A film shooter for a little under ten years so far, this week’s fresh EMULSIVE interviewee is Robin Kuusela. Over to you, Robin.
What’s this picture, then?
RK: This is some kind of drunken self-portrait I made some years ago. I had been to a friend’s place and brought my Praktica MTL 5 and on my way home I had to change trains at Älvsjö station close to Stockholm. And while waiting for my next train I put my camera on something and made this shot with the self-timer.
The funny thing is that I did not remember taking the shot and was very surprised when I got the negatives back, in a positive way! I like this shot, the ghostly image of myself and the colours.
Maybe I should do this more often.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
RK: I am Robin Kuusela and I come from and live in Sweden, born in 1980. I am very drawn to art of all kinds (music, photography, painting, poetry) and have tried it all. Besides shooting film, I like to paint a lot, mostly with watercolours. I have two children and work as a logistics administrator in Stockholm. I dream of not being part of, and used by society and the system. I would like to live a quieter life away from it all and being more self-dependent, closer to nature.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
RK: I think I started shooting film sometime around 2009. A friend at work brought this beautiful Yashica A to work and asked me if I wanted to try it, so I bought a roll of 120 film and that was it, I was hooked really hard.
What keeps me shooting film is, of course, the feeling, soul and charisma of the images I get but also the beauty of old cameras. I have had so many cameras over the last 10 years that I cannot even count them. Everything from a Voigtländer Vito to SLRs to TLRs to a Mamiya 645 and a Hasselblad…and I’m still searching for the perfect one, or ones, haha!
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
RK: I guess it must be this guy from work I was talking about…he knew I was into art and he himself studied art in Paris in the 70s and liked photography a lot. I borrowed several medium format cameras from him and filters and stuff. That really made me get into it all and then bought my own first analog cameras.
Beside him I guess the internet made a huge impact on me, looking at other photographers pictures. I think also, as with all art that life itself makes a big influence, your surroundings, and music and your own thoughts.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
RK: I think not. I only want to shoot film.
I have been shooting concerts and portraits digital with the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 and Canon 5D Mark II but those pictures never really felt the same way, it’s not the same art form so to speak. It is like a hare and a rabbit, very alike but not the same.
I guess I would like to shoot more concerts even if they are not my usual subject matter. In any case, I have some ISO 3200 I would choose film but otherwise I could use a digital camera.
What’s your next challenge…your next step? How do you see yourself improving your technique? What aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?
RK: I am not a darkroom person.
I like cameras and pictures. Of course, I’d like to have full control over my pictures but I don’t think I have the time at the moment. So, my goal for this the next 12 months will be to shoot more and to plan more. I also would like to see my photos on print a lot more, too. I should start to at least develop my own black and white negatives but I rarely shoot more than one roll per month. I also would like to find myself a good project of my own to work with. I have one and that is to shoot more in the rain and created a group on Flickr a couple of years ago called “Rain On Film” that has over 2000 film photos in the pool.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
RK: I have been drawn to detail a lot, especially in nature. I often shoot wide open and want my pictures to be clean and easy. Often with a touch of melancholy or solitude, or at least that’s what I aim for. I don’t mean clean in a way of no dust or that it has to be sharp. My goal is to capture a feeling. Sometimes dust and bad exposure can add to the picture. I also like to shoot portraits and self-portraits.
Did you know Rembrandt made around 200 self-portraits? I think it is just natural for an artist to do a lot of self-portraits. And I like to watch other peoples self-portraits, it tells a lot about them.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an unknown assignment. You can take one camera, one lens, two films and you have no idea what you’ll be shooting. What do you take with you and why?
RK: I believe in the philosophy of one camera, one lens and one film, so I would pick a Nikon FM3A with a 50mm f/1.4 lens and two rolls of Kodak Porta 400. I guess nothing could go wrong with that combination? I could choose a 120-camera but then I would not have 72 frames.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location for the rest of your life. What do you take, where do you go and why?
RK: I would love to visit Iceland someday. In my imagination, you could turn in any direction an shoot blindly and get awesome pictures. Of course, this is not true but I like to romanticise stuff. Anyway, Iceland seems to be a very beautiful land to shoot and maybe with some Kodak Ektar 100 (or slide film), a steady tripod and a Hasselblad SWC/M with filters I´d be busy for another 100 years or so.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
RK: I would pick a roll of ILFORD HP5 PLUS or Delta 3200 Professional and my Mamiya C220F and head for the coast. There is something contemplative and truthful about the ocean that I think would go nicely with the thought of my last roll ever.
Maybe I would bring a bottle of sherry to share with the non-existing gods, haha.
Thanks for everything and so on, bastards.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
RK: I like things with a soul to them: reading real books, listening to LPs (or at least analog recordings), painting on a canvas or paper, old furniture and shooting film with mechanical cameras. There is nothing that can beat this even if digital pictures can be wonderful and digital recorded music and film can be great.
I am tired of defending this opinion (I often choose not to), I guess it could be a matter of taste but I know my taste is the best.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
RK: There will always be a demand for film, so I don’t think we should worry too much even if it means we only have two black and white films and two types of colour film to choose from in the future. Would you like to bind your books like they did in the 16th century? There are still a some companies alive with the tools and skill for this today.
Thank you for this interview, it was nice to think about these questions.
A big thanks to Robin for stepping up. Please do make sure you check him out over on Flickr. It’s well worth your time.
Another fresh interviewee will be up in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, please take a moment to check out this fantastic review of the Fuji Panorama GX617 by Steve Walton and of course, my take on new Kodak EKTACHROME 100 at EI 100, 200, 400 and 800!
Thanks for reading and as ever, 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.