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A Conversation with Michele Hamparian. Brooklyn based chaser of light.

1. Please introduce yourself, your current creative focus and where you’re based.

Hey! I’m Michele (@micheleonfilm) a film photographer based in Brooklyn. My style is very simply about chasing the light. I’m obsessed with bright colors, shadows and capturing the moment before the clouds completely change the scene, which is probably why I am always looking around me and not forward. If it’s a beautiful day, I will always have my film camera on me.

At first I thought my work was going to be mostly about New York, but I’ve barely been here this year, so it’s taken a bit of a turn. My goal for my photos now is to elicit a feeling of warmth, happiness and sometimes a little adventure.

2. How long have you been taking photos, have you always been shooting on film?

I've been shooting digitally since I was 16, so a decade of photographing and editing. My love for film actually started about 7 years ago when I purchased my AE-1 program camera. At that time, the only film I could get my hands on was the Fujifilm Superia 400 at Walgreens. I developed my first roll at Costco, right before they stopped developing film. I really loved how my first developed roll came out. It was filled with colors of the Santa Monica Pier in California, and I just loved how no app could replicate those pictures.

After developing a handful of times, I kind of lost interest because there wasn’t much of a community. I got really into my drone videos and didn’t touch my film camera until 2018. However, by 2018, there was so much more film to play with. When I got my new film developed I was in love with how my photos came out, even though I didn’t post them. Obviously, that changed a couple of months ago when I decided to make an Instagram account.

3. Much of your work shared on Instagram is created using Kodak Gold 200. Is this your favourite film to use?

For sure! I love Kodak Gold, there’s this soft vintage like yellow-green gold that I’m obsessed with. As someone who has always liked gloomy dark tones for digital I wanted to completely get away from that. Maybe it's because I am now more of a morning person than I used to be, or because my wardrobe was mostly black in my late teens/early twenties.

4. You’re regularly sharing music and creating playlists for the community to enjoy. What genre is normally playing when you’re on a photo walk?

It really depends on the mood. In all seriousness, I have a playlist for every mood, time of day, holiday, era, event, etc. But as of right now, I'm really into a mix of Nu Jazz (sort of like electronic jazz) and R&B/Soul. It really ranges from magical and moody to bright and fun, stuff you can just bop along to as you're shooting.

That being said, my Film playlist is a bit different because I wanted to put together songs that you can also edit to. There's a mix of background lofi-ish thrown into that playlist. Even though it’s on Spotify, I use Tidal to make all my playlists because it has “master quality” tracks, and pays creators much better than Spotify (which is notorious for not compensating the music community for their work). Imagine every photographer on IG using Shutterstock to sell their work, that’s how little the payout is. This is just my quick pitch to get you all to make the switch to Tidal.

Some of the artists I’ve been loving recently are:

Hope Tala
Remi Wolf
Franc Moody
Lyn Lapid
Tobi Lou
Biig Piig

And check out my Film Playlist. I update it every week.

5. Is there any other style of photography that you haven’t had the opportunity to experiment with yet, that you’d like to in the future?

I recently got into 120 film, which makes me want to get into portrait photography, but I'm so weird about asking people to take their picture! If you're in the Williamsburg area and want your picture taken, DM me. I'm usually not busy.

6. Who are your creative inspirations that have driven your own development in photography?

The initial reason why I got into film was because of Tom Bianchi (I have his photobook, it's fabulous!). During the summer I shoot real estate photos and drone videos for homes in Fire Island Pines. It being an LGBTQ+ community, I was always inspired by the artists and homes around me. Even though it's mostly men, I felt really accepted and able to be myself there. It’s easy to feel inspired by the community. Especially by the decor of the homes, as most of them are filled with disco balls, eccentric costumes and many interesting people. 😄

On almost every coffee table and bookshelf in the Pines is Tom Bianchi's book, so of course I flipped through it at some point and instantly loved it. Every picture tells a story of a moment captured during some of the worst times to be a gay man in America, yet the photobook is mostly filled with feelings of happiness and friends, like they are in absolute paradise surrounded by the people they love. Even though these images are shot on the Polaroid SX-70, it really inspired me to shoot with something that still had that vintage feel. Afterall, the Pines still has that vintage look and architecture.

Since the Pines season ends with summer, most of my other inspirations have come from Instagram. It's great to see what people are inspired to capture and where they shoot.

7. Are there any other creative mediums that you’re passionate about that you don’t currently share on social media?

As I mentioned, I am a real estate photographer and drone pilot. While I love it and will still take my digital camera and drone on every trip, I tend not to post it to Instagram. I've also thought about starting another account for it, but it seems like a lot.

8. Do you consider the work you create to be art? Can you explain your answer?

At first I didn’t see myself as an artist, or my work as ‘art’ per se. It only takes me 10 seconds to snap a photo and maybe 10-20 minutes to edit it. So it just didn’t feel like I was doing as much as say a painter or a musical artist. However, over time I realized that art is about your perspective, and how that perspective elicits emotions from people. And I like to think there is a little piece of me in every photo I shoot. This shift, along with getting validation from friends, family and random people has changed my point of view, and I am now proud to call my work art. Although it still feels a little weird sometimes :)

9. Do you have any creative projects you’re currently working on that you’d also like to share?

I recently started an Etsy shop with my prints, and I am in the process of developing a website for my real estate business. I also want to start making a photobook soon. While I have made a film photobook in the past, they were really just for me and my friends to have on our coffee tables after our summers together. I can’t wait to have a photobook that’s strictly my favorite pictures.

I think creativity needs to be a part of everyone's lives, whatever that may be. But I also think in order to make that happen, people need to put aside at least 30 minutes a day to let their creative side out. For me it's a short coffee walk in the morning with my camera, or it's at the end of the day right before sunset. Even if you have more work to do, if you are able to take a little time to be creative, you'll feel way better after.

I also suggest getting out of your comfort zone, and trying different creative mediums. My roommate and I like to buy plants and repot them. We are currently in the process of making a framed terrarium piece for our living room. We found the frames while walking near our building and decided to repaint them white to match our decor. It was a process, but setting aside a little time for it over a couple of weeks helps and you feel accomplished once the project is complete. It’s sort of like when I am in a new place and shoot a whole roll of film. It may have taken more than 3 days, but by the end of it I feel like I captured what I was feeling over those couple of days.

Find Michele on Instagram here -->
Shop for prints on Michele's Etsy Store -->