Everton left back and avid photographer, Leighton Baines, gives his two cents on the celluloid charm of analogue photography

On the analogue process

With film photography, there’s a real sense that there’s something at stake, there’s a pressure to it. I like that. People often say that if you want to really learn photography then you need to go analogue. I’m not sure that’s true. I mean, digital gives you a safety net, there’s a margin of error and that’s important starting out. After all, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. But at least with film photography, even your mistakes have a little charm to them. In some cases they’re even your best work.

On street photography fundamentals 

I’ve always loved the work of Martin Parr, so street photography seemed like the most obvious place to start. Street photography takes away the need for a subject. Or at the very least, it allows the subject to come to you. But street photography comes with its own set of challenges: You find yourself at the mercy of the city’s constant and chaotic motion and the odd dance of the day’s light. After a while, it changes the way you see things. You find yourself taking mental and literal notes of particular lightfall in particular places at particular times. You break everything down into colours and compositions.

On access and portraiture 

I’m lucky in the sense that my career has allowed me to meet some very interesting people over the years. The idea that I’m able to capture moments that are of interest to other people is a cool one; whether that’s at Everton’s training ground, backstage at a gig or even in the studio during the recording process. But, more than anything, it’s the idea of tapping into other creative streams that really interests me. I like being around people who are passionate about their craft – whatever that is – and learning from them.  

Lately, I’ve tried to move on from street photography to take a stab at portraiture, it’s a challenging shift even if the set ups do look simple. There’s something to be said for the likes of Platon, whose set up looks simple enough, but who manages to capture some really powerful imagery.

On his own cameras 

The first camera I picked up was a Nikon FM2. I had no idea what I was doing, I just saw that Don McCullin has used one. The Hasselblad 500 CM came next, it’s a medium format loaded with 120mm film, which presents its own set of challenges. Then there’s the Leica. An M6 rangefinder in my case. The M series has such an iconic and coveted status: It’s almost as much about the camera’s performance as its looks. The M6 in particular is pretty special, it was discontinued a while ago and was one of the last of the M series to take film. It’s become my go to for most things. I had a horrible moment not so long ago when I actually dropped it. I was able to find a guy who could fix it using the parts from another two salvaged Leica M6s. Good old camera repair is a lost art in itself,
in many ways.

On developing in the darkroom

I love it: It’s such a tactile and imperfect process. Lightbox over in West Kirby has been a great place to get to grips with the whole process, whether that’s through workshops or just providing a place to develop your own film. It’s such an important part of photography that a lot of people seem to have forgotten about, but everything that goes into the development process imparts character. There’s an honest charm to that, because it’s the flaws that keep things interesting. We’ve come a long, long way in the field of photography. And while, on the one hand, you know full well that photography is backed by hard science, there’s something in the development process that retains a little magic. 

On his next project 

I don’t really think in terms of projects, because I still feel like there’s still so much for me to learn. I’ve moved from street photography to portraiture because I’m interested in the more practical and measured side of photography. I was looking at the work of Alex Prager not too long ago, and that’s an avenue I’d really like to explore. Prager’s work is so intricately planned; I can’t even imagine the level of planning and forethought that that must take. I’m not saying that’s the direction I want to take, but it’s definitely something I’d like to explore. That’s how my brain works, I need to know exactly how something’s done before I can move on to something else. EJ

Interview by Will HALBERT