FREE FILM: Building a crowd-sourced list of contemporary America

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Since 2019, Worthless Studios has handed out thousands of free rolls associated with film to professional plus amateur photographers across the US. Now, two new photobooks present an edit from the work

In August 2019, founder of Worthless Studios Neil Hamamoto and his team set out on an American road trip within an Airstream-turned-darkroom. They travelled by means of 18 cities across the ALL OF US, handing out around 1, 500 free rolls of 35mm film. Their only demand was that participants respond to the prompt ‘red, white, plus blue’ through their pictures. By the end of the road trip keep away from 2019, they had received and developed over 40, 1000 images.

“Everyone has that romantic idea of the United states road trip, ” says Hamamoto. “I thought ‘why not really reach for the stars’ plus road-trip while uncovering the many different voices and viewpoints of strangers across the country. ” Instead of presenting an individual’s singular vision, FREE FILM: USA takes the tradition of the great American road trip and opens it up, collating the perspectives of   photographic communities across the country.

This is just one iteration of Useless Studios’ ongoing project, FREE FILM. “Originally, the plan had been to get the USA book out there first, but the global scenery shifted, and it felt directly to do another activation, ” says Hamamoto. In June 2020, responding to Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, the team sent out 200 rolls of film through mail, asking photographers to interact with the wave of anti-racism protests taking over the country.

© Yan Bill.

© Bob Rockford.

Right now, an edit of both iterations of the project are usually published in two new photobooks: FREE FILM: USA and FREE FILM: 06 2020. The first presents the flow of black-and-white landscapes, portraits, and street pictures; a vision of The united states told through many lenses. The latter, co-edited with Andre D. Wagner, oscillates between moments of protest plus contemplation, encapsulating the urgency that propelled this motion in recent history.

However Hamamoto stresses it is important these books are not regarded as the end-points of the project. “We are trying to create an impartial collection of images, ” states Hamamoto. “The toughest problem was imposing myself as the editor, because it undermines the particular project, which is all about democratising photography and letting everyone’s voice be equal. ” Alongside the publications is an online library, where viewers can browse the original image submissions themselves.  

Within the introduction to FREE FILM: JUNE 2020, Andre D. Wagner writes: “Although I’m not a photojournalist, I’ve always experienced the conviction that I must be using this medium for what it does best, and sometimes that’s just describing what the world looks like. ” With the many lenses of photographers across the country, FREE FILM strives to do just this, creating a crowd-sourced catalogue of the moving realities of contemporary America.

Marigold Warner

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and presently holds the position of On the web Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Artwork at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from Town, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Journal, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.

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