I am Niccolò Bianchi and this is why I shoot film
It’s that time of the week again and today we’re sitting down with Italian Niccolò Bianchi (no, not the heir to the bicycle manufacturer…we think).
Niccolò’s been shooting film for around 5 years and is now firmly entrenched in the physical world of film photography.
Over to you, Niccolò.
Hi Niccolò, what’s this picture, then?
NB: This is one of the first pictures I developed in a dark room: I took it while having a walk through the neighborhood and I was fascinated from the moment I saw its negative.
Still, it only was when I got it printed that it ‘stole my heart’. It is not an overwhelmingly amazing picture, but it set the tone for the pictures to come: gritty and contrasty.
Ok, so who are you?
NB: I am a biotechnology graduate and Biobusiness Msc from Italy, now building up experience in accounting and management. Other than photography, I am passionate about cinematography.
When did you start shooting film and about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
NB: Being born at the end of the 1980s, my first encounter with film was in early childhood and I got my first ‘serious’ camera (a Nikon FM reflex) during high school.
I would consider my first real use of film being during this time, although I did not shoot film knowingly until 5 years ago, when I started developing my own monochrome film.
Months after this turning point, I decided to abandon digital photography. I was not against it for the sake of the analog renaissance, I just felt that the kind of pictures I wanted to make should always look like the ones above; and no editing software can provide the sense of consistency that comes from always using the same film.
When I shot digital, I mostly did the same kind of pictures I do nowadays, just that they usually were in colour or flat-toned B&W and didn’t like them at the end of the day.
You can see them here, if you’re interested: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ncmb_photographies.
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?
NB: My next step would be building my own darkroom where I can print and experiment with Caffenol H-C…and with more pushed film!
My wider aim for the next 12 months is to improve my developing and printing skills, in order to get closer to mastering them in the next few years.
I originally started developing my own film as I wanted to get a firmer hold on the photographic process, and I did this whilst I still was also shooting digital. It might have been developing my own film that slowly pushed me away from digital. Or actually: developing my own film gave me a sense of what images should look like to fit my own taste.
Digital aesthetics were probably a compromise to me, but I did not have a chance to understand that earlier.
Any favorite subject matter?
NB: People. In fact, I mostly focus on street photography – as you can see from the pictures here – and portraiture. I believe that people always are the most interesting subject, to me. Although it might not be the same for everyone, I get the most out of what it is that pictures of people try to express.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
NB: I would probably say Ilford HP5+ or Bergger BRF400: they are my go-to films.
I have been only shooting the former lately, as I tend to push film to ISO 1600, and never managed to either find timetables for pushed BRF400, or time to push it myself and make some developing trials. I will do it soon.
You have two 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?
NB: I guess I would trust the set-up that I have been using recently — and the same one I brought with me to a recent trip to japan: Konica Hexar RF and Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5.
I would choose the combination, as I grew accustomed to shooting street on wide angles lenses and this lens allows me to zone-focus from 0.5m to infinity once it’s stopped down at f/8.
For the films, I’d choose Ilford HP5+ or Bergger BRF400 for the reasons above. I know how they work and can get consistent and dependable results.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
NB: I would probably go straight back to Japan, or maybe I would visit Iran again. I ‘regret’ having only brought a digital camera when I visited it back in 2014.
The images were not very interesting and the few good ones (across a 9-day trip), were burdened by weird-looking digital color-rendering.
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
NB: Most probably the same one that is addressed to me and most of the people I know that shoot film: “You only do it because it’s trendy” – although I do not really see it being that mainstream.
There sure is a growing niche of analog photographers, but assuming that one shoots film because of mass trends is as much as naive as thinking that one would choose be vegetarian just for trends.
Assuming one for all usually inhibits your understanding of the same one’s perspective.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
NB: I do not know how vague this might be, but I think that the future of film photography might involve the above-mentioned niche growing stronger, certain prices rising and start-ups producing new films.
My hope is that new analog cameras might come out, as Kodak just did for Super8 video cameras.
~ Niccolò Bianchi
Can I have a show of hands please? How many of you have been asked if you shoot film because it’s trendy?
It’s a question I’ve been asked / statement I’ve had thrown at me a few times and I’ve never really understood it. I’m ensconced in film as a tool to provide me with the kinds of results I want. I don’t shoot digital camera because I don’t have a need or want to do anything a digital camera does better than a film camera — there are a lot of those, by the way. Finally (and this is not an exhaustive list), I shoot film because the cameras, the medium and the process make me feel closer to the images I create.
I’ve previously mentioned that purely physical thread thats wraps and intertwines the film photographic process — the use of my senses to frame and fire the camera, the light hitting the film medium; and the developer acting upon the light that was captured to bring forth a physical representation of what I saw through my view finder, or on my focus screen. When I handle my negatives, I’m connected to the image in a way I can’t fully understand. Memories come flooding back and more often than not, they bring a smile to my face.
Film as an external memory storage device? I’m sure that there are a million psychologists who will tell me that it’s associative memory thing but I prefer to believe there’s a little more magic involved.
Swinging back to Niccolò’s images, what’s not to love? It’s no secret that I’m a fan of high contrast black and white, or pushed Tri-X and HP5+ – see last week’s interview with Ryan Neilan. I really do hope he gets a chance to head back to Iran at some point with his Hexar and a few bricks of HP5+. It’d be wonderful to see how his style has evolved since his last trip out.
If you do, Niccolò, please remember to share!
As this is Double-Up April, the next interview will be out in a couple of days. Make sure you swing back then, and while you’re waiting, check out http://emulsive.org/interviews – 70 and counting at the time of writing!
Thanks for reading and as ever, keep shooting, folks!
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