END. sits down with young London creatives, Jordan Green and Tom Winslade to discuss the importance of analogue technologies and the power of physical formats in the digital age
"I've got three shots left. I don't want to waste them," Jordan says to Tom, gesturing for him to move onto the double yellow lines so he can take his picture. It's Black Friday in London and, with the city's population split between those sheltered from the carnage in their office and those on a coin-saving crusade on one of London's many shopping streets, the deserted back streets of Shoreditch feel like they might belong to us alone. We're en route to have Jordan's latest roll of film developed at his specialist of choice on Bethnal Green Road. Having shot everyone from Lucien Clarke to Luka Sabbat, Jordan has become east London's poster boy for analogue photography and, together with Tom, is dedicated to protecting the craft of image making by slowing things down and celebrating the elements of the unknown that come hand in hand with shooting on film.
Flexed in a fresh assortment of new season grails, with choice silhouettes from Nike on foot, their style reflects the brands and cultures they work with day to day at their creative agency, Prevalence. Homegrown British talent, Tom Winslade and Jordan Green have built themselves from the ground up to become cornerstones of the thriving creative scene in London, creating imagery, branding, and content for some of the biggest names in sports and streetwear. With campaigns under their belt for industry heavyweights Nike, adidas, and Puma; publishing powerhouses Hypebeast and Highsnobiety; and with a finely tuned sense of what's coming next, Tom lays claim to one of the very first interviews with Samuel Ross of A-COLD-WALL* back in 2015, while Jordan has shot some of the burgeoning label's most iconic imagery to date.
Conversational counterpoints, Jordan and Tom complement each other in character the way they complement each other in their creative practice. Where Jordan is rough-and-ready Yorkshire charm, Tom is quiet southern counties eloquence. What Jordan is to photography, Tom is to graphic design and creative direction. Their partnership works because where one's skill set ends, the other's begins. And because they share one core belief that underpins their creative approach: analogue isn't going anywhere.
Over the course of Black Friday morning, we delve deep with Jordan and Tom on the staying power of analogue technology, discussing the need for more patience in one of the planet's quickest moving industries and why trust is the missing link between physical and digital photography formats. In what quickly became an ode to analogue, the conversation flowed freely back and forth to reveal the peaks and troughs of challenging the status quo and the powerful nostalgia of the faded formats which have shaped their careers so far and framed their decade-long friendship.
END.: As the first generation of true 'digital natives', having grown up with the ubiquity of digital technology - would you say that early experiences with technology influenced your choice of careers?
Tom: I remember I found a cracked version of Photoshop when I was about 16 and just started playing around with it. I was obsessed with Fast and Furious and Need for Speed and those kinds of films, so the first thing I would do on Photoshop is I would take a photo of, say, a Ferrari Enzo and then a Honda Civic or whatever and then just cut the body kit over and modify them. That’s how I learned Photoshop as a kid. My first break into freelancing was probably coding Myspace layouts; almost like hacking social media before it became what it is now. I think it's interesting how the idea of what a Myspace page was back then is actually super futuristic now if you think about it. If you could go onto your Facebook page and code the whole thing to make it representative of you - if they launched that now - it would be revolutionary, but really that was what social media was when it started. It kind of felt like the internet had fewer rules back then, which was exciting as a young creative. Obviously now it’s shifted to the point that there are other ways to break the rules, but it was cool to see that in raw form back in the days of Myspace.
Jordan: I really got into photography at first through art. I got a camera to take photos of the stuff that I wanted to paint and I quickly realised that painting takes forever and I already had what I wanted in the photo. So I sold my drum kit and got a camera instead and that was it.
END.: What about if you cast your mind further back to the days of analogue - do memories of those more rudimentary technologies have a different vibe or relevance to you?
Tom: I would say that the memories I have of analogue from when I was a kid stand out much more as specific moments in time. I remember having a point and shoot camera as a kid and going on holiday and it was exciting because you couldn’t see the images right away. It would trigger a memory; I don’t think photos do that as much anymore. I remember when I was 12 and I went bowling for a friend's birthday and his mum pulled out a Polaroid camera. I’d never seen one before, and I was amazed that she could take a photo of us and within a couple of minutes, you had a physical printed photo you could look at. It was just so insane to me that you could take a photo and then you wouldn’t have to take it to the shop and wait for it to be developed. It’s weird to think about that now because that’s obviously exactly how we take and experience photos today, but I’ll always remember seeing that concept play out for the first time – it really stuck with me, like it was this magical thing. When they re-released the Polaroid OneStep last year I had to get one and whenever I use it, it always takes me back to that moment in the bowling alley. I don't think you have those moments as much with newer pieces of tech.
Jordan: I recently bought my parents one of those decoder things for VHS because they went into the loft and found all these old family tapes. It turns out that I used to nick my mum's old camcorder when I was like 8 and make little films with them. I remember going back through all those boxes of old photos and videotapes in my parents' loft and seeing all the stuff I’d made growing up and it does have that reminiscent feel to it. Even though it’s terrible, it’s not throwaway. It means something to you. When I was back up home earlier this year, I was going back through all this old footage and you’d have a home video of my family on holiday in Spain and then this hard cut to me and my mates riding bikes or skateboarding.
Tom: Yeah, it's cool that. You don't get that with digital because everything is saved as a separate file. On tape, you get these weird mashups of all different moments because you can rerecord over the top of the same tape. That's nostalgic.
I remember going back through boxes of old photos and videotapes in my parents' loft. Even though it’s terrible, it’s not throwaway. It means something to you.
The memories I have of analogue from when I was a kid stand out much more as specific moments in time. I don't think you have those moments as much with newer formats.
END.: You both work a lot with analogue photography and video formats - what's your motivation to work with older equipment?
Jordan: Shooting campaigns on film is sick because it means I’ve managed to convince the client to trust me. From a practical point of view, you have to spend less time editing, but it's important because you actually have to think about it. The budget means you have a certain number of rolls and that’s it; you don’t have 64GB of card space to get it right. If I take a photo on my iPhone or my Canon 5D, I know exactly what it’s going to look like without having to see the image. When I shoot on film there’s that element of mystery so it’s still really exciting for me and that makes me want to shoot and create in those formats. It’s more experimental than shooting something digital and having it appear immediately on a screen for the client to look at.
Tom: We still always shoot digital on every shoot because you just can’t get away from it. Clients have resolution demands for billboards or turnaround times for things going to print that you just can’t really meet with analogue technology, but having the opportunity to shoot stuff on film brings back that feeling of mystery and that sense of nostalgia and keeps things fresh.
Jordan: Absolutely, we still have to shoot digital because we have to meet the demands of the project. I have clients who love my film work, but they see you shooting film and still ask to see the images when you wrap. You have to manage their expectations and slow everything right down. You're talking three days turnaround. If you like the aesthetic, you can't get that on a digital camera so you have to wait. It’s simple as that.
END.: You've mentioned the importance of trust a few times when it comes to film - why's that so important?
Tom: There's a lot that can go wrong shooting on film or shooting on VHS because it's a physical thing. If you're working with a client on a project and they're spending an amount of money, with analogue there's still that small risk that something could go wrong and you end up with nothing.
Jordan: Absolutely - tape can get chewed up, the guy at the film shop might open the film wrong by mistake and then everything is gone. That, and the fact that we live in such an instant world and people can't see the images straight away - that can be scary for a client. It's about fostering trust.
Tom: It's easier now because people know what to expect from us. They’ll come to us because they like the work that we do, so they’re more receptive to being told that it’s shot on film and these are the caveats that come with shooting on analogue formats.
END.: There's been a massive resurgence of analogue technology and retro aesthetics over the past few years - why do you think that is?
Tom: The guys at Places + Faces probably have a lot to do with it in this part of the industry. The work they’ve done on film just feels much more personal and raw. One of the first shots of Ciesay's that I saw was of Kanye smiling in a club in Paris. That, as a moment on film, just feels rare and special. He wouldn't have got that shot if he had just stuck his iPhone in Kanye’s face – you know? I think watching those guys grow over the years has inspired me and inspired other kids over the years to explore those analogue formats because you can see the value and the soul in the images. A lot of it is consumer driven, too. So much of what Polaroid have rereleased has been to meet consumer demand, like when they stopped producing Impossible Project film. The consumer wasn’t done with that product and it pushed Polaroid to start up production again.
Jordan: I think it's also a response to how throwaway images have become and people wanting to slow things down a bit and rediscover the process.
END.: We're living in a pretty gratuitous society where everything is so instant and available. You can take 1,000 images to get that one perfect shot on digital. Do you think there's something more substantive about permanent formats? Do you think they protect the artisan craft of image making?
Jordan: 100%, yes.
Tom: I think these formats teach patience because you’re not going to see the images straight away and I think that’s something that we need more of. I see it as a healthy way to capture images because it slows everything right down and it encourages you to take your time. I think that’s why a lot of people have gravitated back towards analogue because it’s fun waiting to see what you’re going to get and it’s much more raw and engaging. Digital is throwaway because it’s so accessible.
Jordan: When I’m shooting digital, I’ll get home from shooting and I’ll import and look through the images straight away. With film, you have to send stuff away to get processed so you have to take a break from it and let your mind go somewhere else and then come back to it when it’s ready with fresh eyes. I think that’s a really good thing. When I go back through old shoots, I’ll always find images and think ‘why didn’t I select that at the time?’ When you’re working to a tight deadline for a digital project, and then later you go back through the raw files, you always find other images. When you’ve had that space between shooting and selecting that film imposes on you, I find that happens less.
The value is different with something analogue versus something digital. Just the sheer volume of digital imagery and digital content makes it much more throwaway.
END.: What do you think is missing from digital formats that has stopped analogue technology from going obsolete?
Tom: From a practical perspective digital is obviously much more reliable, but with analogue, there’s an additional level of artistry and craft that you can’t just replace with new technology. I think there will always be a place for analogue photography, in the same way, there will always be a demand for vinyl. People like the tangibility of physical artefacts. They feel more precious.
Jordan: Yeah, that’s the only real comparison I can think of. The value is different with something analogue versus something digital. Just the sheer volume of digital imagery and digital content makes it much more throwaway. You see that with Hypebeast and Highsnobiety – both started as digital publishers, but have moved into doing print magazines because it has value. It speaks to a different audience in a way and when they choose to publish a piece in print it reflects how they feel about that content the fact that they believe in the story and the imagery enough to believe it should exist permanently in a physical format.
Tom: Absolutely. It archives a moment in time. I’m not going to pull up Hypebeast and look to see what they were publishing on the site in March 2015, but if I have a Hypebeast Magazine on my shelf from back then, I’ll happily pull that out and look through it and see what stories and ideas they’d curated into that issue because it’s an archive of that time. I think it’s really important to document and archive stuff like that, and it holds more weight in physical formats.
With plans to launch a new venture next year, Tom and Jordan are single-minded in their passion for the artistry of older format production. It's this passion, combined with their contemporary sensibility and vision for what will resonate with the cultures they're producing for, that makes them a formidable force on the UK's creative scene. And with true passion comes a deep understanding of why, despite every analogue format having a newer, easier, cheaper alternative, they cannot be replaced.
So why is it that nearly 50 years after the invention of the digital camera, young photographers like Jordan are still reaching for medium format film? Why is it that despite vinyl having been replaced by newer formats so often that, where we once needed 12" of carved plastic to host 10 minutes of music, we now have access to an infinite music library that we can stream instantly from a device small enough to fit in our pocket, the global demand for vinyl is rising? Despite the kindle, people still want books. Despite the ubiquity of the blog, people crave physical magazines to collect and protect. In a world so obsessed with the now and the new, why is the permanence of the physical still so powerful? It's about soul. It's about the one-and-done finality of truly capturing a single moment and preserving it forever.
After saying our goodbyes, I'm left thinking about what Tom and Jordan said about patience. It’s almost as though the distance that analogue formats place between us and the final shot – the physical distance between the set and the processing room; the time between capturing the image and seeing what you've created; the potential that something might go wrong and you never get to see the image at all. It feels like maybe all that distance stretches out before you and, when it really comes down to it, it's all that distance that brings you closer to the image in the end.