Last Updated on 03/27/2023 by Chris Gampat
Photographer Bunny Steven (previously Sharon Steven) has a job that many photographers consider incredibly difficult and tough. Yet, she continues to move forward despite an economic recession, rising film prices, and so much more. “The biggest challenge is accessibility as supply and pricing have become unstable,” she tells us. “The rising prices have made it difficult for me as a film photographer and also as someone who runs a project that modifies film.” Bunny runs the Brooklyn Instant Film Initiative, a service that delivers film to your door and provides unique modifications. We’ve featured them several times on the site and adored their Confetti film!
Bunny started as a photographer years ago and began her business in Brooklyn. She believes that she’s the first black woman to create a special effects/modified film series, though she admits that that may need to be fact-checked. Indeed, we’ve featured loads of projects by black women on this site over the years. And we haven’t featured one.
The film photography world is in a very difficult spot because of the current economic recession and rising film prices. Brands like Kodak have raised their prices and don’t regulate what retailers should charge. As a result, prices tend to be all over the place. This makes it incredibly tough for film photographers to get the supplies they need. It also makes it more difficult for the lab.
But one of the coolest things that Bunny has done over the years is modifying film. Everyone can sell you Kodak Portra, and anyone can also make that easily into a preset. But what about film with a confetti effect or something else? Well, some folks do that. But Bunny is part of a slowly growing number of people selling pre-exposed film for unique effects that photographers desire.
“Our efforts to combat those challenges so far have been (keeping) the price of our modified 35mm film stable as well as developing a fun and affordable alternative for the need to purchase film from us to create specialty film photographs,” she tells the Phoblographer in an interview. Indeed many other smaller retailers have felt the squeeze, too, with tight profit margins.
Bunny thinks that something that needs to change in the photo industry involves shifting the spotlight. Specifically, she wants to see more spotlights on creative film minds. “My hope is that the more that are out there, the higher chance there is for someone who feels out of place in the photo world to learn in a space/way that feels safe and connect with mentors, muses, networks, etc.
However, she also believes that photographers these days are doing more of what they’re moved to do and being more creative instead of waiting to be approved or verified like photographers that have come before them. She also believes that younger photographers get into film because it increases their overall understanding of what a photographer can be and encourages them to explore more. It might also mean that they’re not taking the easier route via digital.
That there are still so many photographers who work with film willingly, in spite of this, warms my heart.
So what brings Bunny joy? Snapshots, according to her! “I very recently added a pair of camera glasses to my camera collection, and they have helped me tune into how fun it is to capture adventures and tiny moments versus setting up in the studio,” she tells us. “Of course, I will always love creating images that distort and expand on what’s expected from photographs. I’ve actually been experimenting with creating moving images with the glasses that play into expectations around photos!”
All images are used with permission from Bunny Steven. Be sure to check out the Brooklyn Instant Film Initiative.