Interview with ROGER ROSSELL, SPAIN
I was never convinced by the surgical "perfection" of digital photography.
(Portrait taken by Anna Bresoli)
Roger, mind telling us about yourself and your story on how you got into film photography?
Roger : I am Roger, born and raised in Barcelona. I moved to Berlin in 2009 where I lived the last 8 years, now I am in between the two cities.
I grew up in an analog world, listened the music in cassettes and vinyls and made pictures on film. I took pictures all my life, but when I started taking photography more seriously I got myself a digital camera (at that time it was a brand new amazing technology), and even I have nothing against it, the feeling of shooting and processing the images was not as "magical" as it used to be. Choosing carefully every click, waiting to see the results, and also the aesthetics, I was never convinced by the surgical "perfection" of digital photography. Quite soon I bought a second hand medium format camera (Mamiya) and saw clearly I was more comfortable working with film.
I feel lucky for the fact I am old enough to have an analog background, but not too old to be comfortable with digital technology. I’ve been working for a long time with stage arts photography, contemporary dance, theater and performance, mainly with digital tools for practical reasons, but for my personal work I choose film, no doubt.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Roger: After trying many films and combinations with developers, I’ve been working for years with Rollei RPX 100/400, usually pushed 2 stops and developed with Rodinal, stand development. Lately I’ve been making my own Rodinal out of Paracetamol tablets (PaRodinal), and using also my home made fixer (TF-2) and I am very happy with the results of this combination. I love experimenting and trying out new films or developers, but that would be my favourite everyday’s recipe.
I work with several cameras, depending on the kind of image I am looking for. I shoot mainly with cheap cameras, specially with 35mm. Some 90’s point and shoot like the olympus mju (I already had one as a teenager), the previous Olympus XA or the Canon Prima 5. I also love my Revue AC-4, a German re-branded Chinon, that would be my usual SLR. I shoot a lot medium format, mainly with a Kiev88 and an old 1920’s Voigtländer Bessa. Anyway I am not a camera freak, I shoot with any camera that comes to my hand, and I also like to build my own cameras or to hack old ones. Nowadays I see many people too focused on the tool, and the camera is simply a way to achieve what you wants, just a part of the whole process of making a photograph.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Roger: What is important is the image, if it’s made with film or digital doesnt’t really matter to me. Personally I am more comfortable working with film, I like to have full control of the whole process, from the click to the print, and I enjoy much more doing it with my hands and chemicals than with a computer. I find it more organic, I can choose between different dilutions, different development or printing techniques to achieve the look and feel I have in mind, but again is just a personal thing.
I do think, though, the comprehension of the process of capturing light on a support is more clear working with film, I love the physicality of it.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Roger: Printing is for me a super important part of the photographic process, an image is not finished until you can touch it. Therefore, and accepting the fact I am a bit of a control freak, I do print my photographs. I love spending hours in the darkroom working with silver but I am also deeply in love with old printing techniques. For a few years I have been experimenting and working with beautiful non-silver processes, mainly gum ichromate, carbon transfer, cyanotype and gumoil. I can spend almost two weeks working on a single print, they are quite slow processes, but the control you have and all you can do with the images is simply amazing.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film?
Roger: My main motivation is the possibility of constant learning, I love to research and experiment, and playing with the huge number of variables of the process is just an endless source of fun.
I’ve definitely learned a lot and I keep doing it everyday. I’ve learned how to be patient, persistent and methodical in my working process, and also how to deal with errors and frustration.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Roger: Of course. The list here could be super long, but the first names that come to my mind are the classics: Steichen, Demachy, Stieglitz, Brassaï and of course Edward Weston one of my favourite all time photographers. In a more contemporary perspective, I love the work of Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, Antoine D’Agata, Ellen von Unwerth or the brilliant Elliot Erwitt (another all time favourite!).
I would love to mention a concrete project of a great Catalan photographer, Pere Formiguera. Many years ago I saw the exhibition of his project "Cronos" and that made me want to approach photography in a more serious way.
Do you see any value shooting with film?
Roger: Not by itself, it is just a personal choice. I see value and merits in making good photographs, how you make them is up to you.
What do you think your future is like with film photography?
Roger: I will definitely keep shooting with film, this is what I do, and I still have a lot to learn and so many things I want to try in every aspect of the process.
What’s your dream photography project?
Roger: Yes! I want to build myself a big (very big) format camera and make my own dry plates and prints everything from scratch. I already started doing some research and drawing plans, but it looks like it will be a long process and it will take time.
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?
Roger: Enjoy all aspects of the process, experiment, try out, fail, fail better and keep failing. Be patient and once you know how to do it just do it another way. It is a long way, take it easy and have fun!
Don’t focus too much on the gear, get yourself a decent camera and start shooting. You can easily be overwhelmed with all variables if you choose to develop and print by yourself, go step by step. Learn by doing!
Cheers for sharing your thoughts and these excellent set of photographs with us, Roger.
Roger is currently working on two new projects which will be followed by an exhibit. He keeps his hand dirty experimenting with organic pigments—which had good results using soot with the gum bichromate process —and now he's looking for stable colour pigments taken from fruits and vegetables. Interesting. Keep us posted, mate!
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Well now, if you are a passionate film photographer and would like to be interviewed? I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email at email@example.com with the subject, "Interview me", and share everyone your story, thoughts, and work related to film photography. I’ll get back to you as soon as I receive your request for an interview.
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