Film Photographer Interview | Hans-Peter Linz November 19, 2014 Kevin Lim on www.filmshooterscollective.com
1. Hi Hans-Peter! Tell us more about you and how you get to know about The Film Shooters Collective?
I work as an editor for a regional newspaper in the city of Wittlich. This is in the county of Bernkastel-Wittlich which has about 110,000 inhabitants. It is a rural area, which reaches from the Eifel region over the Moselle Valley to the Hunsrueck. There is a huge variety of land usage here. From agriculture in the Eifel, vineyards at the Moselle and down to the Southeast where there are large forests. There are plans to establish a National Park there as well. I myself live with my wife, Nadine, in Trier. Trier is the oldest city in Germany with 105,000 inhabitants and is in the Saar Lor Lux region in the west of Germany. That means that we have Belgium, Luxembourg, France within an hour’s drive. To Wittlich, I commute 40 kilometers. For me, journalism and photography are always connected. I worked after my schooling part time as a free lance photographer. In the year 2000 I became a full-time employed as an editor at our newspaper in Trier. So the main focus of my business was editorial work, writing and managing. But photography still was vital and essential for me as a way to express myself in a more emotional, aesthetic manner as apposed to writing articles. I started taking photographs with a 35 mm SLR in 1978 and changed to digital in 2002 because I needed this for work. After some years I was bored with the results. I read a book about creative photography from California based author and photographer Chris Orwig. He recommended getting the old film camera out from time to time - to have a creative alternative. So I put a film in my old Nikon F2, then I posted my results in social networks and after some time a Facebook friend recommended me the Film Shooters. And here I am.
2. Being an editor and photographer in your profession, you must be very critical of any photo that comes to you. How do you keep your own photos in check? Or do you just let your instincts take over and be free from your usual critics?
To be honest – “Two souls dwell, alas in my breast!” Well, that was Goethe - this should suit a German editor! If it was from Shakespeare it would also be appropriate for me. As an editor who was confronted over the years at the news desk (that was before I changed to the regional desk in Wittlich) with a flood of photographs every day from all over the world, I had to use very strict criteria as to which photo to publish. Of course there are rules on how to choose such pictures. They should tell a story and attract our readers every morning again and again. They should have a clear message and should be technically correct. Concerning my own photos, the criteria I choose are a little different. I am happy when my photos evoke an emotion within the viewer. It must not be such a clear message as it is expected in photojournalistic work. So I give my instincts a chance when I shoot on my own. In the second step, I show them in the FSC community and I am happy about critics, advice and an honest opinion about my photos. I try to isolate - to focus on a certain emotional message. So my aim is to make timeless artwork.
3. In your work, you should be very familiar about the advantages of digital photography. Why take to film when you could have the convenience of digital photography?
In my job I was able to observe the development of digital photography in newspaper making from the very beginning - in the late 1990s. I remember the first weeks when we had a Canon SLR with a built in Hard Disk (at that time there was no CF or SD card available for that camera). It had a capacity of about 200 exposures and was as expensive as a middle class car. We had only one, so our team shared it. And of course, the photographers fired all 200 exposures for one job! Then there was so much time spent finding the right ones and endless sessions with Adobe Photoshop. But after a while digital photography became more convenient and the results improved. But there was always the "sin of shooting as much as one can". So the results were Gigabytes and Gigabytes of pictures - which had to be edited and sorted out. It was kind of a mass photography - and I was right in the middle. And then came the time of HDR and panorama and Gigapixel photography. I must say that I never liked these fashions. I never liked to manipulate the pictures with the software (and in the pre-digital analog times I also did not like to manipulate with filters). I remember when these Cokin filters were so trendy ... A little contrast or saturation correcture is fine but I simply like a pure picture - as I also drink a Scotch Whisky pure, without ice. Of course one could argue, that a photo is always manipulated, that 125th of a second doesn't tell the whole story. But I think (and that is why I came back to analog photography) taking a picture on film is more honest, it is a more transparent process. If you take a photo analog, then you set rules that you can explain to your viewers. Your viewers can understand that with just a little of knowledge about physics, optics and chemistry. For example; If I shoot a roll of Velvia with the Hasselblad and the 80 mm, then everyone can understand that technique; the viewing angle of the lens, the colors Velvia produces, the resolution Velvia delivers. Within these rules I find my subject and my message. There are not millions of control panels where I can saturate, sharpen, enhance contrast or whatever. For me this way of shooting is more honest - and I also find that after all that it is easier. You have a corridor where you can express yourself and you know the limits, like resolution and viewing angle for example. So you have to be precise, to focus and to isolate on a message. When it comes to focal lengths, it is the same for me. Of course I enjoy an extreme wide-angle shot from time to time and I have my 20 mm lens for the Nikons. But most of all I like the look of a 50 mm . A light tele, 105 mm and a light wide angle is enough for me.
4. How has film changed the way you see the world around you?
As I grew up with film photography I knew the strengths and limits of film already. But I also endeavored the variety of digital photography. My impression was that it is a feeling that an artist must have who visits an artist shop - there is canvas, there are different colors, there are many techniques, paintbrushes, charcoal crayons, and many many more. And in this universe of variations one easily gets lost in the fashions of the time, like HDR or shooting panorama. When I came back to film again I had the wonderful experience of feeling grounded, feeling at home with a technique to take pictures that is simple and clear. So the mind focusses on the photo - and not on the technique. An artist in my hometown (a Lady who shoots black and white only) said once: “When you take the photo - it is done. Period.” I also dropped the zoom lenses, the extreme wide angles or the extreme telephotos. I enjoy mostly the WLF of my Hasselblad - if you look through it - it is simply magic and it forces you to compose something that makes sense.
5. Let our viewers know your favorite set up. What do you have there?
My favorite setup for my personal photography is the Hasselblad, 50, 80, 150 mm lenses and the Fuji X100 for the quick digital shots. I also use a Nikon FE with 55/2.8 Micro Nikkor, 50/1.2 Nikkor and 105/2.5 lenses when I want that special 135mm look. Then i take portraits with Ilford HP5 plus with its nice grainy structure. Occasionally I shoot polaroids with a Polaroid 340 Land Camera - in that field I am still experimenting. And yes - I admit, I am a collector. I simply like the beauty of solid mechanical items that are constructed for eternity (more or less). So I have some vintage cameras like the Zeiss Contarex, the Zeiss Contax, some old MF cameras and a Russian Kiev viewfinder camera. The bookshelves in our house have some nice decoration.
6. I see that you shoot mainly architectural and nature. What draws you to them? Is it difficult to draw people in Germany?
We have very high privacy rights here. So you cannot take photographs of people unless they are very prominent. We even have to pixel the license plates of cars in the photos that we publish in our newspaper. So mainly this is one of the reasons why I shoot more nature and architectural themes for the public. It is easier and doesn't create a big hassle. It is also an alternative from the daily newspaper work. But from time to time I love to shoot portraits of people who are related to me. For such opportunities I use the Nikon with the 105 lens in combination with the Hasselblad for full body shots - mostly in black and white.
7. How is the film photography scene like in Germany? Are there still photo labs readily available in the place where you reside?
There is a film scene in Germany but I guess it is not that vivid as in the United States, England or in Russia. But there are still shooters out there. In the city where I work, Wittlich, I once bought some new glasses in an optic shop. I chatted with the proprietor as he had an old LF camera in the window. And - what a surprise - he also shoots with the Hasselblad, black and white only, organized in the Internet in the German "Hassi Forum". So we became friends. In the town where I live, I found a guy who lives just at the other end of the city, with a fully equipped darkroom. I met him over the Ilford Darkroom Wanted Network. Close to my city there is no professional lab that processes analog, but the two main drugstore companies, "dm Market" and "Müller Market" are still develop analog. And there are several shops like these in our area. Müller even develops 120 E6 process and it takes less than a week to have them developed.
8. If you have to choose one camera, one lens and one film, what will they be? Also, is there any place you would love to go on a photography trip?
I would choose the Hasselblad, the 80 mm and a roll of Velvia. A place I would really love to visit for a photography trip, is Scotland. I visited Scotland only shortly back in 1982 when I walked the Pennine Way, and I still remember that area as very promising - especially the light - so different than in middle Europe.
9. Lastly, please share some advise to those who are contemplating to come into film but still reserved about the future of films?
I understand that people are reserved about the future of films - especially knowing that the big brands, like Fuji or Kodak, are going to stop production of some films. But if we do not shoot film, this process will increase. A fund raising project like Ferrania gives hope that there are other people out there who believe in film. And the best way to support that is to shoot as much film as possible. When there is a market - there will be film. It's that easy.