Greetings and welcome to another fresh EMULSIVE interview. today we’re saying hello to Daniel Boklage, who hails from the beautiful north of Bavaria. Readers of 35mmc might recall Daniel’s work from a recent article there. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t you’re in for a treat!
Over to you, Daniel!
Hi Daniel, what’s this picture, then?
DB: This is the beginning — the whole idea of Karpfenland — in one picture. The Leitmotif. It’s called “The Trace”. The day I got this picture back from the lab I knew: this is it. And since then it serves me as a Northstar. To me, it tells the story of Karpfenland in a slanted way. The story of a cultural landscape. A landscape in which man leaves his traces and vice versa. And it manifests the style. Tranquility, romance, a sense of uncanniness, and a lot of textures. That’s how it is meant to feel. So in one sentence: It is – apart from all my family pictures – my most important photo.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
DB: I am Daniel. A family father, creative director and amateur photographer based in Heroldsbach. That’s a small village in the north of Bavaria, or “Oberfranken” to be precise. I am a storyteller, at home and at work. And Karpfenland is my first photography project.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
DB: When by chance I got hold of my father-in-law’s old Canon AE-1. That was about 10 years ago – I guess. The camera somehow reminded me of the time of my childhood and I bought some films without much ambition. And what can I say, since then I enjoy old cameras and have tried a lot. 35mm, medium format with waist-level finder, antique bellows cameras and most recently rangefinders, but where I keep going back to are fully mechanical SLR cameras. I just like the gaze through the viewfinder. That’s where I immerse myself completely in the picture.
I also have digital cameras with which I take pictures of my family, but that is also becoming less. The film images are simply the images that touch me the most. And that’s what it’s all about for me, emotions.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
DB: In the beginning, it was the equipment. The fascination for cameras and lenses that initially drove me. Later it was the desire to take beautiful family pictures. Until one day I was given the book “Towards the Horizon” by Emil Gataullin. That was a game-changer. All of a sudden, I was in it. I can’t put it any other way. It’s a bit like mathematics. They say that at some point it clicks and you “see” it. Never happened to me with mathematics, by the way 🙂 but with photography.
Besides Emil Gataullin, Robert Adams, Michael Schmidt and Gary Green are probably my biggest sources of inspiration today. But I can also draw a lot from films, music and literature. Influences are everywhere. On Instagram, in the analog community on the net – and especially in carp country. In its thick fog, its moist earth and in the sometimes oddball but also good people.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
DB: Yes, I would call myself a mixed medium photographer. But in my work I don’t mix film and digital – except, of course, to the extent that I have my negatives scanned – but I mix photography and text. My images almost never stand alone. Texts, quotes and my own thoughts help me to give the images more depth, or even to understand them better myself. An example is this picture of a window. Actually no special picture. Until I realized in this picture that the methods of fishing have not really changed for decades. So I put the picture next to another picture I took last year, and then I wrote underneath it “Ceci n’est pas le passé” – a variation of the
Magritte quote about the illusory power of pictures – and suddenly the question was there for me: Is what remains good? And so it goes on and on. Image, text, image, text, idea…
Whatʼs 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?
DB: People. Photographing people is the next big step for me. I realized that people are crucial in a portrait of a cultural landscape. I’ve been avoiding it for a long time, because it requires overcoming my shyness. But I have now started and the shyness is getting less and less and the project is getting more and more finished.
Will it ever be final? No idea. But there is a clear interim goal – and that is the exhibition in the winter of 2022/23 in a small but fine museum here in the region. It is a museum that deals with the culture and history of pond farming. And that means that now I have to take care not only of photo techniques, but also of exhibition issues. About selecting, printing, framing and and and. And also I want to have the book ready for the vernissage.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
DB: As a photographer, I’m at the beginning of my career. To speak of recurring motifs I still find a bit “big”. But inside me there has always been a closeness to the spirit of romanticism. This era, in which emotion was elevated above reason and in which longing became the central motif of many painters and authors.
As a subject I am fascinated by the word soul landscape. And elements that appear again and again are water, earth, plants and light as such.
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?
DB: My Leicaflex SL2 with the Summilux 50 and two rolls of Ilford Delta 3200. The Leicaflex because it is my most trusted camera and I know it will work. Come what may. The 50 because I feel comfortable shooting landscape, portrait, reportage and still life. 90 percent of the time in portrait format, by the way. That’s what 50mm is made for, at least to me.
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And the same film twice, because then I don’t have to decide 😉 and because Delta is THE film for me. With it I can always do everything out of hand and I can be sure that the results will at least make me happy.
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?
DB: One possible answer would be Scotland. I was there once with my wife and our daughter – on the Isle of Skye – and it was incomparable. Like a fantasy world full of perspectives, changing light conditions and textures. I could probably photograph there for the rest of my life. A real soul landscape – where I would even switch to color. Maybe.
The true answer nevertheless is “see above” and “home”. Because home is not only where my photography is, but also where my family is.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
DB: My family again. Sorry. It’s just the most precious thing I have. Maybe I could come to a compromise. 24 pictures for the family and 12 for me. No wait, I have a better idea – I would take one picture a year of the four of us for the next 36 years.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
DB: I’ve thought about this question quite a bit, but I don’t see a general misconception about film photography. What I sometimes see is an opinion that I don’t share. But then that has nothing to do with right or wrong. If film makes you happy, then make yourself happy. And if it makes you poor, then make yourself poor! Hahaha. And if someone sees it differently, then I would respond with the Big Lebowski: “Well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
DB: There will be film!
Finally, what advice would you give to someone just getting started, or thinking about jumping into film photography?
DB: Trust your gut. That’s actually it. Don’t try to rationalize your feelings. Just let it happen. It can be wonderful.
I’m really pleased to have been able to share Daniel’s work with you all and for the first time in a long while, I don’t have much more to add over Daniel’s final statement:
“Trust your gut. That’s actually it. Don’t try to rationalize your feelings. Just let it happen. It can be wonderful.”
People will tell you what to focus on, what gear to buy, what film to shoot, how to shoot it…you name it, there’s an opinion on it. I’m not suggesting advice is invalid, far from it — there might well be some nuggets of gold there for you.
However, first and foremost, be true to yourself, even if you’re being told that doing “it” that way is “wrong”. It might well be but it’s your journey. Listen, absorb but act on your own instinct.
You can find Daniel on Instagram, something I HIGHLY recommend you do. He happens to be a lovely bloke, so drop him a line and say hi. I’m sure he’ll appreciate the hello.
Until next time, have fun and keep shooting, folks.
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