Last year we did a small post on Photographer Alex Bowler and chatted a bit about his work. He has since traveled abroad to India, where he spent many months enjoying the journey which he photographed along the way.
Recently I spoke with Alex againand asked him about his journey and the ideas behind his first book 'Adventures India' (sold out ),
A second LTD run has been made and is now available at our shop.
1. Why did you decide to make a book ?
Good question - it feels like there is almost some thing arrogant about thinking your photos are good enough to warrant being printed into a book. At the same time I had all these photos that I loved and that I felt encompassed something meaningful about that time and about escape in general. Getting them printed seemed like a way to solidify their worth in a physical form. I was inspired by Delaney Allen, and the quality way in which the printing matched how the feel of the photos
2. The book is prominently comprised of Film images, whats your reasons for using film ?
I have a love affair with film and especially film cameras. Constraint forces creativity and film cameras are far more constrained than modern digital ones. You’re limited in your shot number, shooting speed and metering information. I guess I fall into the group of people who find shooting film a more personal experience. Add to that the fact that the initial rendering of film is much more pleasing than digital (I’m lazy and processing raw files requires in it’s self a lot of effort and creativity) and shooting film is really the only option.
3. How long did you stay in India ? can you tell us a little bit about your journey ?
I travelled around with three of my friends for about four months. We had no return tickets, the names of a few places and one real set date. Other than that we just drifted wherever we wanted to go. It was a truly singular experience to be planning your travels over coffee in the morning then shooting through the countryside by train in the afternoon. The cliche local response to your requests was “In India, anything is possible...” and funnily enough it really was the case.
4. Geek stuff, what camera do you use and film you seem to shoot mainly in color any reason for that ?
It has to happen. On that trip I took my D700 and an F3 with 50mm and 35mm lenses. The D700 was so hulking though it usually stayed in my pack while the F3 saw the streets. A lot of the film choices were practical, this was back in the day where you could get a 20 pack of 36 shot Lucky Special 200 film for $40 delivered off ebay - you had to be crazy not to buy it. Alas I think it’s out of production now... I just went and checked again because I still hope it’ll come back one day - it hasn’t yet. I like shooting colour, it lets you play with gradients and gives you another way to obtain contrast in a scene. It also pairs well with the outdoors and the countryside which is where I like to spend most of my time shooting. Ironically I’m partly colourblind. Go figure.
5. Who or what influences your work ?
Another good question. Photos that really stand out to me are ones that manage to capture some natural stillness in one form or another. I don’t really think actively about these sorts of things... but going off some photo books I’ve bought there’s Delaney Allen - he did a few covers for Washed Out and has 3 books out with the Publication Studio. There’s Galen Rowell the 70’s era Nat Geo mountaineering photographer legend - another must see for those who love the outdoors, Tseng Kwong Chi’s book ‘Ambigous Ambassador’ is a quaintseries of self portraits of a fake Chinese official taken across the world... There’s many many others but I won’t bore you.
6. What was the process for putting your book together, what difficulties did you come across if any ?
It was surprisingly simple. I just assembled it in InDesign then sent it off the the friendly people at the Publication Studio. Honestly the hardest part was paying for it.
7. Any advice to people thinking of shooting film ?
I don’t know if I should be giving it but the most memorable bit of advice I’ve heard is from Galen Rowell. He said that his best photos were first taken by looking for good light and not a good scene. From what I read he would always place himself where the light was amazing and as a result his photos would be amazing... sounds simple right? On top of that I’d add that you just need to stick with it. The value of your photos will correlate to how much you’ve shot, initially at least.
8. Finally why do you take pictures ? Why do we do anything?
Taking photos has given me reason to go to lots of wonderful places with great people. It’s something creative to focus on, maybe just a hobby, but very satisfying nonetheless.