photographers’ hands in time for summer and winter work, and beyond. Early next year, things will get a lot more dynamic on the Film Photo Award website, as the first awardees begin to complete their work made with the award, and features of that work,along with interviews about their projects and process, get posted to the site. The program will continue in this fashion with announcements of new awardees and features of “alumni” works. Other ideas are swirling regarding the growth of the program. One idea is to create an ongoing series of exhibitions of the work made with this award, exhibitions whose connecting thread is that all the work was made with Kodak Professional Film. There are some additional components for the site kicking around and will possibly be added in the coming year or so for the benefit of the film community. We’ll have to see how it all plays out. 

MB: Do you have plans for getting more sponsors involved? Giving away cameras or other film stocks?

ED: I have some ideas and some things I’m actively working on that will enhance what our sponsor, Kodak Alaris, is doing, and will be of great value to film photographers. I am deeply thankful for the support Kodak Alaris is providing this program and the film photography community, and have no plans to seek out additional sponsorship.  As the program progresses, I hope to add Kodak Professional 8x10 Film and some of Kodak Professional Film’s other emulsions like Ektachrome, Portra 800, and TMax P3200. 

© Eliot Dudik, Paradise Road, Hermosa, South Dakota, from the series Paradise Road - photographed with Kodak Portra 160

MB: Any plans in having more diverse categories broken up into the type of work? For example "Landscape" and "Street Photography"?

ED: There is currently no plan to break the awards down into further categories. I see the openness of the call as a way of encouraging a diversity of project proposals, and not limiting applicants to a specific genre. 

MB: Do you have any plans to help these artists print a book or plan an exhibition with their finished project?

ED: These are both possibilities for the future. I’m definitely considering it. I hope to make the Film Photo Award site as dynamic as possible and provide photographers interested in the process of film-based photography with as many opportunities and resources as possible. 

MB: We have to ask: the fee for submission. How did you come up with this dollar amount? Why isn't it free to enter? Tell us more about this if you don't mind.

ED: This is a fair and important question. Although it may seem that this program just exists and operates seamlessly and effortlessly, and I hope it does appear that way, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. I’m not working alone, and our outside jurors need to be compensated. Additionally, the site itself is not free, and the submission platform subscription is especially expensive. The Film Photo Award currently needs and will continue to need advertising, both physical and online, to let photographers know about the program. I’m currently personally funding all things for the Film Photo Award, but hoping that soon the program will be able to sustain itself with room to grow in exciting new directions. All that being said, every effort was made to keep the submission fee as low as possible, something that was very important to me. 

MB: What is your personal background with photography? When did you start shooting and why? What do you like to shoot? What is your experience working with film personally? 

ED: I am lucky to spend every single day of my life completely immersed in photography. I have been obsessed since the years leading up to college. I studied photography, anthropology, and art history as an undergraduate, and then went on to receive my MFA in photography. I taught photography at the University of South Carolina before coming to William & Mary in Virginia to build their first photography program. My personal work is all film based. I work mostly with a view camera, and mostly in color. I’m also enamored with photobooks. I am drawn regularly to the landscape as the means in which to communicate, but also work in portraiture and photographs of and about life (and death). I work with film, and a view camera, specifically because of the process and the materiality of film. The process helps me to be thoughtful about my pictures, deliberate, and concise.

Juror Aline Smithson | Photo by Eliot Dudik - photographed with Kodak Ektachrome E100

MB: What is your take on where analog film is going? There has been a recent resurgence that the community has noticed. Do you think this renewed interest will last?

ED: Yes I do. I work with young photographers every day, and their enthusiasm for film photography is undeniable.  This is an exciting time in the analog photography community. Creative people uplift each other through support, and this program aims to encourage the film photography art form, which is so important to our culture.  

MB: What was your first thought on being contacted to judge the Film Photo Award program?

Aline Smithson: My first thought was, "Hell yes"....I want to do anything that promotes the use of film--and I would do anything for Eliot Dudik, one of the best people in the photo world. For the last decade, it has been a rocky road for film shooters--I've seen my practice diminished by the loss of film and paper stocks, darkroom closures, and the loss of communities that came together in the darkroom. It's a sad day when I ask a room of new students if anyone shoots film and they look at me blankly....it is such a loss to our profession and practice. 

So of course, I'm very excited about these awards--and also so honored to juror the inaugural awards. As an editor and enthusiastic consumer of photography, I can almost always spot a film image. There is a quality to film that digital can't replicate. To put it simply, film images have nuance and dare I say, more beauty. 

MB: In addition to being the founder of Lenscratch, you have judged and juried exhibitions and contests such as the Review Santa Fe, Critical Mass, Flash Forward, and the Griffin Museum. How do you see Film Photo Awards differing from your past experiences conducting these types of contests, exhibitions, and rewards?

AS: I think it will be different for all the reasons behind the practice of film photography...the slowed down nature of taking the photograph, the artistic considerations that take place BEFORE pressing the shutter, the qualities of light and color that are unique to film imagery. There is a thoughtful, methodical approach to using film and I often see that reflected in the work...so needless to say, I'm excited and curious as to what photographs and projects will be submitted. Maybe the submissions will surprise me but I am open to it all. 

MB: In selecting the three photographers who will be awarded these awards and support comes great responsibility in selecting deserving artists. Is there anything specific you will be looking for when it comes to awarding each of these opportunities? 

AS: I will be looking for work shot with intention and deep thinking behind the work, artists who have a practice in film, and projects that will be elevated by the use of film.

© Aline Smithson - photographed with Kodak Portra 400

MB: We already asked Eliot Dudik, but we thought we would ask you to: What is your take on where analog film is going? There has been a recent resurgence that the community has noticed. Do you think this renewed interest will last?

AS: I was talking with someone who knows a lot about the film industry and they said after 2007, film usage went down by 80%, but in the last year, film purchasing has gone up by leaps and bounds and it is becoming a healthy industry once again. With the next generation, I see more and more photographers discovering or returning to film photography, possibly as a back lash to digital technology where people want to move away from a screen and get back to the physical nature of art making. Once someone experiences the magic of the darkroom or the Christmas-morning joy of getting the negatives back, they are hopefully hooked.

MB: If you had to give one piece of advice to the photographers entering the Film Photo Award contest, what would you tell them?

AS: Make sure there is consistency in what you submit and the photographs read well online...unfortunately, I won't be looking at prints!

Now that you have learned all about The Film Photo Award go visit their website to submit your application for a grant and make sure you follow them on Instagram to keep up to date with everything they are doing within the analog photography community!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Behlen is a photography enthusiast from Fresno, CA. He works in finance and spends his free time shooting instant film and backpacking in the California wilderness, usually a combination of the two. He is the founder of Analog Forever Magazine. Connect with Michael Behlen on his Website and on Instagram!