Interview with TIM VERHEIJEN, THE NETHERLANDS
I do not think I will ever have the time to stop shooting film.
Mind telling us about yourself and your story on how you got into film photography?
Tim: I am Tim, a Dutch 20 year old full time student, and next to that I enjoy shooting film.
A few years ago, I managed to get my hands on some old medium format cameras. They were from the 1920s and early 30s, and most of them were these super simple cardboard boxes with a single hole in them- no aperture settings, and fixed shutter speed. Even though they weren’t the best cameras, they still worked and produced some decent images. And then to think someone, almost a hundred years ago, used them to take pictures of their dear ones or perhaps their dog!
At the time, I knew nothing about photography- let alone film. The journey was great, however, and absolutely got me hooked. Not much later I bought myself a Pentax ME SLR and a cheaper Polaroid 1000 (the EU version of the OneStep).
Photography is like meditation for me. Looking through the viewfinder, taking it all in and debating the picture, to ultimately hear that satisfying clank when the shutter button is pressed. It keeps me busy constantly, looking for potential subjects or thinking of ideas for new shots.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Tim: I am someone who holds colour very dear- although some other photographers may argue that colour prevents the image from telling its story. Perhaps it’s because for the past few years I have mainly shot Polaroid. It is something about Polaroid photos, that magical feel, that give their colours such a great look. I enjoy looking for interesting colours and trying to get a good picture out of them. Now, I have five Polaroid cameras with which I love to experiment. I’ve been lingering toward the abstract and Polaroid has been my main format for that.
Next to Polaroid, I also shoot 135 and 120 format. 135, for which I use a Pentax ME SLR, I mainly use for quick shoots, like street photography or holiday pictures. Its small size and easy handling make it a very pleasant camera to shoot with. My medium format Mamiya RB67 Pro is big, clunky, and slow in use, which makes me use it in slower and planned shoots. It’s like meditation for me: looking down the waist level viewfinder, framing the picture and pressing that shutter button. It sometimes can take me minutes to decide whether I’ll even take the picture.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Tim: Like I just mentioned, I can sometime take ages debating a single picture. I think that is the beauty of film photography, being very limited. With Polaroid, you only have 8 shots (if you’re lucky to have a freshly loaded pack of film in your camera). Rarely I take with me another pack, often leaving me with the few shots left in the camera. That way, I force myself to reconsider every single shot. This might be the same old argument you’ve heard plenty of times, but I think it’s very true. When you are limited to only a few shots compared to a few thousand, you’ll end up with way more ‘good’ (which, by the way, is a completely abstract term) pictures.
Other than that the whole process of buying film to loading it and getting it developed I think is amazing. With digital photography, you may count the bits and bytes on an SD card, but with film you actually see, smell and feel the photos become alive. There’s nothing like overloading your shelves with negatives and prints up until the point your house has turned into a big storage room! Oh well, perhaps digital has its virtues.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Tim: Since I’ve shot almost exclusively Polaroid for the past few years, it hasn’t been worth it for me to develop my own film. After all, the beauty of instant photography lies within the word ‘instant’. However, since I have bought a new medium format camera, I’ve been starting to shoot more 135 and 120, and as a result I have become very eager to start developing my own film.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film?
Tim: There’s just so much to discover in the world of photography (not just film photography). The world is so big and the creativity of people can be endless! Before I would even think about stopping to shoot film I should have experience in each film format, and each different film brand and type I should’ve shot at least a dozen times. Moreover I want to capture all corner of the world. Having just said that, I do not think I will ever have the time to stop shooting film.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Tim: I don’t really pursue any other photographers as I want to find my own way in doing photography. I do, however, get inspired by seeing the work of others, so in a sense I think you could say I do get influenced by other photographers. Ryan Muirhead, for one, is an amazing portrait photographer. If you haven’t heard of him, please check him out- his photos are out of this world. He absolutely has me more interested in portrait photography than I was before I knew of his work.
Do you see any value or merit shooting with film?
Tim: I think shooting film to start with photography is a great way to learn. Most analogue cameras are at least in some way manual, forcing the user to learn how a camera works and how they can influence the camera to produce the result the user wants. It’s a big step away from the big market in digital cameras, which often get mistreated by using them in full auto mode.
What do you think your future is like with film photography?
Tim: I hope film will keep existing, at least in my lifetime (Fuji I am looking at you. Stop discontinuing film.).
Although it’s hard to predict the future, I don’t think I’ll ever stop shooting film. It has become a big part of my life and I do not see that going any time soon. At one point I hope to be shooting large format, with my biggest dream being 20x24” Polaroid, in some beautiful snowy landscape or in front of some very interesting faces. Regardless of whether that dream will come true, I think I will stay close to colour film.
What’s your dream photography project?
Tim: Well, sort of already went over this. If anything, I would love to shoot large format in a dreamlike foreign area. I would love to go through the pain of carrying a huge camera to the top of a mountain or another landscape to capture the prettiest places on earth.
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?
Tim: Don’t be afraid about messing up your shots (I still fail so often) and SHOOT MANUAL- at least to some degree. Get to know your camera and how cameras work in general. It’s a great journey and you won’t have to study from textbooks, since you’ll simply learn from shooting and your mistakes.
Tim runs a chat group on film photography on Kik, where they talk about their experiences, gear, their photos etc. The handle is photography_film, so if you feel like discussing film make sure to drop by!
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject, "Interview me", and share 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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