Artist Spotlight: Sandy Phimester

Monday is upon us, and that means it’s Artist Spotlight time. This weeks spotlight shines on Sandy Phimester. If the name sounds familiar, Sandy was one of the co-authors of our Polaroid 180/195 camera review. You can find that post here. We have followed along with Sandy’s work for a while, as he has been very active on Instagram and the Instant Film Facebook page. Shooting tons of 3000B, he has developed a signature style with images that are immediately recognizable as you stroll through the feeds. I was very happy to hear that he is beginning to shoot some Impossible film and we can’t wait to see the results. Follow along with Sandy online at the links below.

Website | Twitter | Instagram


• A little about yourself. Where you are from and what you do.

I’m a portrait photographer, born in a small town named Peace River (I hold a special place in my heart for this place), and now living in Edmonton, both in the province of Alberta. I was a musician long before I was into photography, but was always interested in the arts and making things. I was on tour with a band in 2004 when right before we left, my dad asked me if I was bringing a camera, “No, why?” was my response to him, he replied with “you’d better get one”. He ended up buying me a little digital point and shoot, primitive by todays standards, but it did the trick, and I very quickly realized through our month on the road, across all of Canada, was that I really liked taking photos. It wasn’t until years later that I started getting into photography seriously, I’d say the last two years have been the real serious journey into portraiture, with only the last year really feeling like I’ve made any headway. But for me that journey is really important, I’m not in a rush to do anything, I’m here to take photographs of people and soak up every last bit of learning I can along the way.

How did you get into instant photography?

I transitioned from learning and starting on digital, slowly into film…. and now only film. Instant came a little while later, I was seeing some beautiful work in a few groups online and on blogs like this one
(snap it see it) from people who were posting up instant shots from their Polaroid Land cameras. I had this feeling like I knew instantly that I just had to get into it for myself. There seemed like something so magic about it, and I soon discovered that there was! I was lucky enough to get a nice deal on a beautiful Polaroid 180 Land Camera and I was hooked from the first frame. I knew right away that instant film was going to become a very important part of what I do, and it really has.

What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?

Right now it’s the Polaroid 180 Land Camera, it gives me the quality and the control that I really like. It has changed my whole photographic life!

What instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?

I’ve shot a few instax cameras, my 180 and the classic tan leather SX-70. I sold my old broken SX-70, but actually just recently purchased one again and hope to get into shooting the Impossible Film stuff a lot along side my Polaroid 180. I’d love to try the large format instant stuff, it’s probably out of the realm of possibility for the foreseeable future, but it’s so intriguing to me to see instant film shots on such a large scale.

What’s your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?

The new Impossible Film color stuff looks amazing, and I’m excited to start shooting it pretty soon here, but right now my absolute favorite way to shoot instant film (and photos in general, honestly) is the Fuji
3000B black and white pack film, it looks beautiful, and when using an ND filter set up I can actually shoot it all over the place… ISO 100, 400, 3000… whatever. It’s beautiful stuff. Since it was labeled as discontinued (not going to get into how frustrating that is, but we’re fighting to make them take that back, or get someone else to produce it, we can only hope!) I actually went and bulk ordered 60+ boxes, and will probably get a bunch more in early 2014. It’s too precious.

How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?

I generally like to shoot 4-6 frames at any particular shoot, client work or personal work, doesn’t matter. If the shoot is going really really well then I’ll sometimes shoot more than that. So far the struggle has been keeping dust off of them if I peel them before we leave the shoot location. Since I’m not in the studio often at all, and mostly on location, it can get dusty quick. All my shoots are generally a Leica M6, Pentax 6×7 and the Polaroid 180 (and soon the SX70 I suppose!), shooting instant film has fit in perfectly for me, the look is exactly what I want, and I feel like it suits the type of photos I take. Over the course of this year, instant film has become a very big part of my vision, or rather part of my style. I feel pretty naked without it at shoots, so it’s always there. Shoot, keep clean (or just peel once the shoots done, but what’s the fun in that!?), go home scan the print and usually the negative side by side on my Epson v700. Clean up dust from scans, I try to make as minimal adjustments as possible so that the files I output from my scans are as close to the print as possible. It was a bit of a transition from getting scans from a lab from all my other film work, but it’s been enjoyable, and just one more part of the magic puzzle.

How would you describe your voice or vision with instant photography? (does it differ from your other work?)

My instant photography work is an extension of my other photography, I do think about it differently of course, but in the end (for me) it’s just another part of the equation (an important part). I think that, for the most part, my photography is an expression of myself through other people, through the subjects that I have and the portraits that I take. If anything I believe that instant film has really helped me grow, and see that things are really changing and moving on from moment to moment.

Any personal projects we should know about?

I did some photography projects down in Cuba on three different trips with some punk bands from Canada and lots of amazing artists and musicians (and people in general) from Cuba, that was a few years ago, and I feel like I’m in a very different place personally, so I’d love to go back and start a new story telling portrait project down there. Day to day is filled with thoughts like that, and I’m essentially always in some process of thinking/dreaming/planning/executing/finishing a shoot, wether it’s a bigger project like that, or just shoots with models, it’s all so important for me to always be doing something with photography.

What other photographers do you look up too?

I don’t spend too much time pouring over pages of photo books, or browsing online for photo inspiration or anything, but I’ve been inspired in other ways by the great work of many people I’ve met online who really blow me away with their work, and more than anything I’m inspired by people and what they do, not necessarily just their photos, but… just who they are, that feels important to me. Having said all that, there are so many people that fit into this category for me, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the chance to connect with so many great folks who share a passion for film photography.

What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?

Dive in – Head first. There’s a lot of things I guess I could say, but … just go for it. You’ll find your way, take the time to find your voice and you’ll be so happy you took up instant photography. It’s the most
rewarding thing you can do with photography, when you start getting it all right.

Where does your inspiration come from? Do you seek it out or wait till it finds you?

Inspiration comes from music, from drives in my car, bike rides…. hanging out with friends, stuff like that. I honestly feel inspired by the things and people around me, the world I live in, more so than anything
else or other photography or anything like that. I mentioned before that I don’t spend too much time looking at lots of other photography, I think that it’s important to find your own voice, and often that means staying focused on your world, if that makes any sense. I usually let it come to me, I still find myself seeking it out from time to time when I can’t seem to find my way naturally… I still have no idea where I’m going, or how I’ll get there, I just do this thing (photography) and hope it is what I wanted it to be.


  1. Jacqueline Ohm says:

    Awesome read

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