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


An Interview with Author, Teacher, Activist, and Spitboy Co-Founder Michelle Cruz Gonzales

In my opinion, a complete history of a bands recorded output is a great way to familiarize or even introduce one to music you might know, but completely missed out on during their existence. Such was the case for me with Spitboy. Though I was aware of their pivotal time together. I never had the chance to see them live or indulge myself in their records. Getting to listen to the recently released discography “Body of Work”‘ was the hollow point bullet that confirmed I had truly missed an opportunity to witness monumental discourse. By interviewing Michelle, I was given a window to the life of a musician, teacher, activist and public speaker who took me through her journey, while introducing me to new classifications, such as ‘Womyn’ and ‘Xicana’.

An Interview with Vision Guitarist Peter Tabbot

I recently had the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Vision guitarist Peter Tabbot. Co-founder of the legendary hardcore band Vision. We talked about the band Vision, the death of the bands singer and close friend Dave Franklin. His contributions to the City Gardens rock – doc “Riot on the Dance Floor.” and his work as a health officer and teacher. You can read and learn more by clicking the link below.

LampLighter Magazine Makes Yours Truly Their Cover Story

When I was originally contacted to be interviewed for the premier issue of Lamplighter Magazine I was more than pleased to be involved. I had known Patrick and Nadia (the magazines Editor in Chief and Director of Social Media) for a few months and respected their hard work in what they were attempting and had already achieved. Despite all my blogging and internet shenanigans I have a great deal of fondness for print media. The interview was very professionally done and I was really impressed with the questions their writer Laety Maireville asked. I was however freaked out a bit when Patrick told me that the interview, along with my seldom photographed self was going to be the cover story.

Throughout my history as a writer and photographer I’ve interviewed countless bands and artists. Yet it’s very seldom when the tables are turned and the focus on my life or work is the topic of interest. Being behind the scenes is something I find comfort in. As the cover of the magazine shows, I’ve always been uncomfortable in front of the camera. Always feeling that work and art should be my calling card. Getting my work out there, being able to share and expand my audience is important to me. I’ve felt comfortable and confident in my work for a while now and getting a little credit for it is a really special feeling. I’m humbled and grateful to be a part of Lamplighter and hope to be a consistent contributor to the magazine in the future. For now, I’m going to bask in the glory of my own five minutes of fame.

Extra special thanks to bruno bruyes of New York Newsday for taking time from his very busy schedule to photograph me.

This One Time at The Court Tavern.

Jeff keeps me company as the weirdness unfolds.

As I was walking in to The Court Taverns side room where Sundays all ages matinee was being held I was asked “Are you straightedge?” by a complete stranger. The question so caught me off guard. It felt as if I was just ambushed by the prize patrol and only the correct answer would give me a chance to hold the ridiculously over sized check. My first thought was “Maybe he recognized me from a show or affiliation with some older straight edge bands.” But somehow the question and the fact that it came from this complete stranger set me off or at least put me on, for lack of a better word, edge. I dryly asked “That’s the way you address a complete stranger?” “What the hell kind of question is that?” The exchange quickly ended and I moved to the bar to have a screwdriver. Later, after the show he told me he was doing a paper and if I had any knowledge or experience on the subject he’s like to ask me some questions. When I found out he was also interviewing Tohm from Four Fingers I said “Why Not” As we waited outside after the show I kept thinking this dude was off. Not a bad guy at all but at the very least, squirrely. We stood outside and spoke for a few before heading to the local Dunkin’ Donuts for what turned out to be one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever sat in on. Everything about it from the pre-prepared questions to the robotic delivery and request that we each answer the questions individually without any one speaking at the same time. I found Tohms answers to be very intriguing and honest and I learned more about someone who is becoming more and more of a friend. His friend Dana who tagged along also answered the questions thoughtfully and honestly all while listening to everyone’s answers intently and making some of the most direct and intuitive eye contact I’ve ever seen. Excellent, considering she herself is a Journalism student. All in all the interviewer was very nervous and anxious. Never giving an ounce of his own experience to the process. It seemed as if he just spun a roulette wheel and picked whatever topic the dice landed on. It made me think of how awkward I must have seemed doing interviews for my first zine when I was fifteen. Regardless of the weirdness of those exchanges I got to meet some new people including Dana and had a story to tell when I got home.

Talking about Maiden and The Clash before the interview.

Tohm and Dana share their thoughts on Straight Edge.

"Listen Oprah, You're never going to empathize with your subject without making eye contact.

"Let's get a picture of this. Otherwise no one will believe it ever happened."

"This one time at Straight Edge camp."