Interview with Sol Allen
Q: Hi Sol, welcome to Pellicola! Tell us something about your life and yourself.
I currently live in beautiful Montana with my beloved dog, Suttree, two cats and a rabbit. I bartend when I’m not doing photography.
Q: Tell us about how you discovered photography. Do you remember when and why did you start taking pictures?
I started doing photography when I was 15 for my high school’s newspaper and yearbook. I had a used Minolta X-700 on layaway and that was my only camera for years. We had to develop all our film and pictures in the darkroom. I fell in love instantly and knew this is what I would be doing the rest of my life. I went to Brooks Institute of Photography after high school. I worked in the music industry for over a decade and continue to do so for select artists. I currently concentrate on personal projects that I like to describe as “historical documentation”.
Q: In a digital world why do you shoot film? And why istant film exactly?
Digital was just becoming a thing when I started photography, so it’s always been secondary to me. The process just isn’t the same. I like to create with my hands. There is definitely something to the instant gratification that instant film gives. I’ve shot Polaroids since I was a little girl. I like the ways you can manipulate the film during and after development. I love the way certain types expire and continue to age after they’ve developed. Feels alive.
Q: Is there a story about your camera(s)? Did you buy them or were they family’s?
Although I do have some very special, beautiful cameras that were passed down to me, I don’t currently shoot with them. I mainly use my Polaroid 195, Crown Graphic and an assortment of other Polaroids. For film, my Hasselblad 503cw is probably most used. I am always on the lookout for expired disposable 35mm cameras. There is usually quite cheap film in them and the effects of the expiration can be quite interesting. I always have these in the car and shoot with them all the time.
Q: You are shooting with a Polaroid 195 and no one makes pack film anymore. How do you deal with that? Will you use the last stock of film for something special?
This fact gives me quite a bit of anxiety, actually. I just got my 195 in 2015 after wanting it and searching for it for over a decade. So it feels our time together has been very short. I have been reaching out to other photographers with large stocks to see if I can purchase or trade with them since I am running very low on film. No luck yet. My last packs will be used for a road trip later this year. It will be a difficult time for me.
Q: How do you choose the place you photograph?
I usually just load up my dog, cameras and film in the truck and go. I love dirt roads and I’m always on the lookout for interesting and long ones of which there are plenty out here. I am currently working on a project where I’m documenting Montana’s forest roads. They change every year with human (logging, mining) and natural (fires, floods) occurrences and that fascinates me.
Q: Using expired film gives a retro look to your pictures. Is there any photographer of the past you feel akin to?
My all time favorite photographer is W. Eugene Smith. His photojournalism and incredible work from his NYC loft w/ and around jazz musicians constantly inspire me, even though my work is very different. Jason Lee’s work and absolute love for analogue photography is an inspiration as well.
Q: Do you like shooting on your own or with someone?
I think my best work is created when it’s just me and my dog. I have a few close friends that are a joy to have along on day trips.
Q: How do you stay creative? What does inspire you?
I have found it necessary to take breaks and concentrate on drawing and painting. After I do that for a while, I’m excited to get back to scanning and shooting new work. There are many artists of many mediums I follow on Instagram that give me constant inspiration. Montana’s infinite beauty inspires me every day.
Q: Suggest us a movie or an album.
I have managed several record stores and I also DJ all vinyl sets so music is very important to me. It’s impossible for me to name one or even just a few albums or artists. I mainly listen to old funk, soul and R&B since that’s the vinyl I most search for. Honestly though, I listen to everything and go with whatever my mood calls out for. As for a movie, my all time favorite
movie is Clay Pigeons.