Compact Photographers

35mm Compact Photographer #5 – Jake Kenny – An “Urban Abstract” Shooter

August 1, 2013

First, a bit of background? As much or as little as you are comfortable sharing… Name, Where you are from, what you do, What else in life do you enjoy? that sort of thing?

My names Jake, I’m based in Bristol (UK)

How long have you been taking photos?

I started taking photos 10 years ago when I took a job out in japan. Life there was just so different I wanted to document it all and show my friends back home all the differences and so my first pay cheque was spent on a digital compact. From there I slowly progressed through a bridge camera to a couple of dslrs. After returning back to the uk I was a little uninspired – nothing was capturing my imagination and digital photos come out exactly as you take them. Eventually I started playing around a little more with film and looking at things differently and have been snapping away since.

What sort of photography do you enjoy or partake in the most (street, landscape, etc)

I guess most of what I shoot could be classified as street photography. I do a bit of “shooting from the hip”, candid style stuff when wandering around, but I get more out of snap shot style shots of aspects of daily life or things I see. I am inspired by photographers like Martin Parr, Steven Shore and Rinko Kawauchi and the way they focus on things that may be considered mundane or dull. I also like the way that fashion designer Paul Smith shoots, and his philosophy of “you can find inspiration in anything, if you can’t look again” can ring true to photography too.

Much of what I shoot now I’d call “urban abstracts” (a name I’ve nabbed from Evan Hecox’s book) – as they’re small details of life which tend to be about shapes, colours or textures as opposed to the bigger picture.

How big a part of your photography life are 35mm compact cameras? What about the experience of shooting with them appeals to you? Do you feel they have effected your style? become part of it? or are the reason for it…?Which is/are your favourite cameras? the one/s that go with you the most? What is it specifically about these cameras that appeal to you so much? 

I tend to carry around a camera with me pretty much all the time now – I’m not actually that fussy which it is, I tend to grab one when collecting my keys and wallet. I’m a bad hoarder so I have more cameras than one person really needs but I have picked up them over the years when I see a bargain. Unless I’m out for a day specifically planning of taking shots my camera is 99% likely to be a Ricoh R1, GR1v, GRD2 or an Olympus mju I, mju ii, xa2 or xa4. They’re all great cameras, small, pocketable and have lenses between 28 and 35mm which I find suit me best.

With them being so small I can put it in my pocket and just shoot when I find something interesting. They’re also discreet so you can snap away without drawing too much attention to yourself.

Having fixed lenses means there’s none of the hassle with zooming etc, and working within 28-35mm I know pretty much where I need to stand to get the shot I want.

What was the path to this shooting habit? How did you discover it appealed to you? Show us your favourite/best image/s taken with a compact camera?

After being frustrated by the predictability of digital I found the magic of the chemistry of film photography special. I like how the colours come out and vary from film to film, and how this seems to replicate memories of events – after all you memories of something are never exactly how things were.

To this extent most of my favourite photos relate to holidays, trips or events…





What films do you shoot with and why? How, where, why do you process and or print your photos?

I tend to shoot both colour and b&w with my compacts and will often carry 2 – one loaded with each. For my colour work I usually use fuji slide film and cross process it – I love the vivid yet unpredictable colours this produces. My favourite film is fuji sensia 400, but fuji have stopped making all sensia film now so I’m just working through my stock pile (I bought all I could find when they announced production had ceased and got large qtys from fujis outlet store on ebay) and at the moment I’m using the iso100 variety and saving the iso400 rolls I have left for special occasions.

For B&W film I tend to use Ilford xp2. I like the commitment that Ilford have towards film so am happy to support them, it’s easy to find, and I shoot with xp2 rather than hp5 as I’m impatient and like my photos processed in an hour rather than having to get them sent off. (I’d consider doing my own processing but don’t think the mess would go down well at home).

I get everything processed and printed by photographique – a great local camera lab. They know what they’re doing, good quality and even do a 30minute service which makes it possible to get films processed in a lunch break.

What other cameras/type of camera do you regularly shoot with and why – what situations require something else/more if any?

As well as using 35mm compacts I also have a couple of older models of the digital Ricoh GR series. I tend to use them when I’m more trigger happy, when I’m out with mates, at weddings etc. The design and lens are familiar so I can get the shots I’m after but it also means that I don’t have the cost and delays or processing and printing film. As much as I love film there are times when digital is just easier and more practical.

I also like playing around with the Yashica Dental Eye – a camera that’s been designed for dentists to get macro shots of peoples’ mouths, it’s got a 55mm macro lens with a built in ring flash. Using this in the card or the city makes you view things completely differently. There are some shots from that camera here:

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