A while back Paul sent me one of 120 Love’s X-Factor T-shirt, one of the most interesting film-supporting designs I’d ever seen. The design is relatively simple — cut up strips of backing paper from a roll of Kodak Tri-X.
I’ve got other film-inspired T-shirts, and I like them all, but this one rapidly became a favorite. It’s uniquely esoteric — it speaks film in volumes to those who understand, but it’s too inside-baseball for most. And sometimes, a bit of idiosyncrasy is part of what’s nice about being a film photographer.
Inspired by the X-Factor shirt, and just a little thrilled by elegant utility of the backing paper on the 60-year-old roll of Agfa Isopan FF I shot on Expired Film Day, I asked Paul if he was interested in this vintage backing paper for a shirt.
His reply was emphatic and swift — scan it, and scan it soon! So I did. At resolution so high I had to do it in a dozen pieces and stitch them back together into a giant PSB file (that’s the Adobe Photoshop format reserved for images too big to be PSDs). After I cleaned up the edges, I added our joint logos and exported it at a much smaller (but still very large) size.
Within just a few hours, Paul had the Agfa Respekt shirt available for sale, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of the 120 Love movement, in any small way.
120 Love Background
The idea behind 120 Love, as I understand it, is to be more than just a fashion brand, and to break the mold of cutesy slogans and cult camera graphics with the trademarked logos blanked out. 120 Love is about turning inspiration into a movement. I asked Paul about the idea in pretty great detail, and I’d be lying if I said I understand it completely. But I like it.
“I want to keep film alive by making it cool, trendy amongst the digital natives,” Paul said via email. “Keeping film alive by enriching the activity through fashion … celebrating analog culture through a fashion brand with film photography DNA.”
Instead of screaming “BUY FILM,” 120 Love is subtly trying to turn the less obvious aspects of photography into visual cues as part of a style, using “design and typography as tools to beautify the technical aspects of film and photography in general.”
Brands have grown from activities for decades — there are more than few famous brands associated with surfing, skating, skiing and snowboarding, for example. And brands have been lifted by unanticipated collaboration from subcultures — think the association of Adidas sneakers with the hip-hop scene.
Paul: “There’s this give and take between sports fashion and hip-hop culture. Basketball was totally different when I was growing up in the 70s and early 80s.”
It reminds me of the relationship between Dr Martens boots and the punk and goth subcultures, personally. The scene attached to the product, but the product began to feed off that attachment and market to it, opening up a whole new realm of possibilities and improving both ends of the deal.
120 Love is going for something a little bit in the middle, I think. A brand that has visual and fashion value in its own right, but is also promoting a subculture — the film photography world — both directly and indirectly. As Paul told Lomography, “We can still enjoy photography even without having a camera around our neck.”
Most people who see a shirt with “6×7” emblazoned in 14-inch-tall letters probably won’t realize it’s anything more than a simple math problem, but to those who “get it,” it’s just short of cracking a secret code. 120 Love designs are a little bit like a secret handshake for film photographers.
“There’s a language of photography which many people still don’t understand,” Paul says. “Our aim is to create awareness and make people fluent in this language. Shutter speed, f-stop, push & pull, 6×6, ASA (ISO), etc.”
Other offerings in 120 Love’s rapidly expanding collection are inspired by chemistry, like developer designations including D76, R09 and C41 — but no HC-110!), and formats, including 6×6, 6×7, 6×9, and 120, and cult medium format lenses. Their latest addition is the provocative Inferno series.
120 Love has collaborated with some other very well known brands — Timbuk2, Lomography, AKG/JBL and others — with shirts, bags, and a number of skateboard decks. They’ve even made some prototype skateboard wheels that look like the Nikkor lens on a Palubel Makina 6×7.
“I think in order for a continuous surge to occur in film photography, there has to be crossing points; bridges from other disciplines,” Paul told me. “In 120 Love’s case, it’s medium-format film photography plus (fill-in the blank with something cool).”
120 Love is doing a lot for the community — even if they’re still building recognition in a lot of the film-loving world. You could spend a couple hours pawing through the blog posts, interviews, ebooks and videos at 120love.me — and you should. You can even participate in 120 Love Day come January.
And beyond Paul’s own involvement as founder and champion, there’s a small squad of additional photographers “who are awesome in their own right, and make excellent role-models.” Paul describes them as ambassadors, representing the crossover points where (medium format film) photography and sometimes-underground subcultures meet aesthetically and creatively.
Keeping film relevant is something we all need to take just a little bit of responsibility for if we want to maintain the variety and quality of products available to us as film lovers, and I think this unique way of supporting film in the collective subconscious is an excellent starting point.
To that end, I plan to keep wearing my X-Factor shirt every time it’s clean, and I’m excited to have been able to contribute this matchless vintage backing paper for a new product in their lineup. I can’t wait for payday so I can order my very own Agfa Respekt T-shirt!