Interview #161: I am Toby Van de Velde and this is why I shoot film
Hello and welcome to another fresh EMULSIVE interview, today with Toby Van de Velde, freelance photographer based in the south of England. I’ve been waiting for this one for a while, so I’m going to hand straight over.
Here we go…
Hi Toby, what’s this picture, then?
TV: This is a picture I took in London earlier this year. It is a double exposure of Sicilian Avenue and St George’s Church, both in the Holborn area.
I took it with my Billora Bella 44 using Kodak 400. I love hacking 35mm film through 127 and 120 cameras…
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
TV: I am jobbing freelance ‘tog. I have been a shooter for 13 years, mostly for local newspapers, but nowadays I will take pics of whatever I am paid to photograph. It’s a great way to earn a living.
The preceding 11 years I was a process technician at a number of pro labs around London. I left lab work to be a photographer as the digital revolution left the industry withering.
Off duty I shoot film for the fun of it.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
TV: As a kid in the mid 1970’s, I had an old Box Brownie, a Disc Camera, several compacts.
When I landed in 6th form (1987), not sure what I was going to do next, I had a go at photography and loved it. My first SLR was a Canon AT-1 (which 30 years later I still have and regularly use).
I was happy shooting on 35mm for many years, I acquired a Hasselblad and the 6×6 format size really blew my mind but I was intimidated by it and didn’t really use it to it’s full potential for a long time.
Nowadays I shoot film as an antidote to the day job. When I have to produce sharp, in focus, well exposed digital images for my clients, a bit of film wrecking is a great antidote to ‘perfection’. I am very happy that my day job is also my main hobby, I live and breathe photography. It’s a way of life.
I have several different format film cameras, and try to use each one in turn. One thing I try and avoid is having cameras that I don’t use. There’s no point to me in having a camera and not using it. All of mine are runners and get a good go regularly.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
TV: Mr Crust and Mr Tombs, my high school photography teachers. Dave and Ken taught me the basics in camera handling and darkroom work and I have never forgotten the lessons they taught me. They really were called Crust and Tombs.
There are so many photographers that inspire me to shoot, a lot of them are contacts on Twitter and Instagram, globally it’s amazing to see what people are doing with their cameras.
Social media aside: Sebastio Selgado, Robert Mapplethorpe, Henry Cartier Bression, Martin Parr are a few. The work of Sir Simon Marsden really drove me to get my own infrared camera (a converted D90) and I was reading Christopher Schmidtke’s review of Rollei’s Infrared 400 on the EMULSIVE website and eyeing up my Hasselblad only the other day…
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
TV: I enjoy scooping up one of my cameras and just going out to chase light.
I tend to shoot film for a while, then, when I have a few rolls in hand I send them away to the lab and I shoot digital until they come back. I then digitise the negs and the whole process goes full circle, my Instagram / Twitter / Flickr / Blog posts swing from film images to my digital IR work, then some digital LensBaby ComposerPro work, then back to film work again. The catch on the door of my beloved Nikon F100 is broken – once I get around to getting that fixed I will shoot LensBaby pics on film. Probably in redscale…and cross processed.
On a family holiday I will always pack a film camera (sometimes two, depending on space and weight) to go away with me for ‘special’ images, limiting myself to one or two rolls so I don’t get carried away and end up just ‘snapping’ the rolls away without consideration.
On family occasions I will use a Nikon P7700 for casual photography. If I am going somewhere I think I may get a portfolio shot I will lug my D810 along, quite often to the exasperation of Wife and Daughter. (Cries of ‘Come On Toby/Dad! Get a move on are the most commonly heard sounds on a family holiday)
I am also experimenting with cyanotype and pinhole photography this year. Cyanotype being much more convenient as it doesn’t need a safelight. I stuck all my cyanotype work into a sketch book last month – having an actual portfolio of that work is very satisfying both to look at, but also just to hold in the hand physically.
I would recommend to everyone reading this to make the effort to get their pictures printed!
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
TV: Owning three hounds means I spend a lot of time dog walking. I tend to end up shooting whilst out with them quite often (not always easy with leads and cameras in the same hands), and that means forests and fields quite often. I enjoy that agricultural and nature photography but sometimes end up feeling like I’ve overdosed on it and crave change.
Getting out on my own, or with a like minded friend, and shooting some architectural stuff I enjoy. Buildings appeal more than classic ‘street’ photography, probably because I shoot people so much when I’m at work.
My favourite cameras are all ‘old’ from the 1980’s, 70’s, 60’s, 50’s, and so I always feel that they work best with subjects that have either a ‘timeless’ feel: forests, fields, beaches, or are ‘vintage’ for want of a better word: classic vehicles, crumbling brickwork, ruined castles and turn of the previous century’s buildings.
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?
TV: Without hesitation it would be my Hasselblad 500C and 80mm lens. The sturdy robustness of that particular camera, plus it being mechanical and battery independent, makes it a solid reliable tool with a lens I cannot fault.
I happen to have some ILFORD Delta 3200 Professional and Delta 100 Professional knocking around at the moment so those two to have a choice in varying lighting conditions – and for the grainy or smooth rendition option.
I know I could take colour film and print it out monochrome, but, keep it simple, keep it classic.
Also, my Hasselblad is alway prepped and ready to grab go, so I’d be ready in under the two minute warning and able to breathe deeply and compose myself for the job.
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?
TV: The cop out answer to that would be ’The World’. Travel globally and shoot everything, with a variety of films that local conditions would dictate. Or maybe Space? I have the Hasselblad already.
To be more specific, over the last few years I have travelled to Scandinavia a few times, and fallen in love with the whole region. The light in Iceland a couple of August’s ago was some of there purest I have shot in. Photo heaven.
So, the Scandinavian countries, with a medium format and 35mm camera working as a pair. And film? Those rugged fjords, mountains, volcanoes and icebergs deserve only the best in monochrome film.
…Do I have to commit to one manufacturer?
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
TV: I would like to try infrared film, so probably a 120 roll of Rollei Infrared 400 as I have yet to give that a go.
With an IR72 filter on a beautiful summer’s day to get the maximum effect from the sun’s rays.
In ruined castle, deserted, no people around, just white grass, black skies and crumbling stone 100’s of years old.
Why? As a homage to the man who first inspired me to shoot IR, Sir Simon Marsden.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
TV: That film is no longer manufactured. I get asked ‘Do they still even make film?” all the time.
The wealth and choice of film choice available today needs to promoted wider and wider all the time.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
TV: Cameras, their maintenance and even their continued production.
There must be 100’s of 1000’s of classic cameras globally that need a service. Over the next decade the people who traditionally have serviced and repaired film cameras will need to pass on their knowledge to a new generation of camera technicians otherwise there may well come a time when there’s no-one left to keep them shooting.
Classic cameras aside, the production of new models. Not just the toy camera market or the ‘Uber luxury’ market, but solid, reliable day to day cameras. The equivalent of workhorses such as the Olympus OM, the Canon and Nikon SLRs, rangefinders like the Voigtlander Bessa models.
Also medium format models, Imagine a new production run of a medium format rangefinder like the Plaubel Makina or the Voigtlander Bessa III??
Film is (fairly) cheap and easy to acquire. What if in 30 years time we all have to make our own cameras?
~ Toby Van de Velde
I’ve decided to pick on Toby’s comment, “The wealth and choice of film choice available today needs to promoted wider and wider all the time.” above for this week’s outro. If you’ve been paying attention, we’ve had two new films released or announced in the 24 hours preceding this interview (Silberra’s ~7 new films and two from Dubble), which brings the total to around a dozen new films announced or released this year alone. It isn’t a new golden age for film, as I’ve said numerous times before but it is something better, a refocused re-emergence with a focus on quality, artistic expression and CHOICE. All we need now is a new film camera and the renaissance of film will have truly begun.
A huge thanks to Toby for stepping up and please, please make sure you check out his website, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And with that, it’s time to sign off. Thanks for reading and as ever, keep shooting, folks.
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