The Cheap Cuts Film Festival is coming to Hackney this weekend (Thursday 17 May to Sunday 20 May) and UEL alumni Ken Kamara (BA Photography) is screening his debut project on the last day of the festival. 'MASTERMONO', co-directed with the writer Arianna Marinis, is an affectionate look at the daily life and work of one of the last Black and White hand printers in London. Your Universe spoke to them both about their work, future projects and love of their subject's fading but timeless art form.
Ken, please can you tell us a bit about your time at UEL?
My time at UEL was definitely interesting in many ways. I had a lot of fun and worked very hard at the same time. It was a safe haven where one could grow and develop.
I remember the first year at UEL, I’ve been introduced to Ralph Hall and Melvin Cambettie Davies. Both of them were very enthusiastic about photography in all its merits.
I think that enthusiasm has been transfused to myself as well as other students who were on the course with me, and played a huge role in keeping me inspired.
You use celluloid for your professional work (portraits on a twin lens reflex). Do you switch to digital for your personal photos?
Actually I use celluloid also for my personal photos. That said, everybody has a mobile phone these days. I use mine to make Instagram stories and sometimes as a light meter.
How did you two meet and what made you choose this as your first collaboration?
Arianna: We are partners in crime and in life for three years now! When we first met, Ken was working as a photographer, while I was mainly writing.
At that time we both recognised we had a love for telling great stories, whether through the written word or imagery. Joining forces to produce moving images seemed to us the natural development of our creative dynamic.
Ken: As for why 'MASTERMONO' is our first collaboration, let’s say Melvin holds a special place in our hearts. Melvin lectured me during my first year at UEL. It was left to him to remind us how important it is to do something we love and how faith becomes fact, only if one believes.
I remember both of us being in Melvin’s studio on a random visit. We surprised him at his studio, which he calls 'Utopia' and had coffee together on a bright summer morning. We sat down, listened to him talk about his life and got mesmerised by his charm. At that point we looked at each other and smiled, cause we had both thought of the same idea: capturing Melvin's enchanting world on moving image.
With smartphones, social media and digital cameras, photography is more accessible than ever. Are we seeing an increase in the quality of amateur photography, or just the quantity?
Ken: As we know, it’s not the tools that make great a performance, rather how the performer uses them to create value. The key is in the eyes and heart of the photographer, no matter what technology is being used.
If 'MASTERMONO' is well-received, are you both tempted to move more into documentary filmmaking or will stills photography and journalism remain your true loves?
Ken: I don’t deem myself solely a 'photographer', rather someone who wants to tell great stories. The tools at my disposal are stills and moving image and I’ll play with both to help tell narratives in the most compelling way.
Arianna: If ever, we are storytellers more than anything else. The beauty of documentary filmmaking is that it collects photography, moving image, written word, sound and many other beautiful crafts all under the same roof, to create something unique. It is so easy to get addicted to it!
What plans have you made for your next short film?
Arianna: Our second short film for the series “By Hand By Craft” - which 'MASTERMONO' belongs to as well - is in post production at the moment and will see completion by the end of 2018. At the same time, we are working on a longer documentary that is being filmed in Italy, our first long feature together. Exciting times are ahead!
'MASTERMONO' is being screened on Sunday 20 May at Hackney Attic, 270 Mare Street, London E8 1HE at some point between 11am and 12.30pm. For tickets, visit https://www.cheapcutsfest.com/mastermono
To follow the filmmakers and their project on social media, please use the following handles: