EMULSIVE | Aug 8, 2018 | 5
EMULSIVE interview #115: I am Robert Versteegen and this is why I shoot film
Today we’re very lucky to be able to sit down and pull on a few film photography threads with Robert Verteegen, Eindhoven, NL native and shooter of so-called ordinary things. One look at the images below and Robert’s website and you’ll see that they’re anything other than ordinary.
Over to you, Robert.
Hi Robert, what’s this picture, then?
RV: This is a reflection. It’s difficult to see what’s what, and that’s what I like about it. Actually this was from my second roll of film in medium format (120). I love to make complex compositions and don’t think about rules.
I follow my intuition. I click to create a latent image. I wait until the film is fully exposed and start to develop it with all the care I have. Once the film has been flushed and sees the light again, wow there are the results!
It’s an fantastic moment. Also my memory isn’t that good so it’s more a case of, “oh yeah, that’s what I shot”!
Most of the time I make several previews during drying… Sometimes I go back to a place several times before finally being able to shoot the right image, and sometimes I am just there, I look compose and click.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
RV: I am 53 years young and live in Eindhoven in the Netherlands. I was born here and have lived my whole life in this town.
I love music (old Jazz), art in general and photography specifically.
Why make shoot photographs simply because I can’t draw or paint. This…photography…is the only way I can express myself and I like it.
I’m an autodidact, I learned it myself more or less.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
RV: I started shooting film again after the “digital hype”. 2 years ago, I cleared the dust off my Canon EOS, bought film and a secondhand dark room, and began again. It took some time to get the right recipe for exposure and development with several types of films.
The driving force to keep shooting film is, a) it would be a pity if all the knowledge about this craftsman was lost and b) to slow down, take my time and not only click away but to make photographs in a conscious way.
Finally c) my fridge is full of several films and I must go on. This why I keep shooting film.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
I think the work of the late Saul Leiter at this moment in my photographic life, it’s he that inspires me the most.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
RV: Because I have 2 digital bodies and I didn’t throw them away, I work hybrid. I mainly use digital for my color abstract photos of graffiti details and for some family snap shots.
If I want to experiment, I start with digital because it’s a cost-effective way to do these experiments. For the rest I try to slow down and use analogue cameras in 35mm and medium format. I love to work with my 35mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.2 lenses on 35mm film.
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?
RV: The next step is to make some sort of logical series over a specific subject in the order of 5-8 analogue photographs in B&W. The subject is something I am still working on it. Lately I did some work on an old bridge with an odd house in the background. A main issue to improve is printing. I need to develop techniques such as burning and dodging but I will slowly get there.
Do you have a subject mater or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
RV: The ordinary things of daily life, these are attractive to me; an old washing tub in a harbor, just a single plant in a street scene.
I always describe it as. I can make beautiful pictures of ugly things, when things are pretty I can’t make a good image at all.
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?
RV: Than my Canon EOS 30 and the 35mm f/1.4 lens with 2 rolls of Adox Silvermax 100. This combination is flexible enough to meed several demands: working fast, quality results and low light environments. The 35mm is the main lens I use.
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?
RV: I would go to a big city like New York or Hong Kong with a rangefinder like the Mamiya 6 or 7 and a standard 75mm lens in my bag.
It’s easy to use, not heavy and versatile in many different situations.
The main subject would be urban or street photography. In a broader sense, I could also choose to do the tour of Robert Frank from the Americas again…could be very interesting.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
RV: I won’t use it, put it in the freezer for the future generation.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
RV: That it’s gone already!!!!
I think a big revival is going on with film photography. All the new techniques are evolving so fast…and I think a big part of the next generation will like it much like vinyl – take the retro way because it’s fun. It’s about being an amateur photographer, having fun in your hobby.
Secondly, I think that the quality of film and especially the dynamic range is a big help in making beautiful images.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
RV: It will stay as a small part of a market that is hopefully large enough to keep it alive.
On the other hand, as the next generation will experience, digital does not last forever. Where are all those nice pictures from my youth…the are gone in the cloud…gone…that awareness could be useful to keep film alive.
~ Robert Versteegen
I really enjoy Robert’s work. His reflections, interesting perspectives and occasional low shooting style speak too much of what I try to do myself, when I’m not messing about, and have inspired me to try harder.
I’m a strong believer in travel broadening the mind but at the same time, I’m also feeling the pull of photographing familiar places time and time again until I get the composition and light I want, or even finally land on an unexpected film choice that brings the two together.
Sadly, much of the style of urban environment I’ve found myself drawn in recent years to is quickly disappearing or has been totally levelled. With fewer “new” places to explore in my immediate vicinity, frequent returns to places I’ve visited before in order to find details I’ve missed are becoming events I look forward to, as I eek out every possible opportunity before moving on. Interesting aside: create a custom google map on your phone and tag place you visit with notes for future returns. I’ve found it invaluable,
“Look up, look down and look inside” seems to be my most recent motto. You’d be surprised at what I’ve found along the way.
Please take a minute to visit Robert’s website over at rv-photo.nl. There’s a wealth of wonderful images to feast your eyes on as well as a bit more about the man himself.
Thanks for reading and please take a minute to have a read of the suggested links below. If you have the time and inclination, please also take a moment to read a bit about Secret Santa 2016. Even more sponsors are being announced tomorrow and at the time of writing, we are creeping ever closer to the 350 participant mark. I’d love to see you join!
It’s just one week until the next film photographer graces these pages and whilst I won’t give away much, I will say this: now pay attention class, sit up straight and take out your pencils…class is about to begin.
Keep shooting, folks.
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