Frank Okolo is Director at the Parallax Photographic Coop and a big advocate of analogue photography. From enthusiastic hobbyists to master fine art printers, the cooperative is a thriving hub for the film photography community. Frank was eager to explain to our creative family at Blake about the importance of preserving the analogue process and the ambitions of the company.
What were the founding principles of Parallax and who are your current members?
Parallax is a cooperative and this was a conscious decision - everything is decided by the four members. We think it is great that we are two guys and two girls, interracial and a good balance of age demographics. Between us, we reflect the broad spectrum of customers we see. We all love photography and we feel it is important for us to be student-friendly - everybody has to learn sometime.
Everyone on the team has a background in photographic retail. I previously worked as a General Manager and Head Buyer. For Parallax, I am the Operations Director. So I am still involved in buying, handling the purchasing budget and working closely with our suppliers, film manufacturers and key accounts.
Alice Rosenbaum, our Creative Director, has previous experience within retail and worked at a pro photo lab. For Parallax she oversees the website design, company branding and the accounts. She is also a freelance photographer and most recently completed a major project for Westminster council.
Then there is Soley Mustafa, our Sales Director. She has a wealth of photographic knowledge and is also a freelance photographer. Soley manages the day-to-day running of the shop and is the main point of contact for our customer-facing enquiries.
Samuel Taylor is the youngest member of the team, having recently completed his MA at the Royal College of Art. As Marketing Director, Sam manages our social media and marketing campaigns. Along with Alice, he is responsible for the branding and visual identity of Parallax.
Where does the name come from?
We knew our name needed to have some association with photography. We really wanted it to possess a timeless, classic quality. There is also a cool 70s thriller called the Parallax View and we quite liked the connotation.
Why did you choose Brixton as a location?
The multicultural nature, pace and vibrancy of our location needed to be right for us. We had some initial meetings with Photofusion in Brixton. They had identified the potential for a retail space within their premises. Their members would often come to use the darkroom and then have to step out to get more supplies. It felt like a good match for our respective visions and professional interests.
Who are your main customers?
Momentum has really grown for us over the past few months. We have found a lot of customers in their 20s or younger are really embracing analogue photography. Film has really caught their imagination. We are overloaded by online images these days and maybe it is time for a digital detox.
A lot of young people have been following us on Instagram and it is great that they get what we are about. George Muncey from Negative Feedback has from the beginning championed our message and brand in his online vlogs. George has enabled us to reach a very wide audience on YouTube. Our other regular customers are doing some really cool work. Tom Ordoyno and Daisy Walker are just two talented young fashion photographers who shoot film. It is great that these creatives are making a living and support the analogue process.
Why do you think it is important for a photography student to shoot film?
Even if you decide to move on away from analogue, a photographer needs an appreciation for the basic principals. I personally find shooting film a much more immersive process. People often say film slows you down and makes you consider the subject that you are shooting. Each frame has to count. I regularly have my Olympus XA2 on me. Even when I am taking a spontaneous shot, I will consider the framing, lighting and composition. Overall, I am more personally invested in that image.
Which products would you recommend to a student?
For students, I recommend Kentmere film. It is a solid and affordable way to shoot black and white photographs. It is actually produced by Ilford and it is their entry-level brand. You will get the same consistency as their other products but it is a little cheaper per roll. Foma is another excellent choice for students when cost is an issue. Kodak Colorplus and Agfa Vista are our go-to budget colour films and they have developed quite a cult following now.
What's in the future for Parallax?
We have been quick to embrace the local creative community in London and we are planning more collaborations. Photography is very close to our hearts and we would like to reach out to the galleries, commercial retailers and academic institutions that care about conserving film photography.