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