An Interview with ‘Grain Check’ Photographer, Taylor Pendleton

As artists of any form, we consistently find inspiration in others’ work. Through our droughts and doubts, we look to other artists to light a fire underneath us and see our motivation to move forward and create. I found inspiration in my roots as a film photographer when I found Taylor’s vlog, ‘Grain Check.’ Refueling an obsession with cameras, film, the process, technique, and everything involved. As someone whose been a digital photographer since way back. I find film photographers to be brave, creative souls who approach things differently due to the differences between film and digital photography. The cost of film, development, and the absence of instant recognition can intimidate many. I reached out to Taylor for all the reasons listed above.  The following is what she had to say.

James: Can you introduce yourself? What you do and where you’re from?

Taylor: Hi! I’m Taylor. I’m a film and digital photographer and YouTuber originally from Las Vegas, Nevada. 

James: Tell us a little bit about your journey as a photographer.

Taylor: I was always interested in cameras as a little girl – I’d often ask my parents if I could carry around their point and shoots for the day. It wasn’t until high school, though, that I started to take it seriously. Fast forward to my senior year of college and I’m dropping out 3 months before graduation because I was working full-time as a wedding photographer and knew my English degree would never do me any good. My dream was to be a photographer (I didn’t know which kind yet) and I was well on my way.

James: What made inspired you to host a You Tube channel? How do you feel about the feedback?

Taylor: I never ever imagined myself to be a YouTuber. But I landed a gig at Moment (a small online camera store) where they needed another YouTube personality who was already a photographer. So, my days of talking to a camera began! And now, 5 years later, I’ve got my own channel called graincheck and I’m having a blast with it. The feedback has been overwhelmingly supportive. The YouTube comment section can be a brutal place, but I can count the times I’ve gotten hate on one hand. It’s been incredibly positive!

James: What was it like adjusting to being filmed?

Taylor: Honestly, pretty fun. There were times in the beginning where I’d struggle to deliver a line over and over, which was frustrating and embarrassing. But, for the most part, it was fun to be a goof and do my thing on camera. It also made me so aware of myself – in a good way! 

On Shooting film. “It forces you to be intentional with every shot and present in your environment (no checking your images after you take them). You make sure, to the best of your ability, you got the shot and then you move on. It’s a beautiful process.”

James: What are the key characteristics that draw you to photography? Is there a style or element in particular that you gravitate towards? Why?

Taylor: I’ve thought about this a lot and I’ve never landed on what it is about photography that I’m specifically drawn to. There’s some x factor that I can’t put my finger on. It just feels like a part of me, an extension of me. Maybe because I’m not the greatest with words, I feel I can express myself through visuals? I don’t know, but it’s a real feeling of solace for me. When life is hard, I literally will tell myself “no one can take photography from you.” It is my peace. As far as style, I’ve been all over the map. It’s an evolution for me, which I enjoy. I never want to feel boxed in. Right now, I’m diving into colorful digital studio portraiture and black-and-white film landscapes.

James: What went into your decision to shoot film VS digital? What about the cost and the immense space that film, negatives, and prints demand? (Note, that I love and understand the meaning of “Stay broke. Shoot film.”)

Taylor: I shoot both, so I choose digital or film on a daily basis depending on how I feel. But, for my channel, I focus on film. I think people like to see and hear the experience of shooting film, since it is so sensory. Film, especially right now, is incredibly expensive to shoot. I’m lucky to get highly discounted (and sometimes free) resources to keep it going.

James: With your experience, what would you consider the biggest pros and cons of being a film

Taylor: Pro: It forces you to be intentional with every shot and present in your environment (no checking your images after you take them). You make sure, to the best of your ability, you got the shot and then you move on. It’s a beautiful process.
Con: Expense, for sure. And the wait time to get scans back…it can be painful.

James: You embarked on a yearlong project to exclusively shoot black and white film. What has the
project taught you and how have the results informed you?

Taylor: I’m officially halfway through the year (crazy!) and I’ve benefited from it so much already. I have better learned what each hue looks like on the grayscale and I’ve become SO much more aware of light.

James: With all the different variations of film you’ve shot. Have you found one that best suits your

Taylor: My go-to black-and-white stock is Cinestill XX. While it’s a slower speed film, I never need to touch my scans. It is absolutely delicious.

James: A list of the film cameras you own? Is there one that you consider your preferred every day or
favorite? Why?

Taylor: Oh man. I have a lot, but many aren’t functioning. The ones I frequently use right now are the Pentax 645, Contax T3, Contax G2, Yashica T4, Ricoh Mirai, and the Fujifilm Instax 210. My every day camera is the Contax T3, since it’s compact and an absolute superstar of a point-and-shoot (fast & sharp lens, built in flash, and it’s cute as hell). 

James: On your vlog you’ve featured many of the photographers and team you work with. How did that meeting come about and what is it like to be around so many like-minded, creative people?

Taylor: Because of my job at Moment, I’ve become connected to so many photographers and creatives. It’s such an awesome community to be a part of. Sometimes, it can feel like an echo chamber where all you think about and see is photography, so I make sure to fill my brain with other things when I can!

See more of Pendleton’s work by clinking the links below.

Personal Website

You Tube


Lost & Found

While retrieving an old hard drive featuring many of the negatives from my film camera days. I notice an image that was somewhat foreign to my eyes. One that captured my imagination while dialing back to my days of living in the storied NYC neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen. At the time, I was going out to see bands two to three times a week. Although I went to clubs and bars throughout the tristate area. CBGB’s and The Continental were more or less, second and third homes for me.This particular image caught my eye, perhaps due to my often lamenting, wishing I had taken more time to photograph the attendees and personalities that often hung outside the clubs. Upon close investigation. I came to the conclusion that it was The Continental, a downtown, east village bar on 3rd avenue, just off St. Marks place. My other guess is, due to the ethnicity of the woman filming the action. That it might have been the Asian/Female fronted punk band Yellow Scab. As much as I’m guesstimating. Finding an image I don’t remember taking or seeing, was cooler than an eskimo sitting by a campfire. Though the picture was taken some twenty five years ago. Noticing it for the first time gave it a new shine.

My Fascination with Slide Film. (Continued)

Continuing my deep dive into decades old images that I captured on slide film. I’ve somewhat shifted my kicking myself for less than perfect attempts at capturing the beauty and uniqueness of my subjects and instead recalling how much fun I was having and how lucky I was to have complete strangers agree to give me the time to practise my new passion. I can also recall how my social skills and ability to strike up a conversation with just about anyone were taken to new heights.

Revisiting my Fascination with Slide Film.

Back in ’97, I attempted what would become my first-ever photography portfolio. While I had three or so years of experience photographing the city I lived in and had even published a few in local newspapers and magazines. More than anything, I wanted to photograph people. And by people, I meant “Real People.” Not the emaciated, disinterested kind you saw in magazines and billboards. “Real People” like the ones you saw during your daily outings and wondered, “Hmm, what’s their story?” I was somewhat shy, but I was curious and had a camera. So, with all the drive of a formula1 racer and the knowledge of a kindergarten dropout. I took advantage of my night slot at the east village record store and asked many individuals to help a young artist reach his goals. To say the very least, it was a great time. Meeting people from all over the world made friendships that remain strong today. I was and still am in love with slide film. Recalling that most of the images captured then, (including the four posted below.) were done with slide film.

For Those Who Shall Remain Nameless

If you read ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ you might recall that I digitized all of my photos and threw the pictures and albums out. Aside from creating a lot of room. Having all those pictures to play around with and put memory has been a lot of fun. Though there were certainly a few that saw new life with minor adjustments in Photoshop and Lightroom. It was the countless show photos I took at clubs, bars and halls that presented a very different challenge. That of remembering the bands names and methods of operation.

Funny, but I remember being at this show, taking this shot and standing on the side of that storied CBGB’s stage. I remember my friend Brendan working the door. while I can’t remember the band name or that of the guitarist. I remember they were the third band out of the five that played that day, I recall when the guitar string broke and how it led to the uncontrollable bleeding that followed. Undaunted, he finished the song and even the set before wrapping a rag around the cut and wiping down his guitar until all the blood was gone. It was the 90’s and CBGB’s was still the things of legend. Independent rock & roll was hanging on to its last threads of danger. Men were men. Sheep were scared and bands finished their sets, no matter what.

United By… (Bivouac)

Bivouac were a band from Derby, England who had an excellent album called ‘Tuber’ on Elemental in 1993. On that album was an acoustic jam calledBiv (1 of 1)              ‘Dead End Friend’ which featured a verse “Daren’t go to the dentist…for fear of being (pause) fucked while you’re asleep.” It was a great song and I played the fuck out of it. When the time came for them to tour, they stopped in New York City to play CBGB’s. I was able to set up an interview with which was conducted outside the club guitarist, vocalist (pictured below) Paul Yeardon, in which we talked about touring, the bands reactions to being in New York City for the first time, and of course, our mutual fears of the dentist. I highly recommend checking out the band and learning more about their music.


Elemental Records on Discogs

United By… (Samuel)

How I wound up in a car headed to Connecticut with a Hare Krisna band is a conversation for another day having forged a friendship with one of the ban’s bass player just days before was enough to secure a seat and a round trip ride with the band Baby Gopal. After a stop at a Brooklyn Krishna temple and dropping by Sri’s in-laws (Ray Cappo’s parents) home, we headed to Connecticut’s Tune Inn, where Baby Gopal and a host of other bands, most notable for me, Samuel were to perform. Below are a couple of images I captured of the group.

The bands ‘Lives of Insects’ ep on Art Monk Construction still sits in my record collection today, receiving regular play. There are a couple of other singles out there, including a split with New York’s Texas is the Reason, also released by Art Monk Construction. Check them out Here

United By… (L.E.S. Stitches)


Though popular within the punk community at the time, bands such as The Casualties and (pictured here) L.E.S. Stitches never really appealed to me. As a pretty clean-cut hardcore kid, the punk revival of the 90’s never captured my interest. Considering how often I ventured out to see the Radicts, Turbo A.C’s, Suicide King, Snake Charmers, and Electric Frankenstein, it’s safe to say I liked the music a lot more than the clothes and imagery. With that said, I admit to having a positive reaction when it came to the one, and only time I caught them live. There was a lot of energy from both the band and the people in attendance. Not bad by a long shot.



United By… (Into Another)

Though it took time to fully embrace the fact that Underdog (One of my favorite bands of all time.) Bystander-118was done and their charismatic singer was on to new and much stranger things. While Richie and Into Another weren’t the first one’s to explore new sounds outside of hardcore punk, they were definitely the most eccentric. After two landmark releases with Revelation Records, they were swept up by Hollywood records at a time when major labels were circling the indie market in hopes of signing the next Nirvana. As a vocalist, Richie Birkenhead’s range was like no other before or since. As a band, Into Another raised the bar as far as creativity went. 1994’s “Ignaurus” still stands as one of my favorite albums of all time. With the song “Drown” making its way onto many of the playlists I share.