I’ve managed to drag today’s interviewee away from his workshop for a few minutes on the promise that he’s returned as soon as possible. You see, he’s not simply a film photographer but a tinkerer and engineer extraordinaire; of course, it’s the one and only Denys Ivanichek.

In case that name doesn’t ring any bells, here’s a quick introduction. Denys ran a Kickstarter campaign back in late 2013 to produce a limited run of his shutterless V-Mount Petzval design lens for focal plane shutter Hasselblad cameras like the 200/2000 series and Pentacon 6 mount cameras. The project was successful and 2014 saw about 100 backers receive their very own copy of the unique Ivanichek Petzvar 120 f/4 art lens.

Just a few short weeks ago at the time of writing, Denys successfully funded a second campaign to produce another batch of his Petzvar lens. This time,  the campaign saw the launch of Denys’ 2nd generation Petzvar for Hasselblad 500 series bodies. Of course, this meant the creation of lenses complete with in-lens shutters; something Denys ingeniously dealt with by using donor Hasselblad lenses in need of a new start in life. The 1st generation Petzvar was also made available in Mamiya and Pentax 645 mounts.

At the risk of dragging this short introduction out, we’re flabbergasted at both Denys’ audacity and success so far and couldn’t wait to drag him away from his workbench for a quick chat about what drives him to shoot film.

It’s over to you, Denys.

Hi Denys, what’s this picture, then?

Copyright Denys Ivanichek
Copyright Denys Ivanichek

This is a picture of my all-time favorite model – my wife. It was taken in 2007, in that pre-iPhonic time, when people were using Polaroid instant film cameras to take selfies.

Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)

I’m a camera enthusiast and amateur photographer. I don’t know what I like to do most; build cameras and lenses, or take pictures…but I believe that my pictures are still ahead, just.

Photography, or not, I’m always learning. I have always had a keen interest in engineering and in my personal time have undertaken a number of a projects aimed at understanding lens design, as well as modifying certain cameras for my own personal use.

Copyright Denys Ivanichek
Copyright Denys Ivanichek

One of my earliest projects was the creation of a metered prism finder (based on a Kiev 60 prism), for an old Rolleiflex TLR. I later learned that a similar modification had already been created by the very talented Rolf-Deiter Baier of Germany using hasselblad (and other prisms). While I was disappointed that I hadn’t been the first, I was incredibly pleased to hear of another kindred spirit and my path was set!

I have made and sold limited numbers of this and other modifications over the years and it was about five years ago that I created my first Petzval lens design for use with my P6 mount cameras.

Copyright Denys Ivanichek
Copyright Denys Ivanichek

When did you start shooting film?

Back when I was in a middle school. Our art class teacher once asked, ‘How many of you would be interested in photography?” There were about dozen of us who were interested in learning how to use a camera, as well as how to develop film and print images. However, after we were told that we would have to build the darkroom from scratch (yes, by ourselves!), only five of us remained.

The building process was fun, to say the least. We were given a room by the school and proceeded to cover all the windows the room with sheets of plywood, then paint the walls with dark grey paint. After it was all done (and checked for light-tightness), our teacher brought us a bunch of used “Zenit” 35mm SLR cameras, along with three enlargers and the other necessary items.

Copyright Denys Ivanichek
Copyright Denys Ivanichek

This is where the real fun began! I spent hours and hours after school learning how to use the cameras, development and printing.

To be able to learn this process in such great depth at a such a young age really affected me and it’s safe to say that since that time, photography became my lifetime hobby.

What about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?

It’s all about the process. Beside shooting film, I shoot digital as well and I both recognize and admit the many advantages of it.

Copyright Denys Ivanichek
Copyright Denys Ivanichek

That said, whilst using a digital camera is pretty straightforward process, shooting film makes me pay more attention to detail; using film makes me patiently wait for that a perfect moment to catch in the frame.

Any favorite subject matter?

I do prefer to photograph people and I especially like portraiture.

Every face is different and beautiful in its own way. Even the same person is can be very different and facial expressions change at every moment.

Our life is made of moments…and the camera has a great ability to stop those moments. The eyes, the pose….one can look at a photograph taken many years ago and be taken to that very moment, even if person or surroundings in the image are unknown.

Copyright Denys Ivanichek
Copyright Denys Ivanichek

You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?

I would get myself a bulk roll, the longer the better!

Just joking! And to answer seriously, I would probably take a 220 roll of Agfa Portrait 160 and use it to take pictures of my family.

…but that sounds very sad, I don’t even want to think about shooting my last roll, I prefer the unlimited supply option.

Copyright Denys Ivanichek
Copyright Denys Ivanichek

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?

In this situation, versatility and weight is the only thing that matters.

I think, I would take the lightest autofocus camera I have, something like my Nikon N65 with an 18-200mm zoom lens. For film, I would take one roll of black and white and one of color.

Copyright Denys Ivanichek
Copyright Denys Ivanichek

…but since I’m not a professional photographer and prefer to take portraits, I’d very likely consider my all time favorite lens, the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 180mm f/2.8 medium format lens.

It is bulky and heavy and I would not risk to take it with me on a long hike, but the images it produces are absolutely brilliant!

You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?

Unlimited supply of film in one location sounds rather like a hard work to me. I would prefer to take a limited supply of film and travel to every place I can!

I like old cities with lots of history. I have visited some places in Europe and Asia, but have never been to South America. I think – if I have a chance – my next destination will be Buenos Aires, Argentina and some other places on this new (to me), continent.

Copyright Denys Ivanichek
Copyright Denys Ivanichek

What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?

I think, the greatest misconception is to compare film to digital. It is like comparing cinema versus theatre, or painting versus photography.

Each has it’s own positive and negative, it’s own artistic place in our culture.

Copyright Denys Ivanichek
Copyright Denys Ivanichek

In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?

I guess, film photography will stay popular for long time. And if major suppliers stop manufacturing film, then there will be smaller labs, trying to fulfill the demand, even if it is at greater expense to the consumer.

~ Denys Ivanichek

Thanks, Denys! I was unfortunate enough to grow up in a time and place where the kind of resourcefulness exhibited by Denys’ teacher had already given way to health and safety laws. There was no way my peers or I would ever have been able to build our own darkroom. Shame.

Normally, disclosure of interest is done at the top of an article (way before the content can influence the reader, etc.), so if you have been influenced, please un-influence yourself whilst I cough up details of my connection to this project.

I came across Denys’ original Kickstarter campaign a little after it had been successfully funded and after getting in touch with him via email, I guess I annoyed him enough to convince him to sell me one of his last remaining Hasselblad V-mount lenses. Over the following months, I spoke with Denys a few times via email, giving him some examples of the images I captured (I don’t do portraits, so I thought the application of his lens in urban and landscape-esque environments might be of interest to him).

Unfortunately, a few months after receiving the lens, my beloved 2000 series Hasselblad jammed up on me and through the tears, I dropped Denys an email and asked him if it would be possible to convert the lens mount to P6 for me – at that time, I had no idea if the camera could be economically repaired and was looking at my options (it’s ok now BTW).

What struck me in all these little conversations with Denys was his passion, humor and humility; his unflinching desire to make things right, even if he’d fulfilled his responsibility for the lens when he left the post office.

When Denys mentioned that hew as going to build a Hasselblad 500 series update of his Petzvar, I decided to repay Denys’ kindness by helping him to share his project with those who might be interested. If you’re reading this, then that means you.

Hope you can forgive this truly heinous subterfuge on my part.

It’s not that often you see an individual undertaking a project like this, let alone without any external support, so when I say hat’s off to Denys, I mean it with my hand on my heart.

It’s people like Denys who underpin the photographic community. Sadly, the advent of built-to-fail camera systems mean that we’re seeing less of Denys’ ilk in the wild but as long as there are problems to be solved, people like him will (hopefully) always find a way.

Thank you.

You can find out more about Denys’ various customization projects, as well as see some of his wonderful portraits on his website. If you’re interested in keeping tabs on the 2nd generation Petzvar project, then head on over to Kickstarter.

~ EM

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