Hello Paul, Can you tell us about Analogue Wonderland? When and how did it all start?
The idea first came about ~5 years ago. I’d moved away from living in central London to a town in North Yorkshire, and really struggled to find anywhere to buy film locally. When I looked online there didn’t seem to be anywhere that sold the traditional films like Kodak, Ilford, Polaroid alongside the new brands like Kosmo Foto, revolog, Dubblefilm – and so I started to wonder if I could start a business that could provide film to anyone who didn’t live close to a physical photography store.
A couple of years later I was in a corporate job in Switzerland and decided to make the jump. Together with my business partner and mother Mary, we thought we’d try it for a few months to see if there was any appetite from the wider community, and fortunately it turned out to be quite a positive move! We were overwhelmed with the response from folk in the UK and abroad, and it quickly became obvious that there was a real need for a business that could plug that online hole for film photographers. One year later I left my corporate job and started working full-time on the business.
How big is the Analogue Wonderland team?
It’s constantly evolving (and growing!) but we currently have myself and Mary, a warehouse manager, and three warehouse staff. So whenever you order from us, phone us, email us, or ping us on social media you’ll know that you’re talking to one of a very small group.
What’s been the biggest highlight of running Analogue Wonderland so far?
Ah so many 🙂 but ultimately my favourite thing of running the business are all the wonderful people I get to interact with from the community.
For example I loved being at Photokina in 2018 – getting to meet lots of the folk that I’d heard on podcasts/seen on YouTube before – but also at The Photography Show getting to chat to so many UK film photographers!
What film is the most popular on your site?
Ilford HP5 all the way! The most popular B&W film, the most popular 35mm film – it has such an incredible legacy here in the UK and is near-universally loved for its flexibility, balanced contrast and grain, and the results that people consistently get with it.
The film industry has gone through some big changes in the last few years with prices going up, certain film stock being discontinued, others being harder to source – How do you see the future of film panning out?
Ironically I think the past few years have had the least change since the dawn of the century! Yes some films are being discontinued and prices are going up, but that’s balanced by the addition of new films like Ektachrome 100 and Ilford Ortho – and the additional investment into production that Kodak are making to enable greater volumes of consumer films (Colorplus, Gold) around the world.
So I’m pretty positive about the future of film! As a community we now have a set of financially stable manufacturers, a strong network of educators and mentors around the world, and an endless stream of inspiration via social media and zines.
I love it!
You guys collaborated with Marina from IFWEFILM putting together a guide for beginners, how was that?
Marina is an absolute wonder. She has such a passion and talent for teaching film photography, and an incredible knowledge base from her career so far. She’s also nailing the social media and home-made studio world – so was a perfect partner for our online Beginner’s Guide!
The toughest thing was actually working out what details to cover and what to cut. There is so much to film photography, it proved tricky to choose the bits that were essential to Beginners, and what could be covered after someone had maybe shot a couple of rolls.
But hopefully we struck the right balance. I regularly get messages from people who say that they watched/read it all before getting started which is a good sign!
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into shooting film?
Spend time on the internet enjoying the wonderful world of inspiration that is out there – and try to have an idea of what you want to do/shoot before making any choices!
One of my favourite things about film is the sheer variety: shooting Lomochrome Metropolis in 110 format is a very different experience from HP5 in an Olympus SLR or Kodak Portra in medium format. And you can absolutely do them all! But at the very beginning I think it’s best to choose one thing you want to try and learn (B&W 35mm for example) and spending a few months immersed in that world before jumping into the next idea.
Or totally ignore this advice and try as much as you can to see what sticks! As long as you’re having fun and creating images that you enjoy then that’s all that matters.
I’d also recommend taking the time to connect with the awesome film community over the internet. Whether that’s via websites like 35mmc; Twitter and the #BelieveInFilm folk; or Instagram/Facebook groups/Reddit – whatever you enjoy most, but this is where you’ll be able to go when you get stuck. And people are usually so happy to help and offer friendly advice.
What other resources or companies would you recommend?
A good dependable lab! I use SilverPan Film Lab and Digitalab, but there are many others popping up so check for one in your local town. Not only will they become your best friend for getting the most from your photography, but they may also become a watering hole for the local film community and a great source for inspiration and friendships.
And finally, what’s your favourite camera and film stock to use?
My all-time favourite is my Olympus OM1 with Kodak Portra. A dependable and winning combination, fun to shoot and often produces great photos.
I also really enjoy the portability of a 110 or 35mm point-and-shoot. Generally they’re the cameras I’ll always have in my coat pocket or rucksack as I wander around, and so they often end up being the way I’ll capture spontaneous moments of fun or beauty.