I am Matthew Hinther and this is why I shoot film
Seriously, what is it about Large Format photography that makes me want to literally dive in to an image? (I can’t swim, so the feeling is doubly strange for me).
With that in mind, I felt it time to have another LF photographer join us and share his thoughts on film photography. Today we’re pleased to share the words and images of Matthew Hinther; a man with a photographic lineage that stretches further back than many democratic states.
Over to you, Matt.
Hi Matthew, What’s this picture, then?
My favourite photos are ones that evoke an emotional response and speak to the viewer.
This photo stirs me to ask questions and make up my own story. Where is she going? Why is she out tonight? Maybe she’s just going to the store, or maybe she’s done with this city for good.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
Photography has always been in my life. My father, grandfather, and great grandfather were all involved in photography. I went through my fair share of point and shoots growing up and bought my first SLR in high school, but I really started to get into it about 15 years ago. Now I predominantly shoot 4×5 or 8×10 large format.
When did you start shooting film?
I grew up with film but, like most, I was drawn into digital photography when it first emerged. It was a good medium for snapping shots of my new baby girl, but as my daughter grew older I started realizing how much I missed shooting film.
I dug out some of my old 35mm cameras and started to get back into it. I had always wanted to shoot large format, and the booming digital market meant there were some great deals to be had on film cameras.
I picked up a 4×5 camera and from that point on I was hooked. My digital gear is now gathering dust.
What about now, why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
When I think of fine art photography, I think film. I love the tonal range and the grain of black and white film. I enjoy the process, the need to slow down and think for every exposure. This is especially the case with large format; you really have to think about the image you want to make and your exposure management.
I may go out for 6 hours and only come back with 5 exposures, I find this incredibly rewarding. I know those 5 exposures are something special.
I also enjoy the experimentation side of film; I process all of my film in Caffenol. Deciding to go exclusively with this process meant a lot of trial and error in order to get the results I wanted. Likewise, the high cost of 8×10 film brought me to X-ray film. Again, it took a lot of experimentation but now I have refined my own process.
The accomplishment of going through these processes to produce something unique is very gratifying. It’s that obsession to capture the next great image, and find inspiration through the process…that’s what keeps me shooting.
Any favourite subject matter?
I tend to bounce around a lot on my favourite subject matter. I’ve been really obsessed with shooting portraits on my 8×10 lately, but I also like heading out in the streets with my medium format. Who knows, tomorrow I may go out to the country to shoot some landscapes.
I guess whatever I am shooting at the time is my favourite.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
Ilford HP5+ because it’s such a versatile film. I’ve used it in the streets at night pushed to ISO3200, with my 4×5 for landscapes and studio portraits.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of the subject matter. What to you take with you and why?
I would have to say my Sinar 4×5 and 150mm Schneider lens with Ilford Delta 100 Professional, and Ilford HP5+.
Delta 100 Pro has always been my go-to for landscapes and portraits, while HP5+ has me covered if the light gets low or I need a faster shutter speed.
The 150mm is my favourite lens for 4×5. I would bring my Sinar 4×5 because of the control you have over the image with the movements of large format.
Although the Sinar might seem a weird selection not knowing the assignment, I’d find a way to make it work!
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
I like to find things to shoot in my own backyard, so I would head out into my neighbourhood here in the Glebe. I always get a kick out of people asking me where I shot something and seeing their surprise when I tell them it was just around the corner.
It may have been something they’ve walked by a thousand times, but they never really saw it.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
I think currently it’s that people think that film is obsolete and somehow inferior to digital. People who shoot film just need to keep putting their work out there and its benefits will be noticed.
It`s funny though, because there seems to be a trend out there right now where people are trying to make their digital images look like they were shot on film. There’s an easier way – shoot film.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
The ease of use and instant gratification of digital photography will always be more appealing to the masses but film will continue to occupy a niche market within photography, and I believe will continue to be more appealing to the artistic community.
As someone who constantly changes from one stock to another, in some vain attempt at sampling every candy in the Pick ‘n’ Mix aisle of an immense supermarket, people like Matt really make me stop and think.
What if I cut everything out and stuck to only one, two, or three film stocks for a year? Would it make me a better photographer? Probably not but it’d certainly help me to develop a mastery of those emulsions, regardless of my creative talent.
In my opinion, what Matt has shown us is that with time, effort and dedication, mastery of the technical process and variables in photography (of all formats), allows us to think less about them and more on the ultimate goal; the creation of meaningful images that make us stop and think.
If I had to, I’d mark “1956”, “Electric Couch”, and “Gas Pump” as my favorites from the handful Matt was kind enough to share but it’s a hard choice…really hard.
For those of you who are in the Ottawa area, Matt will be displaying his work at Something New Edinburgh on November 7 – stick a note in your diaries and pop some gas in the tank.
We’ll be back in a short while. In the meantime, please share and keep shooting, folks!
EMULSIVE needs you. If you’d like to take part in this series of film photographer interviews, please drop us a line, or get in touch in the comments. We’re featuring to photographers young and old; famous and obscure, so get in touch and let’s talk.