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Chou-sing a world through the camera’s lens

Senior Alice Chou got the picture in more ways than one after she was instructed to photograph her robotics tournament in ninth grade. Now, three years later, Chou has never stopped taking pictures, though she has since upgraded from her parent’s old equipment to a film camera from the 1960s.

Despite not having a set style she photographs in, Chou began experimenting with film photography in the past few months after seeing it on YouTube. This process uses a camera that requires physical film, instead of digital bits, to store pictures, which Chou likes because it allows her more control in the shooting process.

“I saw pictures and I thought it was cool how people were emulating the film look with all the grains,” Chou said. “I prefer film photography because the process is so different and complicated. Everything is manual, so I like how much control I have over the images.”

In order to develop her pictures at home, Chou built a miniature darkroom out of a tank that she keeps in her bathroom. Since developing film requires the use of many specialized, expensive chemicals, Chou made a website to offer photo-developing services for a small fee. 

“I haven’t received a lot of business, but I didn’t intend to get a lot anyway because I don’t want to receive too much,” Chou said. “[I like it] because it connects me to more people, so I get to meet a lot of cool people through photography. It’s really fun to develop pictures and show them to my friends.”

Other than photography, Chou is also interested in filmmaking. Combining the two aspects, she has made commercials for local businesses, colleges and, most recently, a video promoting the 2021 Homecoming dance. 

“I [find inspiration] by watching a lot of YouTube. I look at examples of other people’s work and current photos that are out there,” Chou said. “If I see something that looks interesting to me, I’ll try it and maybe it works. That’s how I figure out what I want to do.”

In her personal projects outside of commissioned work, Chou likes to experiment with the theme of people versus their environment. Some of Chou’s favorite photos she’s taken exemplify this concept. 

“I realized I seemed to like that idea, where a person might be against a lot of odds,” Chou said. “There’s one I took a few years ago of my brother in Joshua Tree. It was this super candid shot and I really liked the composition. In his expression, he wasn’t looking at me, but it looked like he was lost and there was a lot of feeling in that picture.” 

In her future, Chou would like to pursue photography professionally, whether by going to art school, such as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, or working as a freelancer and starting her own studio. 

“A lot of what photography is are [people’s] own interpretations. Everyone’s going to look at things differently; everyone’s going to put their own experiences in it and see it through a reflection of themselves,” Chou said. “I like [photography] because I can definitely see myself in my work, even if I’m not always the subject.”

By Cathy Li, Feature editor
Photos courtesy of Alice Chou