Today on our FOCUSED series we’re very excited to have photographer Taylor Pool!
Pool has a love for everything analogue from developing his own films to hand printing all his own work, shooting promptly with either a Rolleiflex or Mamiya RZ67 on black and white film.
His work concentrates on taking mainly portraits of people who he encounters on his journeys, he believes that it ‘is an act of honor and justice. Being able to show that they are worthy of a photograph portraying the realism of their life and environment; not hiding anything to the viewer or the outside world.’
We caught up with Pool to find out more about his work:
Film’s Not Dead: Could you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and how your love for photography began?
Taylor Pool: I remember my love for photography began when a friends mom gave me a very old and small digital camera. I was 13 or 14 at the time and took it to a concert with me and couldn’t stop taking photos of the band. I’m sure I was a bit annoying. My grandfather found out that I was using this camera a lot and that summer when I visited him in Texas he gave me his Canon T50, a film camera that he used to travel around Europe and the States with. I couldn’t believe it! At this point and time this camera seemed to be a lot of worth, not knowing a lot about cameras. From that point on I “seriously” pursued photography at that age by constantly being in my backyard and taking photos of insects, animals, plants, then moving onto bands and concerts. Then two years later a friend from Oklahoma switched to digital photography and sent me his Canon A2 as a surprise gift and encouragement to keep pursuing photography more seriously.
Film’s Not Dead: Looking through your work it’s clear to see you’re a fan of using medium format cameras. Why do you decide to particularly work with the Rolleiflex and Mamiya RZ67?
Taylor Pool: That’s a great question. I actually used small format for 5-6 years or so, until I was 20. Then when I moved to Germany and after a year of being in Germany all my friends were using Hasselblads and Mamiyas and it really made me curious as to what the difference of medium format film is to small format, why do they use it, pro’s and con’s and all that stuff.
Then there came a point when I was 21 I felt like it was time to grow in my photography and take a challenge and “step up” to a new level, so I pursued medium format. Found a Mamiya RZ67 on Ebay and it was gifted to me fortunately enough!
Since then I haven’t regretted using medium format.More details, more depth, more emotion in every photo.
Film’s Not Dead: Travelling is a big part of your work, you’ve travelled to Ethiopia, London, Romania. How do you decide which places to travel to, is there a specific assignment your going out there for or do you find something when your there?
Taylor Pool: Travelling is not only a big part of my work but it’s a big part of my lifestyle.
In 2008 when I moved to Germany I joined an organization who train people to use arts on the field, in different countries, to help others and raise awareness of what’s happening in the world. Therefore, wherever I travel is for a specific purpose. I rarely travel out of my own personal curiosity. I usually travel because my team or colleagues have a vision to do some kind of work in “this or that” country.
I’ve worked a lot in Ethiopia, I was actually just there mid February for 10 days, because in 2009 a group of people I was with started a relief ministry to help teens find a better and healthier lifestyle than they were living. Since 2008 I’ve been back 5 times to continue to work with what we started.
A few years back my team did a 2 week journey through Eastern Europe because we wanted to work with the Roma people in Romania and also visit this arts district in Ljubljana, Slovenia. That trip was absolutely 100% spontaneous and unplanned. We had no contacts nor friends in Slovania, Romania, Croatia, Hungary, etc to help us with housing or anything. But what I found there, photography and people wise, was one of the best things. I haven’t been back to Sighsoara, Romania since then, but my dream is to go back to one of the roma villages and to offer free family portraits to all the families there. If you’re able to take their family portrait it’s a treasure to them. Their extreme living conditions cause them to not have that long of a life span. At times families will have 6-9 children knowing not all of them will survive, so taking a family portrait of them will help them to remember all their family members for a long long time.
Film’s Not Dead: What’s your typical start up for shooting?
Taylor Pool: My typical start up for shooting is simply me going out with my camera and waiting to meet people who catch my eye or make a relational impact with me. All my photos from my “Stranger” series is with the Rolleiflex. Since the Rollei is so portable and small, I’m able to always have it in my arms as I walk and if I see someone I need to take a photo of then I ask them or try to start a conversation. Often people come to me because they see my old camera and ask me questions about it. So it’s half and half of me going to people and people coming to me.
Film’s Not Dead: Looking through your work, it’s clear you see the world in black & white. Why do you decide to shoot in black & white than colour?
Taylor Pool: I love shooting black and white because I can work with my hands more than I can with color, and it makes me feel more that I am actually creating something. With b/w film I can develop them myself in my bathroom, then take them to the darkroom to print. The entire time working with my hands and producing something physical. When I came to Germany in 2008, the training course I was a part of for 6 months also taught me strictly on black and white film and paper development. They taught me a lot of values as to why black and white is so personal and important and I found I agreed with a lot of their teachings.
Film’s Not Dead: Use one word to describe your style of photography?
Taylor Pool: People.
Film’s Not Dead: What is it that makes you want to shoot on film?
Taylor Pool: For me film becomes a personal issue. If you decide to take a photo of someone with film, then it’s personal and it means something, because film actually costs you something, and it’s expensive! With digital it’s hard to make things personal because it doesn’t cost you anything. Buy one SD card and you can take photos of whoever you want. With film you have to be picky. That’s why I shoot film because it allows me to become personal with my subjects and picky with who I choose, therefore making the photographs more special. I love that I am not able to take photos of everyone. I love that I have a strong say in who and what goes into a roll of film. That’s what makes a roll of film so special because I know I have chosen wisely and not just captured snapshots, but something more meaningful.
Film’s Not Dead: If you could give one piece of advise to an inspiring photographer, what would that be?
Taylor Pool: Your first 100,000 photographs are just the beginning. I read a quote like that a long time ago and I couldn’t agree more. I remember my first two years of shooting in my backyard and shooting concerts and I didn’t really like my photography. Then after 2 or 3 years I actually started to like my photography; after 100s of rolls of film and money down the drain. Photography takes sacrifice, and if you’re wanting to be great, then you’ll need to sacrifice a lot of time, money, patience, and comfort in order to be great. Be flexible and have fun as well. Don’t always be serious with photography. Make sure that you make your photography enjoyable and not always a task on your to-do list.
Film’s Not Dead: What are your plans for this year. Do you have any projects/exhibitions lined up that we should look out for?
Taylor Pool: Right now I am currently working towards printing 10-15 Stranger photos in the darkroom for a (hopeful) exhibition in Nuremberg, Germany where I currently reside. This Fall I will also be part of a collaborative exhibition with my team where we will showcase the story of a childrens home that we will visit in India this Spring. I will be traveling to India in Spring and hopefully to Eastern Europe this Fall, and somewhere in the year find a showcase for my Stranger series.
Film’s Not Dead: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the readers of Film’s Not Dead?
Taylor Pool: I love talking to people and sharing each others passions, dreams, ideas, and artwork. Please message me if you want to share anything. I’m on Instagram, FB, and have a website. Let’s connect! I always am looking to be inspired by others and I want to hear why others create art.