My guest on this week’s Snapshot of the Film Community is a fellow south Florida photographer named Aloy Anderson. You may know him from his YouTube channel titled Raychristofer where he reviews products such as skateboards and microphones as well as cameras and film. I found him when I was researching my Mamiya 645 and I just loved his laid back videos and in depth reviews.
Hey Aloy, thanks for joining me.
AA: Hello Aly thanks so much for having me on your show. It’s an honor, I’ve been following your work for months now.
Awesome. Same here.
First off explain the name of your YouTube channel. Do you want to be called Ray Christofer or Aloy?
AA: Well Aloy is my first name, but it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue and Ray is my middle name so that’s what I tend to use on social media it’s like a pen name.
Ahh ok. I wanted to make sure I don’t call you the wrong one. Do you prefer Aloy? I like it.
AA: Some of my subscribers and followers encourage me to use my real name, so that’s why I switched my Instagram name over.. yes Aloy is good thanks.
Tell us a little bit about yourself outside of the film world.
AA: Well I’m a father of three: 21-year-old son, 17-year-old daughter, and 9-year-old daughter, and married happily. I’m a private contractor installing and repairing postage meters for Pitney Bowes as well as medical vaccine dispensing machines. There are pros and cons to being a contractor but the good side is I can kind of set my schedule.
That leaves you a little time to shoot film right? lol
AA: Yes it does. It’s especially good if you run a YouTube channel to have a flexible schedule, because sometimes I’m not always in the mood to be in front of the camera.
I’m actually near the Everglades now experimenting with some paper negatives, because I was able to finish work early
That’s awesome. I have not ever been down there.
I’m someone who knows what it’s like to shoot film around here in the sweltering heat, and everything seemingly being all one yellowish color. What challenges do you face shooting around south Florida?
AA: That’s a good point. Well I like shooting old buildings old cars and relics and that’s hard to find in South Florida. Sometimes I will drive an hour and a half to the city of Belle Glade near Lake Okeechobee as it’s an old Town that seems to have been stuck in time so that’s a treasure trove for me. Miami beach is nice to stroll through also as it has a lot of art deco buildings, but it’s not my favorite place to do photography.
Same for me. Where I live is newer, so there is not much that’s interesting.
AA: I also like shooting poorer neighborhoods for that reason, it’s more honest and less sugar-coated, but it can also be tricky because folks may wonder what you’re doing there with a camera so I miss a lot of good shots out of being careful and respecting people’s privacy.
Exactly. Same here.
I’ve been working on a project shooting the neighborhoods I grew up in. I grew up very poor, but I can’t just stroll down the street with a camera lol. People think it’s weird. It’s challenging.
AA: Yes, that happens in pretty much any neighborhood of the stratosphere. I found the best way to do photography like that is to go to very busy places like downtown Miami or when they have art and food festivals, no one cares or notices you have a camera then and that’s the time I get the most great shots.
How did you get started making reviews on YouTube? Did shooting film come before or after the channel?
AA: I think the first serious thing I did on YouTube was upload a video when I built a 5-ft wingspan radio controlled glider from scratch and it flew so well, and that video got so many views and comments it made me want to upload more interesting things. When I got my first digital camera a Lumix gh1 I started shooting vintage lenses on it like the Helios and I was getting such beautiful unique results I decided to review that also, and it became popular so from there I started mostly focusing on photography products. I actually didn’t start on film though until about 4 years ago and that opened a whole other door of experimentation and videos to produce. What I’ve learned on YouTube is the videos you find interesting and are passionate about making are not always the ones that get many views so it’s a juggling act I found reviewing items that people are interested in versus making videos that mean something to me.
So you sort of fell into film then. What do you enjoy about it outside of your reviews?
AA: Check this out I was scrolling through Netflix 4 years ago and I saw a documentary which turned out to be about Vivian Maier. I don’t know why, but it really moved me especially seeing what she was able to do with that Rollieflex, she reminded me of myself because I’m not a people person. She made me interested in film again which I haven’t shot since the 90s. I decided if I’m going to get into film I need to go big and start medium format, so I got a Rollieflex just like her. Then I decided I can’t wait five days for a lab to develop my film, I want more control so I studied and learned how to develop myself and bought all the gear. The negatives of my first role came out perfect and I was hooked from then on.
That is so interesting. When I first started years ago I started the same way, no lie. I saw her documentary and her work and that made me want a Rollei. That’s when I got my Automat. I didn’t really get into shooting like I do now until recently.
Great minds think alike lol.
You say on your instagram bio that you are an alternative process experimenter. I personally love your video on Cyanotype. Tell us a little more about the experiments you have tried and what draws you to taking the alternate path.
AA: Well, whenever I buy film I realize the cost adds up and there’s so many other light sensitive materials so I wanted to try making my own film so to speak. The first easiest inexpensive thing I thought of trying is the cyanotype. It’s very limiting for photography and most people wouldn’t want to bother with it, but I found I was getting some dreamy beautiful images full of texture when I was patient. I still like doing them, but I just don’t like standing 20 minutes for an exposure that half the time isn’t up to par. I wanted to try making my own film, but there are so many variables to it that I understand why it takes huge companies with lots of machinery so I finally stumbled on people using darkroom paper in camera and when I tried it I was shocked how well it came out. It’s not perfect as it’s very high contrast and it’s not sensitive to red or orange light but it was exactly the challenge I was looking for, I really get a high when I develop the image in my bathroom and scan it .
As difficult as it is to get a good paper negative image, it is such a rush when you get it right and your film shooters can’t tell the difference that it’s not filmed LOL that’s the feeling I’ve been chasing ever since.
I get it. The greater the risk, the greater the reward
AA: “And film shooters can’t tell that it’s not film.”
That’s funny. Tricking us on Instagram lol.
AA: Another advantage of the paper negative is when I scroll through all the negatives I’ve shot over the past four years it takes almost and I don’t dare add up the cost because I’m not a rich dude. But a 25 pack of dark room paper cost about 25 bucks and I could shoot nine medium format images from each sheet so I almost don’t even think about the cost and you can experiment so much more recklessly because of that lol. That was meant to say when I scroll through my film negatives.
No I wouldn’t deliberately deceive you on Instagram, it’s tempting though LOL.
That’s really cool. I look forward to seeing more of your experiments.
Speaking of Instagram, I would like you to weigh in on a conversation that is going on right now. It’s actually been going on for a long time, but is recently gaining some steam particularly on Instagram, and that is about the lack of diversity in the film community. Obviously women as well as people of color shoot film. For some reason we just aren’t stirring the algorithm, so to speak, if that makes sense.
I have spoken about it as a woman, but I would love to hear your point of view on this subject.
AA: That’s a tough one I really don’t know what to say because honestly maybe more white dudes do shoot film than everyone else. One of my good friends who’s a woman film shooter on Instagram said she’s tired of seeing all these guys shoot suburban houses on film and calling it art LOL. I won’t call her name, but she’s got a point. I look at it this way, I love the work I’m doing and if no one is liking it or promoting it I will still be doing it for me. The good thing about art though is if you’re doing consistent good work people will notice. Sometimes I do wonder how that algorithm works and why some mediocre channels may blow up while other great channels don’t get noticed as much. I really don’t have an answer.
I feel the same way. I just keep saying to myself, just keep doing what you love until you don’t love it anymore. As a YouTuber specifically, I have noticed the accounts that blow up are always white males. I think I know of one popular male of color who has a well known account. I also notice that it seems to take certain people double the time it takes others to get noticed. Like you said, not sure if it’s the algorithms but again, the algorithm goes by what people are more likely to click on.That being said, the main conversation being had is that it would be nice if more people would shout out a more diverse selection of people than just always shouting out their bros.
AA: Maybe we should wear thong bikinis in our thumbnails LOL.
Not sure that would work for me lol. Thanks for sharing your point of view though. I appreciate it.
AA: You know what though, blowing up on YouTube brings its own challenges, because I’m sure the time will come where you can’t reply to all the comments, and you may get more negativity. Then you feel like you have to keep coming up with fresh content and forcing it. Maybe sometimes being small is a blessing in disguise, unless you’re trying to make a living from the channel.
I have to ask, what is your favorite film and camera that you’ve tried so far?
AA: Favorite film, I started on Fuji acros and it spoiled me because I couldn’t find any fault with it, when they raised the price and discontinued it I shot whatever I could, but I have to say my favorite film is Are Imago 320 that I reviewed on the channel. What I love about it is even in bright sun the highlights don’t blow out easily so you can get a wide range of tones, also it has a beautiful green pattern not too coarse or too smooth. Unfortunately, it looks like they stopped selling it in the United States till my second favorite film is Kodak T-Maxx.
Fav Camera that’s tricky.
I prefer the Rolleis and square format, but there’s something about my old Leica iiif. I just really enjoy operating its mechanical controls and the images I get out of it are incredible as well even by modern standards. I guess you can say I have two favorite cameras
Very nice! I want a Leica. Hopefully one day.
Well, thank you Aloy for joining me. It has been really nice having this chat with you.
AA: Thanks so much Aly, I was surprised that you asked me on your show because there’s thousands and thousands of people on Instagram and it’s good to know someone thinks enough of what I’m doing to ask my opinion. Much respect and I hope for the coming year you’re able to reach your goals in film photography as well.
Thank you. I started this interview series mostly because even though my platform isn’t big, I wanted to use it to raise the voices of people in the community that get a little bit drowned out if that makes sense.
AA: That’s really honorable for you to start this series. I don’t know if I told you, but over a year ago I started a series on my channel called artist in residence where I wanted to interview artists flying under the radar, but after two videos I lost steam so you’re actually encouraging me to start it up again as well.
Yes. If you have the time, try it out again.
Before we go are there any projects or videos you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?
AA: Future videos? Yes I really need to do an updated in-camera cyanotype tutorial, because instead of coating and preparing my own paper I found a pre-treated paper called nature print that is Superior in every way to what I was doing so that is a video I would like to follow up on. Also the dark room paper in camera, that’s a video I’ve been working on for over a month now shooting different sections and chapters. It’s an obscure way to do analog photography, but there are so many people interested in it that I think it’s something people will enjoy. It’s also a great way to reactivate many old cameras so keep an eye out for those two.
Great, I look forward to them.
AA: Hope to talk to you again soon or maybe even collaborate one day.
That would be fun. Definitely.
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Happy holidays and until next time stay motivated and keep shooting.