I am Hilde Heyvaert and this is why I shoot film
Creative, experimental, quirky and always evolving. Welcome to the words and pictures of Hilde Heyvaert! No more introduction from me, it’s over to you Hilde!
Hi Hilde, what’s this picture, then?
HH: It’s a zeppelin stuck in a building! How awesome is that!?
It’s definitely not the best photo I’ve ever made, but it was on the first roll I ever shot with my beloved Agfa Isola 1, and it’s of one of my favourite things to photograph in the entire world. So I’m inflicting it all on you, too.
This is Café Hyperion in Disneyland Paris, I’ve loved and photographed his building since 1992 and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. Every time I’m there I have to shoot it. I have to.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
HH: Hi, my name is Hilde and I take pictures! I am by no means a professional, I just love taking photos. I literally never studied photography. I basically got a camera shoved in my hands as a kid and never really stopped taking photos. Even periods where I shoot less, or much less, I still shoot daily, even if it’s just one shot.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
HH: I’ve started shooting film back in 1987 when my dad shoved a small camera in my hands. He figured hat seeing I was old enough to properly frame photos and hold a camera, he’d leave all picture taking to me. The thing that keeps driving me to shoot more, is literally the fact that I really enjoy taking photos. So I guess it’s safe to say my dad is at the root of this entire pictorial madness.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
HH: I was only 7 when I started taking photos, and it was the age before the internet, so I didn’t know much about which photographers were out there. I suppose that back then it was the same as it is now: I just really enjoyed taking photos, and that was enough. That said, I really do enjoy the photography of Tokyo Fashion, Tim Walker and Helcanen, to name but three professionals, because else I’ll go on forever.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
HH: I am. Sometimes literally, if I put my analog Diana lens on my DSLR. My preferred type of photography is medium format, but digital is just so much faster and very often, more convenient. And admittedly, I really do like shooting with my DSLR. Basically I shot all film up to about 2005 (when my partner first got a digital camera) and returned to film only last year when I got my hands on a film scanner and discovered a local store works with a lab. Before that, it was just too much hassle and too expensive to shoot film, but now that it’s within my grasp and budget, I definitely shoot film whenever I can.
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?
HH: To be honest, I’m a huge slacker. As long as I enjoy something and I’m not fucking it up, I don’t put nearly enough time in challenging myself. I feel like I may have too many things I enjoy doing to have the time to really excel at them. Which is pretty bad of me, I do admit. One thing I do want to get better at and that is shooting with my husband’s DSLR, which is much more complicated than my own. Time will tell whether or not I actually do, ask me again next year.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
HH: Yes and no. I will shoot anything that seems interesting to me, but I really enjoy shooting portraits, animals, architecture and just general street views. So I do shoot those the most.
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 to you take with you and why?
HH: It may come as a surprise to people that know me and thus generally see my trusty DSLR pretty much glued to my hand, but I will take my Samsung Slim Zoom 115A Panorama. It has a fixed lens with an awesome zoom, panorama option and about any setting I could possibly need. I would probably go load a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 Professional into it, just because I can always trust that film. If there is one film that will work in whatever circumstance, it’s that one. That camera hasn’t let me down so far, so yeah.
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location for the rest of your life. What do you take, were do you go and why?
HH: I would love to say something like: I will go to Tokyo, or London, or Berlin, or another place where I will literally NEVER run out of things to shoot, and whilst that would be awesome, I would be just as happy doing what I do now: take my camera to Antwerp, because I will never run out of things to shoot there either, and in the end I’d be just as happy. So yeah, Antwerp, Belgium, that’s the final film destination and I’m sticking by it.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
HH: To be honest, considering I don’t develop myself (for many reasons), and I am 100% depended on a chain store’s lab deal that may vanish any day (please HEMA, don’t ever stop your film service!) this is something I have often thought about. My last roll would be Ilford Delta 3200. I just find that film so incredibly versatile, it has this amazing grain it that I just really adore.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
HH: I think the biggest misconception is that film is dead. And I think the only way we can set that straight is by very visibly shooting film and posting results online. Be on any social media that you are comfortable with, and show people film is not dead, show them that digital isn’t the only option. And that it’s good fun to shoot film, the community is awesome and welcoming to newcomers, regardless of what you shoot with or your skill level.
And I’m not saying this out of the position of someone shooting top film, using a Leica or a Hasselblad and has a home dark room. No, quite the opposite, I’m saying this out of my experience as someone who uses a commercial film lab for developing her rolls, who shoots with old Agfa and 1990s cameras and who has literally ZERO clue about 98% of the technical aspects.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
HH: I think that in some capacity, there will always be film photography. There will always be a community of people with passion, know-how and drive to keep it alive and to educate newcomers. There will always be online sources that people can get their hands on to educate themselves on analog photography, there will always be one company or other producing film. And probably even cameras. I don’t think film will ever truly be dead, but I do fear that one day it will become a very expensive hobby that makes that the community will become much smaller. I do worry about that, I do admit.
I feel we sometimes get too bogged down in “purpose”; trying to define what we do as photographers, trying to compartmentalise our work and searching for direction, as if it’ll somehow help us be better – whatever that means.
Remember what it was like when you first held a camera? Remember how liberating and exciting it felt when you were shooting your first roll of film? Do you remember the feeling when you got your prints back? Do you remember the fun of it all?
What about now?
As we develop our knowledge and gain experience, joy and fun turn into satisfaction and enjoyment of the process. Where did the fun go?
I decided last year to stop searching for direction and a “style”, it’s a meaningless quest for me at this point in my life. I’d rather keep experiencing the joy of photography and what it brings to me. I may not have a tangible body of work at the end of it but is that such a big deal?
Not to me.
I’m not suggesting that you fight to break out of your serious shell – if you have one at all, that is – what I’m asking you to do is grab a camera that liberates you from thinking about shutter speeds, exposure triangles and lens rendering; and just get out there and burn a roll with a smile on your face.
You may hate the results but at least you probably had fun along the way. And you never know, it might encourage you to appreciate a different aesthetic and approach.
A new film photographer will be with you the same time next week. In between now and then, I’d strongly recommend you to have a read of the first in a new series by Tom Rayfield on his journey with film photography in 2017.
Until next time, keep shooting, folks.
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