This is the second chapter of a new weekly series called Artist Interviews, where I interview a photographer with a body of work I admire.
Mike is a traditional photographer and uses only film and his darkroom to create his images. The effort and care shows in every print.
All the images in this post were made by Mike Meal.
Why photography? How did you get started?
I got interested in photography back in 2003 through an old work colleague, he was really into black and white analog photography. Although I loved hearing him talk about film and darkroom work, it was way out of my league to start with so my first serious camera was a Canon 20D.
Are you a film photographer exclusively or do you shoot digital as well?
These days I just shoot film and print in the traditional way in my darkroom. I've been doing that for around 10 years now.
How do you work your compositions? What are you looking for when you set up your camera?
I just try and keep things simple. You can't beat good light and I find that if I just relax and not try and force the process of making a photo things happen easily.
I used to read books and look at other photographer's work and wonder 'how would they compose this image?'. I think the danger in taking that approach is that there's a fine line between getting inspired and copying other photographers work. Find your own photos.
What’s your preferred subject matter? Why?
I live in Cornwall in the UK so it's pretty easy for me to get to some great locations but I guess I enjoy shooting coastal and landscape scenes more than anything.
Describe your dream location and conditions to photograph in.
That's a tough one and a few years ago I probably would have named a few classic and far flung places but there are great images to be made anywhere and everywhere.
You’ve built a darkroom in your house very recently. Is this the first time you work in a darkroom?
This is my second darkroom, my first was in a spare room in my house: it had no running water and was an absolute sweat box in the summer.
Last January I set about converting half of my garage into a darkroom, it has everything I need to comfortably develop film and make prints up to 16x20. Making prints is the final part of the journey so I'm really happy to have a great space to do this in.
Film is only one of the mediums you use to create your images. You also use wet plates. Any others? What drives you to use one or another for a specific image?
Making tintypes and ambrotype collodion plates was a real eureka moment for me as far as photography is concerned. It taught me the importance of having an actual finished product, something which you can hold in your hand, put on a wall or give to a friend.
I don't shoot wet plates anymore. I wish I could but I'm concentrating on improving my darkroom work. I've still so much to learn!
Does photography fill all your artistic needs or do you do something else on the side?
I've always got some kind of a project on the go.
I recently converted a van in to a camper - that took three months to complete and I did hardly any photography in that time so now enjoying the freedom which comes with having a home on wheels.
Who’s the one artist that has influenced you the most, and how. Do they still influence you today?
Ansel Adams. More for the technical side of things than anything else. I still use his zone system to meter my images even with roll film. I'd rather have one really good negative to work with in the darkroom than have one that I'd have to battle with to make a print.
Where do you see film photography in a few years from now?
I can't see the demand for film changing. It will never go back to how it was in the eighties but as long as it's being made I'm happy.
One camera, one lens, for the rest of your life. Which do you choose?
Noooooo don't say that!! :)
Seriously though, I've used cameras from 8x10 to 35mm and I always seem to feel most comfortable with medium format.
I'm currently enjoying a Pentax 67 which is a beast of a camera for hikes but the negatives it produces are superb!
Where do you see yourself and your photography in 5 years?
To be honest I have no great aspirations as far as photography is concerned. I'd love to try some alternative process printing and just keep improving in the darkroom as well as enjoy making photos in the field.
Thank you so much, Mike, for taking the time to share your images and thoughts with us!
You can follow Mike on Instagram.