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Inspired by a growing number of friends reviving old film cameras and falling in love with the imperfections of film photography, Montana and Atessa, two friends living across the world, wanted to create a way to share their latest rolls of film with each other. And so, the Sydney to Santa Cruz community was created.

Words by Tom Wolff

Photography by Montana Cooper, Shandra Furtado and Amanda Bjorn

Tom Wolff sat down with Sydney to Santa Cruz co-founder Montana Cooper, to chat about why film photography is thriving and how she created a close community of photographers who appreciate the vintage art form.

Taken by Montana Cooper

“There was this resurgence that was happening around us.”

Gobe:

Hey Montana. Let’s start off with where the idea for Sydney to Santa Cruz came from?

Montana:

Sydney to Santa Cruz. What a journey. My friend Atessa and I were living across the world from each other at the time, living our lives in parallel in these two very different cities. We started experimenting with film around the same time and found ourselves wanting to find a better way to share our photos with each other. We noticed that our friends were all slowly picking this art up, dusting off their parents hand me down cameras or buying a second-hand one from the local camera shop. There was this resurgence that was happening around us. In the early stages when we had first thought of this “collective” idea, I remember sitting on the couch with my friend Sam who was flicking through some of his recent film photos he had taken on one of his trips. They were so incredible and I felt this strong urge to share them with the world, for everyone to see how talented he was.
When we finally brought this idea to start a film photography collective to fruition, there were so many people around us we knew would want to be involved. It felt like it was right what we needed at the time. We wanted to share the film love from Sydney to Santa Cruz and everything in between.

Gobe:

Do you think film will continue to stay relevant?

Montana:

In a world where everything is so curated and where people are so in control, I think more and more of us will gravitate towards this medium. I think people really appreciate how imperfect analogue photography can be. There are so many things that can and will go wrong – light leaks, broken light meters, lost rolls, underexposure, etc. Believe it or not those are the sweet spots. That’s where it gets interesting! You have to learn to love when things don’t work out for you and be okay with it. There is no better feeling than creating something so natural and raw.

“I think people love to just feel a part of something bigger.”

Taken by Montana Cooper

Gobe:

What advice would you give to photographers wanting to delve into the realm of analogue and film photography?

Montana:

Try it! You’ll thank me later. It’s addictive. Try every film you can get your hands on and experiment with different cameras. Your “eye” is so uniquely you. I think you’ll surprise yourself with what you’re drawn to! Share your photos with your friends. Drop your film at a lab you trust. Read up on their process. Support the little guys.

Gobe:

Why did you start shooting on film?

Montana:

Light and colour! I’m really drawn to the colour in everything and found that some of the nicest colour tones were showing up in my photos. I love being able to shoot with a new type of film that I haven’t tried before and seeing what colours are accentuated. And then there’s the light game. The sunny 16 rule and how good it feels to break it!

Taken by Montana Cooper
Taken by Montana Cooper

Gobe:

What was the catalyst for creating the Sydney to Santa Cruz collective?

Montana:

The idea was simple, to encourage experimentation with film photography among friends. To highlight hidden talent. To release photos into the world which may have just been kept locked up in a box on a hard-drive. I think people love to just feel a part of something bigger. Back when we started in 2016 I had no idea what I was getting myself into, how much time and love I would put into this thing. In starting any project you really have to give it your all. It’s truly a passion project that’s just carried on and grown into something we are so proud of. We also just wanted to explore a different medium of ‘sharing’ photos that wasn’t contained in a small box on your phone.

Taken by Shandra Furtado
Taken by Shandra Furtado

Gobe:

How did you accumulate your contributor base? Was it mostly just friends who shoot on film, or have you had a range of strangers who’ve contacted you with the desire to contribute?

Montana:

It has been a very organic process. We’re in no rush. We don’t have an end goal. The blog is no means to an end… it exists for our contributor base to share their most treasured photos with the people they love. We’ve definitely had quite a few strangers reach out to us via Instagram interested in sending in photos. For a little while it felt right to bring them on and share their work, however after realising how much time it was taking up we resorted back to keeping it a little more intimate. STSC is for friends, and friends of those friends. It feels closer to our hearts in this way. It is so special to share the work of people who we know & love. I’ll meet someone, later find out they love film and within weeks they would be sharing their photos with me. It takes a lot of trust to do that. To have that true human connection, online & offline, is where the magic lies!

“To have that true human connection, online and offline, is where the magic lies!”

Gobe:

What are your thoughts around the digitisation & editing of film photos?

Montana:

It’s funny, shooting and developing film is such a slow process and then you often circle back and end up with a digital image in the end of it. I don’t know it any other way. This is my process anyways. I am not one of those purists who will never touch a photo in post-production. I think that a photo is yours, you can do whatever you so please with it. A note on Instagram: there is a huge rabbit hole of a film community on Instagram. I see it as a perfect collision of the old and the new. You can type in a hashtag of a certain type of film you’re curious about and it would feed you millions of photos shot with that specific film. The same goes for lenses, cameras, etc… its a huge database and source of inspiration for film photographers just getting started out.

“Drop your film at a lab you trust. Read up on their process. Support the little guys.”

Taken by Montana Cooper

Gobe:

Working in the dark room?

Montana:

I’ve just completed my first dark room course at the National Art School in Sydney. It was the first time I had ever even stepped in a dark room. Learning the whole process from start to finish gave me so much of an appreciation for this weird and wonderful art. I found it so eye-opening to learn how to create images with my own two hands.

Gobe:

Favourite camera & roll of film?

Montana:

Favourite camera is a Canon AE1, favourite film is Fujifilm Xtra Superia 400.

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Sydney to Santa Cruz

Home to a community of film lovers, Sydney to Santa Cruz is a space where thriving photographers are able to come together to share their love of film photography and contribute their own work freely within a collective platform.