I am Johann Bottos and this is why I shoot film
We’re here today with landscape photographer Johann Bottos, Italian native but (for the time being), settled in Austria
Not to diminish the wonderful images and narrative below but Johan is what one might call a little nutty about mountains.
Over to you, Johann.
Hi Johann, what’s this picture then?
This is an infrared shot I took of a mountain landscape in Austria.
I particularly enjoy this photo because I managed to get a wide array of greys and to contain the Wood effect exactly as I wanted. Obviously I also love the view, the untouched mountains and the feel of been so small and so humble in front of such a majestic creation.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
I am a graphic designer from Italy and currently based in Villach, Austria. I enjoy going outdoors, feeling surrounded by nature and recording these moments with a medium format analogue camera.
When did you start shooting film and what about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
I started shooting film at University as part of my graphic design course.
I have always enjoyed looking at images of natural parks around the world but I didn’t think I would eventually provide my own view of some of these areas. It just happened that I felt the need to have take some breaks from my daily life and I have found the kind of peace and equilibrium I was looking for in the mountains.
I continue to make photos and explore new natural areas when I can.
I enjoy taking analogue photos not only because of the feel of film and the beauty of making a handmade print, but also because it is — in my case — a relatively slow process. Unlike when I was shooting digital, I do not make hundreds of photos, and I do not spend so many hours modifying them at the computer…
I don’t make hundreds of small quick actions anymore but I rather make fewer more thoughtful ones.
I shoot less but I make far fewer mistakes and think so much more before I shoot.
I keep on shooting because it is a way to express myself. I don’t feel ok with myself if I don’t create something which I feel is just mine.
What’s the next challenge…your next step? How do you see improving your technique, or what aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?
In the last month or so, I have been making lith prints. It is the first time I attempted this technique and I really enjoy it. The range of visual styles that can be achieved through paper/developer combination, exposure, toning…well, they’re very broad. The same can be said for the negative, and there are many distinct interpretations that can trigger very different feelings.
In the next 12 months I plan to have conducted a series of tests to ensure that I am capable of reproducing a specific feel in lith prints.
Any favorite subject matter?
I very much enjoy mountain landscapes and perhaps this is also because they are very accessible from my house! I particularly like also untouched valleys and any other landscape environments in which I can feel alone and have in an intimate relationship with the nature around me.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
I shoot mostly with Ilford Delta 100 Pro… and if I had to choose one last roll that would be the one I choose. It just has the right feel to me and the results are always predictable.
I never get negatives that are too contrasty and it is quite flexible in many ways.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of the subject matter. What do you take with you and why?
I would take my Mamiya 7ii with its 43mm lens. I’d take a roll of Ilford Delta 100 and a roll of Rollei Retro 80s. In most cases I would use the Delta but in some specific cases the Retro 80 would produce some great results, I think.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
I would go to the Grand Canyon.
I have never been there but I just see so much to play with in photographic terms. From interesting small details to incredibly vast views. The possibility for some great minimal silhouette shots as well as very detailed and texturally rich ones.
Just endless possibilities.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
I think there is some serious misconception about the quality of analogue photography. I have read so many blogs about the endless debate megapixel digital vs analogue etc… and so many continue to make what I think is a big mistake.
There is the idea that analogue photography has quite low resolution because when you compare the two on the screen the digital one looks sharper etc. A negative is meant to be printed in a proper darkroom not to be scanned and compared to digital.
If people started to go to some exhibitions they would eventually see that some handmade analogue black and white prints look great.
So I would say to people to still consider not only the look and feel of film but also not forget the overall quality of it.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
I don’t know to be honest…
I hope for more and more photography exhibitions and fairs to focus also on analogue photography. I hope for more analogue photography communities to be born so that people can physically meet and share their ideas/views and discuss with some actual prints on hand, rather than solely exchange likes on social networks.
I think this would be a nice environment for an analogue photographer to live in.
Johann’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last photographer on these pages to bring up be debate about the resolution and supposed quality of analogue photography. He says:
“There is the idea that analogue photography has quite low resolution because when you compare the two on the screen the digital one looks sharper etc. A negative is meant to be printed in a proper darkroom not to be scanned and compared to digital.”
To me, there’s no doubt that digital has caught up to the resolution of film. It’s not there for all formats just yet but we shouldn’t kid ourselves, it’s only a matter of time before the resolution of film is outmatched.
But we’re not talking about resolution alone, are we?
Printed work continues to astound me. Looking at a traditional dark room print 10, 20, 30 inches across is truly is something to behold in my humble opinion. That’s not to say that darkroom printing is the only way to do things – I’m not that much of a purist. What I’m trying to say is that to fully appreciate the form, one should at least make an attempt to see it in the manner it was originally intended.
All this from someone who can safely say that 90% of the prints on his wall were made by a digital printer from digital stands.
We’ll be back with another film photographer in a few days in the meantime, have you ever wondered how to go about making a 150x120cm (5×4 feet!) darkroom print? Check out the video below.
Oh and as ever, keep shooting, folks.