Alex Medvick: On Using CineStill 800T Film in the 120 Format

All images by Alex Medvick. Used with permission.

“I think most portraits capture more than just a nose and pair of eyeballs.” says photographer Alex Medvick in an email response to our questions inquiring about his portraiture and using CineStill 800T in the 120 format. “They show us an emotional/stylized reality, centering around specific people.” Alex is a photographer based in Philly and is one of the few lucky enough to have gotten his hands on the film after the pre-sales that CineStill had.

My envy of him and that beautiful, beautiful, sweet CineStill film aside, Alex is actually a good portrait photographer. With his Pentax 67 in hand, he’s able to create some incredible compositions that not only balance technical skills but artistic skills. His portraits are subtle yet telling studies of his subjects and his ability to make use of spaces on the fly is something that many other photographers don’t have.

Lucky for us, Alex was willing to talk to us about his using CineStill 800T in the 120 format in addition to sharing sample photos. For all the photographers that aren’t in the know, CineStill makes a film that absolutely cannot be mimicked in digital photography. Well, they don’t make it, but they “make it.” CineStill is Kodak cinema film with the Remjet layer removed so that it can be processed normally with the C41 development process. I’ve reviewed CineStill 800T in the 35mm format, and it’s by far my favorite film emulsion on the market now. This film is Tungsten balanced, so it works well with Tungsten light and with daylight it will deliver very blue images. But no matter what, it’s got tonality that digital can’t create.

Here’s our interview with Alex.

Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

Alex: I’ve always been interested in photography! When I was six or so I would take every chance I could to grab a disposable or point and shoot camera. I wish I knew where those photos were, I’m not sure if my parents have any of them or not. Eventually when I was around 10 I saved up around $100 and bought a Kodak Easyshare camera, and never stopped shooting (or wanting to buy new stuff). I used to want to draw, but once I realized I was pretty bad at it (I can’t even draw a straight line) I stuck pretty steadfastly to taking photos.

Phoblographer: What made you want to get into portraiture?

Alex: I love people! I think most portraits capture more than just a nose and pair of eyeballs. They show us an emotional/stylized reality, centering around specific people. Sometimes the reality depicted is a lie though. But, you could say all of that about any type of photo. I guess I just really like people.

Phoblographer: To you, what makes a good portrait? For example, if you’re going through a roll of film that you’ve shot, what determines whether an image is a keeper or not?

Alex: It’s 50/50 really. Sometimes it’s entirely about the technical aspect. When the colors, composition, and light look great to my eyes, I love it. But, other times I just look at a photo and like it for no reason at all. It’s all pretty subjective!

Phoblographer: What are some of the biggest things that you focus on when communicating with a portrait subject? How do you explain your creative vision to them?

Alex: Most of the time I go into a shoot with nothing other than a person, and a location (sometimes I don’t even have that). Once we start rolling, the whole shoot evolves out of the subject and I just talking, having fun, and sharing ideas. If I’m not already friends with someone I’m shooting, I try to work on getting there. Communicating posing can be huge, but sometimes the best photos happen when people are just enjoying themselves!

Phoblographer: What attracts you to the Pentax 67 and what made you want to use CineStill 800T for this shoot? Is it the high ISO abilities or the general look of the film?

Alex: The Pentax 67 is straight up one of the sexiest cameras I’ve ever seen. It’s a pleasure to hold, and the 6×7 negatives come out beautiful If I hold up my end of the work. I just got my box full of CineStill 120 last week and couldn’t wait to shoot it. Having only shot the 35mm version once, and never having touched the 120 I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to turn out in the daylight, but I’m pretty happy with it! I overexposed to around ISO 320 and was thrilled with the look I got. I can’t wait to shoot more of it, and see how it holds up under low light.