I have been following an interesting photographer for a while now. The photographs are mainly produced using instant film using a variety of cameras. Unlike a lot of the instant film work that I see, this work is actually interesting. In other words it's not just that it's produced using instant film. Readers here probably know I am not a big cheerleader for any image just because of the medium used.
I learned that a trip to Germany was planned and thought it would be nice to have a little mini-interview with the photographer known as Photominimal. I know quite a few of you live in or travel to Germany and Photominimal is looking for some subjects to shoot while there for the month of June. If you can provide any assistance please do make contact.
On with the show.
RB I have been following your work here and there for a bit now. I forget where I found it in the first place, in fact where is the primary place to come and find you?
PM That is an excellent question. My model photography began as little side project, and has grown to take up the greater part of my photographic life. I began posting on Flickr, and then started up a Tumblr. Now I have a Facebook page. In the very near future, I hope to have a dedicated site for my photography.
RB I guess that's why I was a little confused as to where to find you. I have seen a lot of your work in the places you mention but seemed not to be able to find an sort of self-promotion kind of site.
I am sure that I stumbled upon your work because I still shoot film and try to keep up with the goings on of others that also still enjoy analog photo materials. I am sort of a strange bird in this day and age. Not because I still shoot film but more because there seems to be a giant line drawn between those that shoot film and those that don't. Let's call it the analog retro-crowd and the completely digital dismissive of anything NOT digital crowd. I sort of straddle both places. For me it's natural I have shot film for decades, continued shooting it commercially in various formats well into the 21st century although with digital reproduction for the most part - at least in color and started shooting digital in 2003-4. I just never stopped using film. Especially for personal work or for things a care a lot about like my family. Are you coming from the same place or are you someone that didn't grow up with film and embraced it after being dissatisfied with the digital process as a whole? Are you exclusively a film shooter?
PM I am not too ideological about the film/digital divide. I grew up shooting film, and eventually got a digital camera. But after several years of shooting nothing but crisp and saturated images, I became a little frustrated with the process of digital. So when I began taking pictures of models, I decided I would go back to film, and especially to instant film, because of how enjoyable the experience is. I may be fooling myself, but I like to think that there is something just a bit more tangible to film. And there is an element of unpredictability to instant film that I really value emotionally.
However, I have to say that digital photography got me very excited about learning photography all over again. Suddenly I could make all sorts of mistakes, and do all kinds of experiments with composition. I still sometimes test a shoot with a digital camera. And let's not forget that most film photographers are exclusively showing their work online, these days.
RB I may be fooling myself to but I tend to think that the state of mind your are in and anything that affects it definitely makes tangible differences in the ultimate image I shoot differently, even if only slightly, when I shoot my film cameras hence I make different photographs. In terms of the ultimate "look" - if emulating film is so stinking easy then why have I never seen a side by side comparison that looks the same? That's another conversation - not better or worse, just different.
One of the reasons I like a lot of your photographs is that they are actually good photographs. I am not of the school of thought that any old stuff is good just because it happens to be on one medium or another. I hope I am not upsetting any sensitivities here but I guess that's why I am not part of the in crowd in what I consider the main-stream analog photo/retro community. I would love to hear your thoughts on this…
PM I really appreciate that. I think there are many people out there who are trying to bring together good photography and the use of analog and instant materials. Because you're right. The two don't always go together. At the same time that platforms like Tumblr and Instagram have helped people find and enjoy insightful and original photography,
there are a lot of people who simply fetishize the medium of instant and analog film, at the expense of creating what I would consider to be great images. Photominimal
I wonder about the way we consume images these days. Perhaps all these wonderful things like Tumblr and Flickr are actually constricting the stylistic range of things we see. Perhaps we are becoming less ecumenical, on an aesthetic level. It may be that we need to think more about the value of curatorship, and about how the cultivation of exceptional images can help our own photographic practice. This is, I hope, an argument against the formation of cliques and crowds.
RB I have probably used more instant Polaroid material than most people that could be considered prolific today. I used it like most photographers did in the late 80's and 90's and even into the 2000's. For lighting tests. I had quite a few polaroid cameras, backs, processors, etc. Although I have always been an admirer of the Polaroid company - heck my grandfather exclusively used their cameras from the very start of their availability - and was very sad to see them go the only material that I was in love with was Type 55/665 which I actually used a lot of. In fact some of my lighting test shots actually went to production instead of my full color "real" shots. At the time from a practical standpoint Fuji 100c killed 690 from a technical point of view let alone the old 669. Obviously I was not using it for creativity in it's rendering but that was not my wheelhouse at the time. Have you been a long time creative polaroid user? What have you gravitated to now that it's not practical to shoot that stuff any more. What materials do you miss the most? Why? What now?
PM Although I started out shooting film, I am a relative latecomer to instant photography. I got my first real Polaroid camera at a thrift store in about 2000, but didn't really start using Polaroid materials in a serious way until just after the company stopped making films. By then, I'd become addicted to my Type 100 Land Camera, and I'd started out using Fuji, especially the amazing FP3000b film.
Little by little, I've managed to get some of the original Polaroid material into my hands, and it is nearly always a magical experience. The Type 100 Chocolate and Sepia are such beautiful films, as is the Type 100 Blue Silk. I also love the smooth, creamy dynamic range of the 665. But the most amazing film I have ever used was called Fade to Black, for the SX70 camera system. It was released by the Impossible Project, and the thing about this film was that, unless you peeled the positive image from the back, it would keep on developing until it turned completely back. But when you had got it to a certain point, this film had a mysterious and utterly compelling quality. I've had dreams about shooting this film again.
Lately I have started to get the hang of Fuji's Instax system. In many ways, the camera is quite limited, but at the same time, the film has an extraordinary saturation, colour balance, and contrast. There is a peculiar “softness” to this film that I both love and hate. When you can find the right situations for this camera and film, the results can be amazing.
RB I heard via twitter that you are planning a trip to Germany - when is that. Why the trip?
PM My partner is an academic, and I am lucky enough to be a freelancer. My partner has some writing to do, and I'll be working on a few projects of my own, including photographic ones. We will be living in a flat there for the month of June. I'll be bringing some wonderful cameras with me, so if anyone is interested in shooting together during that time, send me a message - photominimal(at)gmail(dot)com
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