Roll Call is a rapid one-day photography exhibition where photographers are forced to think lightning-fast and move even faster.
Ten chosen photographers pick up a 35mm roll of film at 7 a.m. For eight hours, they shoot their heart's desires.
What’s the catch? No editing and each photographer must deliver the film by 3 p.m. that day to be processed before that night’s exhibition.
Nelson Mouëllic is the driving force behind the project. Mouëllic, a seasoned photographer himself, claimed that in a world of curated images, it’s hard to discern the truth behind them.
“It’s hard to see photos these days that aren’t manipulated or edited in some way,” Mouëllic said. “This event is an opportunity to see photos that are not doctored.”
The event features some of Canada’s best photographers, including four-time Canadian photojournalist of the year John Lehmann. Mouëllic explained that to prevent photographers from thinking too far in advance, he only connects with them a few days prior.
“I don’t want people to be going into it with a really clear plan. I think the whole idea of the event is that good photography tends be spontaneous and that’s sort of the spirit of this event,” Mouëllic said.
He noted that the photographers are keen for the challenge and that maintaining this spontaneity gives the audience a chance to see every photo and, ultimately, a photographer’s thought process.
“You only got 36 frames on a roll of film,” Mouëllic said. “And if you’re going to be showing each of those frames to an audience…where do you focus that energy and what do you want to show to people?”
To keep things even more interesting, Mouëllic likes to invite a wide range of photographers: men and women who practise different styles and possess differing levels of experience.
It’s a process he finds relatively easy, despite having to sift through 80 different applications. Mouëllic noted that the hardest part, however, is acquiring the projectors.
“Like a month or two of scrounging eBay trying to find the projector that can project in endless loops. And there aren’t many of those around.”
Adding to the rapidity and stress of the event is the fact there are very few labs in Western Canada that can process, mount, and slide 35mm film. (London Drugs, a sponsor of Roll Call, is Mouëllic’s lab of choice.)
Mouëllic expressed his satisfaction with how Vancouverites have been reacting positively to the event each time. This is inclusive of the very first Roll Call, one that he announced only five days prior to its opening last June.
“We just didn’t know how many people would show up,” Mouëllic said. “We went to open the door at 7:05 and there was a crowd of 30 or 40 people outside waiting to get in.”
By the end of the night, 300 people had come to witness the event. It was a moment that Mouëllic said really stood out in his mind. It’s his hope to turn Roll Call into a quarterly event.
“It was at that moment that I realized that this can be a thing. People are interested. And it was a nice moment just seeing a vision come to life,” Mouëllic said.
Roll Call is part of this year’s Capture Photography Festival and will be displayed at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre on Friday (April 27) at 7 p.m.