Jens Kotlenga | Aug 7, 2018 | 1
I am Ioana Tăut and this is why I shoot film
I’m so pleased to be able to bring you the words and work of Ioana Tăut, set in the wonderful world of her instant photography.
Over to you, Ioana!
Hi Ioana, what’s this picture, then?
IT: I randomly refer to it as “Christmas over Göttingen“ because I took it on the 25th of December, while spending my first Christmas in Göttingen, by German customs. But maybe “Night over Göttingen“ would be better – I don’t know, I don’t normally call my photos anything.
I loved this photo the moment I peeled it from its negative, mostly because of it’s intense blue – a colour that I love – but also because of the contrast in it. The shaky city skyline gives it a bit of a nervousness or anxiety, while the blue, heavy clouds keep calm. It just speaks to me in terms of balance.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
IT: I don’t know… some things I’m still figuring out. But I feel like I am so many things, yet so little at the same time because I don’t know how to compress it all into a few words and a couple of sentences.
I am a Romanian music and fine art photographer, I lived in Prague for about two years and for the past three years and a half I have been based in Berlin, where I feel like I finally found my place in this world.
I left my home town when I was 18 years old and went off to a bigger city to study journalism. I’m a rebel. I am also what people would call “a lonely wolf”.
On a good day, I think of myself as a bit of an own hero, because I’ve always fought for the right to live life as I saw fit for myself, which wasn’t easy, yet totally worth it. I’ve done a lot of things, learned from my mistakes and my only regret is not buying tickets for The Cure concert, when they toured in 2016.
I love rain, cloudy days give me comfort and I really don’t mind if I’m not seeing the sun in weeks. Also, I’m a music junkie.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
IT: I started shooting instant film three years ago. I was at a couple’s place, whom I met during flat hunting in Berlin, when they showed me their Polaroid camera. It wasn’t even a fancy model, but a simple 600 type camera that didn’t even have any film inside. Yet, I was absolutely smitten just from holding it! I knew right away that I needed to have an instant camera.
I had a very shy start, opting for a Fuji Instax Wide, which is a very safe option primarily because of its super steady film. Soon enough I got bored of playing it safe and was a bit frustrated with the camera, because the flash that would go on whenever it felt like it, despite me turning it off manually. Five months later, I switched to Polaroid cameras and new, rather unpredictable Impossible Project film. Now, three years after starting this journey, I own nine Polaroid cameras and hundreds of instant photographs.
Shooting instant film brought a lot of magic and discipline in my life as a photographer, while also boosting my creativity beyond my wildest imagination.
First of all, I got instantly hooked on that exciting feeling of waiting to see how the photo turned out. I would be so incredibly excited and impatient to see what will develop and I am so very happy that, after all this time, I haven’t lost any of that joy and excitement. I mean, back then, the film was still quite experimental because it was this new company, The Impossible Project, doing it from scratch after Polaroid closed its last factory in the Netherlands.
It would take about 45 minutes for a colour film to develop and about 10 minutes for a black and white film – that’s a lot of waiting for somebody who’s connection to photography happened mainly through digital cameras up to that point. That’s also a reason why I felt so hard for this medium, because it was so different from everything I’d done before within the world of digital photography.
I started seeing things completely different through the lens of an instant camera. And I mean that literally, because I would look at one thing in reality and I’d see it for nothing more than what it was; then I’d capture it on instant film and it would suddenly become this new, other thing, with another existence of its own, with a different connotation and purpose. That’s exactly one of the messages that I was trying to show and share through my Piers series.
Instant film has this power of transposing everything into another atmosphere, it allows you to romanticize objects and ideas. This process has awoken so much creativity and curiosity within me and I can’t wait to see where it will lead me next. Besides this, it has also thought me a lot in terms of discipline and respect for my gear.
As a music photographer, I mainly use my digital camera and, especially in the beginning, I would treat my camera pretty badly because I would shoot A LOT at a concert. I would return home with around 1000 shots from just one band. Things improved as I would have more experience, but the greater change intervened once I started shooting instant film.
Regardless if you’re shooting the Impossible Project film (that comes in a pack of eight shots for 18 euros), or if you’re shooting the now discontinued pack film from Fuji (which only gets more and more expensive), you still want to be careful with how and when you use this film!
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
IT: At the time when I first started out as a music photographer, I would have these insane expectations from myself! I used to think that I need to do everything on my own, figure everything out by myself and not look anywhere else for inspiration or influence, except for within myself, otherwise, I would be cheating which would automatically diminish the authenticity and value of my work.
This was an ok way of thinking at that particular moment in time, because it pushed me to discover ideas or styles that would genuinely be my own. But in the long run, I came to realize that this was a downright stupid and destructive method/expectation. Later on, I realized how it stopped working in my favor and how it would lead me to isolation and ignorance if continued this way. So, I started being more open and aware about other people’s work.
I’m still very careful about what I like and whom I would call an influence. But to be fair, I don’t really think I have that, somebody who influences my work. If there is something I can point to for inspiration or influence, that would be music because that’s the main source of everything for me. I “blame” it all on music!
There are a few photographers out there, whose work I love and respect, but I don’t like to mix that up with the stuff I’m doing. There’s this artist, for instance, – his/her name on Facebook is “Eleven HM” – that does the most wonderful artwork out of instant photographs!
It never fails to impress me with his/her talent and imagination and what he/she is capable of turning photos in to. Then, there’s my favourite British duo – Trevor Crone and Graeme Webb – two wonderful photographers with great sense of humor, who work together on various series, which they then turn into these beautiful, limited, hand-stitched photo books that just scream authenticity and creativity!
I think that’s what I like the most in other people’s work: authenticity. None of the above mentioned artists are doing anything that I’ve seen or heard of before, and it’s so clear to me that their work reflects their own vision and take on things and that is so important to me.
Referring to music photography, there’s really just one photographer whose work I absolutely love and follow for many years and his name is Andrea Palmucci. He’s doing also other kind of photography, besides music photography, which I also love, but we connected over his music photography as that’s what we have in common.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
IT: I absolutely am one. You see, I was a teenager at the time when digital cameras became a thing in Romania and that’s what I started experimenting with. We had an old Zenit E camera at home and we often said that we would load a film in it and try it out, but that only happened much later. Then I went of to university where I studied journalism and where everything was digital. That was pretty much the cultural thing happening at that time, so I aligned.
During university is also when I discovered that I want to be a music photographer and I was, again, using digital camera.
I never really considered any other medium for what I was doing, because it was completely impracticable. I wouldn’t have all the manual settings and the comfort of a digital camera in an analogue one and the photos needed to be posted by the following day, so there’s no way I could have had them developed over night. So I kept using and investing in digital gear for my music photography.
Things changed majorly after discovering instant film and cameras as a medium. Within a period of three years, I went from using my digital camera for literally everything, to using it almost exclusively for my music photography. I don’t think it would go to any less of a usage than this, but I also, in return, started including the instant gear into my music photography. That’s how my other project, Instant Stage, came to be. On the other hand, my Piers series started off as an all instant project which ended up having digital equivalents of the instants.
By now, both mediums are equally important and present in my work, which is something I wouldn’t have seen coming some years ago. But as a rule nowadays, unless there’s a concert, I always have at least one instant camera with me. In the case of a concert, I would have both formats with me.
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?
IT: My next challenge is turning my Instant Stage project into a little photo book. It’s very exciting and a little bit scary, because I’ve never done anything like this before and until, let’s say half a year ago, I did not even dream of doing anything like this. I received a lot of positive feedback for this project and since I don’t envision putting any of these photos up for sale any time in the close future, I still wanted to offer people possibility of having something tangible from this series.
Regarding techniques that I would like to master in the next year, I have my mind set on learning how to recuperate negatives from peel apart films. I recently started shooting pack film – I know, it’s not the best timing, considering that Fuji has discontinued this film – and now that I have gotten comfortable enough with it, I find myself often wanting to play with its negatives. There are enough tutorials online and I have a rough idea how it’s done, I just need to order some of the stuff online and then start experimenting.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
IT: I do and it’s music photography. Music has always played a very important role in my life, it has helped me understand and go through a lot of things and changes, which is why and how I ended up photographing at concerts.
Being a music photographer lets me combine the two things that I like most, while also keeping me on my toes – which I love because I get bored quite easily. This will sound a bit contradictory, but my comfort zone is actually being a bit outside of the comfort zone, meaning that I normally like situations that are somewhat challenging, where I don’t feel like I have everything under control.
I kind of like new, slightly uncomfortable situations because that’s when I get to discover and learn new things. And concerts are often like this; every new venue has is different and so is pretty much every band. Otherwise, my motif is discovering ideas or feelings that define me and are part of my life and grow them into visual entities.
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?
IT: Ummm… this is a bit hard to answer when referring to an instant camera because they all differ so much and so does the film.
My favourite camera, among the ones I own, is the Polaroid SX-70 Land camera, model Alpha 1. I am fascinated by how it was designed and constructed, and I love that it has a manual focus. The only downside to this camera is that it only takes film with very low ISO (the current film has about 160 ISO), which makes it difficult to use it indoors.
Regardless, I would still refer to It as my main instant camera. My second option is my Polaroid AF Sun 660 – a typical square, box- shaped Polaroid camera that has the sonar feature for the autofocus. While I do prefer having the option to do the focus manually, I used this camera a lot when shooting inside or during night time for my Instant Stage series. The film has a much higher ISO (640) and the autofocus can also come in handy sometimes when I must be really fast.
…so, it’s not easy to choose justs one camera, but if I really had to, I guess I would go with the SX-70 and a pack of black and white, black framed pack of film because that is my favourite one and I really like the black frames – they can give the photographs a sort of depth. My second choice would be a pack of coloured film with white frames.
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?
IT: Imagining this is a bit painful, but I would definitely go with the long time discontinued black and white peel-apart film from Fuji, the FP-3000b Professional. And I would shoot it in my favourite place, which is Wolfsberg (Gărâna), a small place in the Carpathian mountains, in Romania.
It’s were the Gărâna Jazz Festival is happening every year, where I’ve been going for nine years now and where I can listen to wonderful music, meet very nice people, build friendships and do what I love the most: photograph.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
IT: Oh, these extreme questions… 🙂 In my case, it will be a pack of instant black and white film with black frames and because I would have 8 shots, I would use each one of them for photographing the following eight musicians:
Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Mike Patton, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie (I’d go to a different universe if I have to), Leonard Cohen (likewise), Tori Amos and David Byrne.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
IT: I think a lot of people quit the technique of analogue photography once digital cameras appeared on the market, thinking that analogue was now outdated and no longer worth it. And while it’s true that times have changed and everything is moving very fast and that there are fields where using analogue gears is no longer possible, like journalism for instance, this technique is not outdated, nor dead, nor pointless.
Shooting analogue still has very much to offer and to teach and refusing to admit this is a loss for everyone who thinks otherwise. Even if one is a digital photographer, shooting analogue will undoubtedly improve your photographing skills all together.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
IT: I don’t know, I’m not a fortune teller and I don’t like guessing. I think there will always be photographers who will understand and appreciate the importance and beauty of anything else but digital photography. While analogue photography has definitely regained some territory in the past years, I can’t tell for sure if it’s just a temporary trend or if it’s here to stay.
Reality and the decision of various film manufacturers to discontinue more and more types of film might be telling us something else. I don’t know, but I hope for the best!
~ Ioana Tăut
There are many things I don’t “get” in the photographic world, pinhole, portraiture and instant photography. I understand and appreciate them, I just don’t quite get how to create work I can be proud or happy with myself. That’s part of the process I guess, and yet another reason why analogue media will remain my home for as long as I can compose a frame and press a shutter button.
I truly admire Ioana’s work, especially what she’s chosen to share here from her Peirs and Instant Stage series (links above). Please do take a moment to check out her website and instant Instagram, as well as her digital music photography IG. If I’m still able to ask for a favour, please scroll up and take another wander through her interview. You won’t be disappointed.
As ever, another fresh interviewee will be up for your careful eye next week and in the meantime, who not head over and check out Phil Harisson’s review of 120 format Lomograhpy Color Negative 400, or the first part of my (unofficial) Hasselblad V-System Master guide?
Thanks for reading and as ever, keep shooting folks!
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