Every picture has a much larger value when it is on classic photo paper.
Petr, mind telling us about yourself and your story on how you got into film photography?
Petr: My name is Petr Borovec and I am an amateur photographer. I was born in 1966 and when I was a child film photography was still a part of everyday family life. Almost every family owned a camera, most often a twin lens reflex camera Flexaret of a medium format 6x6 cm. Films and prints were processed in the bathroom turned into a temporary darkroom. That was my first contact and experience with film photography. My father taught me the basics of black and white photography. Later, I turned to expert books and magazines, that were trustworthy and available. I took photos, developed films and made darkroom prints. Dozens and hundreds of them.
In the meantime I went to a vocational school, did my obligatory military service and started working. I worked various jobs over the years. I was a locksmith, a technician at a investment construction of a big industrial complexes, a taxi driver, an Area Sales Manager for an international manufacturing company, an official at a town hall and finally a worker for a Korean automotive company. When I was young, photography wasn’t considered to be a serious profession, that you could make a livig out of. It was the same with every form of art. To study photography was a last chance for those, who didn’t want to study or didn’t do that well at school. The general opinion was, that everyone can take pictures. I grew up during the communist era in a heavily industrialized city. And that’s why photography became just a hobby to me.
I don’t consider myself to be a professional even today. Photography isn’t my source of income, although it is my passion and it gave my life a meaning. I love those moments when I forget about all of my problems and become one with everything around me. And then I try to capture the beauty that I find, speechless and with joy in my heart.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Petr: At the moment I use 35mm films. Most often the Fujicolor Superia 200 and sometimes the black and white Ilford XP2 Super. Superia offers good results for a reasonable price. If it’s temporarily out of stock or over priced I settle for Kodak ColorPlus 200. I prefer consistency before experimenting with different emulsions, especially when it comes to more of a long term projects. Ilford XP2 is for me currently the only option for black and white photos, because of its developing process C-41. It’s quite convenient, although a bit expensive. That’s why I’m planning, since I have returned to black and white photography, to buy the equipment to be able to develop black and white photos in my kitchen.
I have two bodies of Canon A-1, one of them has Power Winder A. And I also have lenses Canon FDn 24/2.8, FDn 50/1.4 and Canon Zoom FDn 70-210/4. All of the equipment is about 35 years old, but it meets all of my needs and gives me enough freedom to focus on light, composition, colours...The control of my camera is fairly easy, intuitive and doesn’t require a lot of my attention. All in all the camera is very reliable, precise and not very noticeable at the same time.
When I returned to photography for the third time in 2016, I chose the 35mm format quite naturally. It’s been the favourite format of professional photogrphers for a long time. It has 36 high resolution images, almost perfect depth of field, easy handling of film, that is wrapped in light-tight cassettes and a wide range of affordable cameras, lenses and accessories.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Petr: For me film photography is better, because it gives me freedom, independece and stability. I can use any film that’s available and in that way change the possibilities of exposition and the look of photos in general. And I don’t need to use digital filters or spend time altering the digital data on computer.
I also prefer the unique character of film. Film photography has been perfected many years ago, but digital photography matched the full frame format of color film photography not so long ago. And that’s considering only the technical aspects and not the artistic value. But there is still the medium and large format film photography, that has unattainable resolution.
And when it comes to black and white photography, the advantages of film over digital are still remarkable. Lastly, film photography lasts longer, is easier to archive and is inedependent of modern technology.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Petr: I have my photographs printed in a lab only very occasionally. Because of my financial situation, I can afford to have only one film per month printed in a lab. I managed to find two local labs, that meet my standarts. I have the exposed color film developed and then scanned at 2300x3400 pixels on the Noritsu scanner. I can have the negatives scanned in a different lab as well on a Frontier scanner with approximately 20 megapixels resolution. Personally, I prefer the colour performance of the Noritsu scanner. I don’t have to edit the scans most of the time.
In a black and white photography, the situation is somewhat different. No local lab, that would develop black and white negatives and printed black and white photos, exists today. I’ll be happy, if I manage to start processing black and white negatives at home this year, so that I could have them scanned on Noritsu in a lab. The next step is to have a darkroom at home to develop films in. In the future, perhaps.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film? Have you learned anything about yourself through film photography?
Petr: Passion. Even though I logically know, that it’s impossible to reverse the massive trend that is determined by the big players in the market and which almost 10 years ago started the extinction of film photography, I want to return to the film in my heart.
I found the camera and the lenses I'm happy with. When I took 5D Mark III at my local store in my hands and looked into his viewfinder, I realized how luxurious the viewfinder and how inconspicuous my old A-1 is against the 5D. And I wasn’t impressed by the performance of autofocus in poor lighting conditions.
When shooting on film I don’t have to care about updates, I don’t have compatibility problems, I don’t have to fight a complex menu system or unnecessary features and buttons. I don’t need to recharge the batteries constantly, I don’t have a limited lifetime and product support or changes in the manufacturer's business plans. And I don’t have to get a new model every two years to keep up with the development.
Film photography also gives me much greater satisfaction with the mastering of photographic craft than digital technology could. And frankly, the great advantage of film photography for me is also its affordability. Whether it’s the prices of high-quality lenses and cameras, or the cost of film material, its processing and archiving.
In film photography, I have to put more attention into preparing before the shutter button is pressed. Whether it's about choosing the right film material, improving your ability to "see" the light and your art, set a suitable exposure, find a suitable motif and recognize the right moment. Faith, self-confidence, and secrecy are part of the creative process in film photography. And sometimes it is also a part of an unexpected result.
I'm back where I left the road years ago. I also want to go back to the medium format 6x6 cm and eventually take on a big format photography. I have understood how important to me and to my work independence and freedom are. Simplicity and lightness, simple light, shutter speed, f stop, ISO and the result.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Petr: In the past, I was influenced the most by the works of Czechoslovak photographers: Josef Sudek, Jan Sagl, Antonin Kratochvil, Josef Koudelka, Vaclav Podestat, Vladimir Birgus, Marketa Luskacova, Viktor Kolar, Petr Sikula, Karol Kallay and many others. And thanks to the Internet, after 2000, I was strongly inspired, for example, by the excellent work of Singaporean photographer Tay Kay Chin.
My style has gradually changed and evolved thanks to that. From the time when my photos looked like an imitation of their work until my own handwriting became apparent emerged. But I have no distinctive style. I look at how I feel at that particular moment or project. Sometimes I like to try out something new sometimes.
Do you see any value shooting with film?
Petr: The photography is drawing by light. Film photography is a light image of a part of reality acquired purely physical and chemical way by means of a photographic apparatus, whose actions are controlled by a persons. It can be an artwork. It has content and form, informative and emotional function, and records both visible and invisible reality.
The film is far more true, real, and permanent than any digital data. Every picture has a much larger value when it is on classic photo paper. And every piece of work has a much greater value when we use our knowledge, and experience to overcome some inconvenience and obstacles in the process.
The film, unlike digital photography, can be used even in the most difficult climatic conditions and is not dependent on the availability of electricity or on solar panels. You can be like Josef Koudelka and be from spring to autumn on the road, and in the warmth and comfort of your home during the winter you can process all of the films.
What do you think your future is like with film photography?
Petr: My future in film photography depends mainly on preserving the production of films, maintaining the functionality of my photographic equipment and the availability of used photographic equipment. Otherwise, my perspective on the future is quite optimistic. There is a revival of interest in film photography, Lomography, new projects are being launched (Intrepid, Reflex, Ihagee, Silberra), film production is renewed (Ferrania, Kodak Alaris) and there still are traditional manufacturers (Leica, Ilford, FOMA Bohemia).
On a personal level, I would like to bring film photography into professional photographic practice. I believe that honest film photography still can reach people who recognize its value. If I can do it, it depends on the opportunities that come to me.
What’s your dream photography project?
Petr: I don’t have a particular dream project. I recently realized that I was looking for ideas similarly to Josef Koudelka. I take the camera, I go out and watch where the photo is waiting for me. And if I find it, then I'll try to capture it. I won’t always manage to do that. Sometimes I know that "it" is somewhere there, but I can’t capture it so that I can be happy with the result.
I dream about my own photographic studio and that photography becomes my source of livelihood. At the same time, I have need to maintain a certain degree of independence and freedom.
Would you like to offer some good words to those who want to try film photography for the first time? What must they learn before venturing into this format?
Petr: It depends on what they expect from film photography. For those who want to try it out, for fun and experiment, Lomography is a good starting point. And for those who want to discover the secrets of film photography, recognizing its true value and possibilities, and learn the photographic craft.
I think they should start studying the theory thoroughly and constantly improving their photographic skills to achieve consistent results. Fully and with a desire that will change over time in passion. And, of course, they should have a reliable camera, preferably 35mm format, which allows manual exposure adjustment, a pair of prime lenses and a precise exposure meter.
Film photography is primarily a craft that can become an art after it is mastered. If you really want to learn this craft, then film photography for many of the reasons mentioned above is a better and less costly choice than digital photography.
Anything you want to add, Petr?
Petr: I am convinced that every obstacle allows us to grow. Without them, we would stutter mentally and physically. And that no failure is in itself a reason to give up on our dreams. If we acquire all the necessary knowledge about technology, process, content and form, we can start using them creatively and promote our photography to artwork.
Excellent set of photographs! We can't wait to see more of your work, Petr.
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Interview translated from Czech by Natalie Borovcova
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