Female Film Photographers You Should Know: Sara Tarnowski
Sarah Tarnowski is a brilliant film photographer and an extraordinary darkroom print maker currently based in Canada. Her work focuses on capturing all those moments that bring her joy and peace, having always in mind to give them a physical form in Sara’s darkroom.
♦ How would you introduce yourself to someone who just met you?
Hello! I’m Sara, a film photographer based in Mississauga, Canada. I live in the suburbs with my husband and no pets, plants or kids. When travelling or at home, you’re likely to find me indulging in flânerie (to stroll aimlessly with attention to passerby and your surroundings) with a camera in hand. It’s the best way to get to know a new place or revisit a familiar one.
♦ What is the memory that you most fondly remember from your childhood?
Spending summers at the cottage on Georgian Bay, Ontario.
♦ Who were the most influential people during your teens and how did they influence you?
It was the 90’s! That was a long time ago.
♦ How did you get in the world of analogue photography?
I would ask my Dad to use his Pentax Spotmatic all the time when I was a kid. My grandfather was also an avid photographer; I inherited his Canon FTb along with all of his darkroom equipment. I took every photography class available in high school; I would develop film there and then make prints at home in my laundry room/ darkroom. I was the photo editor for my high school yearbook. I won gold in a Skills Canada competition for photography. I attended college for photography (before digital photography was a thing), learning how to make prints from colour negatives and shooting in a studio setting. In the past I’ve worked at a photo lab (2 years), a photo studio (6 years), and the Nikon service department (11 years).
♦How would you describe the photography you do? What is your work focused on?
I take pictures purely for fun now. I like searching flea markets for vintage cameras, and as long as the shutter works, I’ll buy it and run film through it just to see if it works and what the images look like. I take a camera with me everywhere to capture anything I see that catches my eye and at least two when I travel. The cameras I use most often are around 50 years old. I think it changes your whole approach when you’re shooting with intent to print the pictures in a darkroom as an end result.
♦ Are you working on any photographic project at the moment?
I have become quite interested in solargraphy and using home-made solarcans to capture the path of the sun 6 months at a time. I’ve got a bunch of cans set up around my yard in different places year-round; I think my neighbours think I’m a bit nuts!
♦ Is there any photographic project that you would like to do but have not done yet?
The year I graduated from college there was a public transit strike on the day of our final graduating class exhibition, so hardly anyone showed up. I’d like a do-over! I want to show my hand printed darkroom prints in a public gallery.
♦ Which camera and which film do you use the most in your photography and why?
If I’m travelling, I’ll take one of my more portable cameras such as my Zeiss Ikon Nettar (it’s foldable). I’m most likely to be shooting black and white film (Ilford XP2 or HP5) because I can develop it myself. I just got a Yashica Electro 35 GSN this summer and I’ve had a lot of fun running expired colour film through it. My mother gave me her old Polaroid Pronto! camera recently; I hadn’t used Polaroids since college and I’ve remembered how much fun it is to shoot with instant film.
♦ Who are your biggest influences?
I’m not sure about influences per se but some of my favourites are Anton Corbijn, Kevyn Aucoin, Bunny Yeager. All people who photographed other people as their main subject matter, and photography was/is not their only profession.
♦ What’s the best advice you would give yourself when you started in the world of film photography?
Don’t worry if you don’t have a working light meter, learn how to use your eye and make decisions. (The batteries in my Dad’s cameras were always dead so I had no choice!)
Find more about Sara Tarnowski’s Work👇