Felicitas Schwenzer
© Erik Gross
In conversation with

Felicitas Schwenzer

Hamburg, Germany

Hi Felicitas, please introduce yourself.

Although I come from the south of Germany, I have been living with my boyfriend and our cats in Hamburg, the city of my heart, for a few years now. I’m currently studying for a master’s degree in education with a focus on research and working on a research project at the UKE. In terms of time and resources, photography unfortunately often comes last – but mentally and emotionally it’s a completely different story.

My friend David has been taking pictures for many years and is still my personalized YouTube tutorial for all photography questions. He taught me the basics of photography in 2019, until at some point I understood what an aperture is again. At the beginning of 2020, I then got more serious about photography, that too from the beginning exclusively analog. Unfortunately, that was exactly when Corona hit the world, which of course slowed down my photographic process a bit.

What does analog photography mean to you? What excites / fascinates you about it?

Analog photography imposes a much-needed restriction on me. The limit of 10-12 images per film forces me to consider my compositions carefully, to conceive a set carefully, to think about it in detail beforehand, and to prepare and adjust to shooting. In fact, every image is planned in advance and realized more or less as I intended (as long as the anatomy and mobility of my models can handle it). I photograph each composition only once, and my goal is to have ten usable images among ten shots. I would never be able to make this cut digitally, because in my experience the photography becomes less precise, more careless, less clean. I can’t allow myself to do that in analog, which also makes each individual image more valuable to me.

It is also beneficial for my personal photographic “pride” or self-concept to know that a photo was taken the way I intended and because I executed it accordingly. If I took 700 pictures from a session and found ten good ones among them, I personally would not feel that these photos were created out of my photographic knowledge, experience or effort, but were accidental. It wouldn’t feel like “my” picture, but arbitrary and random.

For me, every analog photo involves a great deal of care, attention, planning, time, effort and, of course, cost. As a result, each image carries a special weight and value that I just don’t personally feel that way about digital photographs.

In your opinion, what are the advantages and disadvantages of analogue photography?

The advantages and my enthusiasm for analog photography have probably already emerged enough from the previous question. For me personally, the only disadvantage is the now ridiculously high film prices, which are actually no longer affordable. I never shoot more than two or three rolls during a meeting, but with color film, that’s the equivalent of about 80 euros. That is hardly affordable as a regular photographer.

Everything else (“You can’t see the photos during the shoot”, “You only have a limited number of pictures”, “Something can go wrong”) I personally wouldn’t call a disadvantage. In fact, I benefit from a lot of it, or rather, it makes up my way of working. And sure, I can accidentally open the back or drop the film open – but SD cards can break too. And from analog mistakes, something unexpectedly beautiful usually emerges.

Do you concentrate on a certain topic in your work? ​

In each of my photos are people depicted, another genre or subject I’m not even interested in personally. Portraits are part of my work, but the clear focus is on bodies, nudes, body parts, skin and sculptural compositions.

Are there (analogue) photographers who have influenced your aesthetic and approach?

Since he brought me closer to the medium of analog photography in the first place, taught me the basics and stood by my side during the first steps, of course first and foremost David Szubotics. Beyond that I experience inspiration by so many wonderful Fotograf:innen that the enumeration would probably speak each framework. But just to name a few: Chantal Convertini, Catia Simões, Shannon Tomasik, Hannes Caspar, Tia Danko, Erik Gross, Marit Beer, Anne (Kantorka), Ellard Vasen, Manon Deck-Sablon, Viktoria Andreeva, Mar Nadler, Nanne Springer, Lucas Cerri, 23h46min, Arnoldas Kubilius, Nanda Hagenaars, Juul Kraijer and Brooke DiDonato – promise, they are all worth at least one look!

Do you have certain cameras and films that you prefer to work with?

I prefer to shoot with my Mamiya RZ67 and the 110mm/2.8 lens. I usually use a roll of Ilford HP5 with it, and when film prices and availability allow, I also like to use a CineStill 800t. For some compositions I find a square format more suitable, then I reach for my Rollei or Hasselblad.

Speaking of films: What does your workflow look like? ​

When I get home from taking pictures, there’s just enough time to take off my shoes. Then I disappear with the rolls into the storage room, develop the black-and-white films, hang them in the drying cabinet and sit like a child in front of the cake in the oven until the negatives are dry and ready for scanning. While scanning and processing the images, I usually run cinematic masterpieces like Deep Blue Sea, Stark Night, or 47 Meters Down (as long as it’s something with sharks or deep sea) and often sit up until late at night working on the images. I give color films to the photo lab Jan Kopp in Hamburg for development, who reliably have my negatives ready within an hour and thus also serve my impatience quite wonderfully.

In post-processing I use Lightroom for color, light and contrast adjustments, Photoshop for image retouching. Since I prefer a very clean image look, I clean up a lot in the background, remove electrical outlets, baseboards, window sills. On my models I work less radically, here I remove protruding hair, small skin blemishes and laser (with consent) also the one or other tattoo. Behind further changes to the bodies (make something taller / smaller / thinner / wider / longer / shorter) I could not stand and therefore do not take them.

What advice would you have for other photographers who are reading this interview?

Don’t be afraid to take pictures. Nothing bad will happen if one, ten or even a hundred pictures go wrong. This is the only way you can learn, develop a routine and serenity, and find out what you like in your pictures and what makes them.

Even if you feel more comfortable behind the camera, I think it’s important to get over yourself to model once in a while. I think you also benefit from the change in perspective as a Fotograf:in, as it helps you develop a sense of your models’ needs and better understand how to make the environment and interaction comfortable and how to communicate instructions and compositions in a way that is understandable.

Get in touch with other photographers, get in touch and exchange ideas with each other and above all: take pictures together. It can be incredibly enriching to observe other photographers at work and to get to know their approach. Of course, you can exchange ideas about techniques and processes and take them with you for your own photography, but often you will also feel confirmed in your own way of working and realize that not everything that works for others is suitable for your own photography. In addition, it’s just a lot of fun.

If you publish your work on Instagram: curse or blessing?

Most definitely: both. It can be seriously devastating when images are deleted from Instagram, whether immediately or after weeks. Especially the reasons are hair-raising and additionally hurtful, because one’s own work is assumed to be sexually connotated, too erotic or inappropriate – characteristics that I neither recognize nor want to convey in my photographs. Similarly frustrating is when the reach is visibly limited, Instagram’s opaque handling of the shadowban or other feints of the algorithm.

I also often struggle when images don’t get the response I would have expected or wished for – especially since in these cases it’s almost exclusively photos that show, for example, male-read or bodies that aren’t judged as norm-beautiful. Then I get annoyed because our learned perception of “beauty” apparently plays a greater role than the image content, implementation or composition, and the evaluation of a photo as good or appealing still seems to be limited to factors such as gender or body shape.

On the other hand, despite all the frustration, Instagram is a source of inspiration, sharing and connection. Naturally, it provides a platform to share work in an extremely low-threshold way with a wide reach. I receive a lot of feedback, warm words and am in exchange with so many inspiring and creative people, which I experience as very enriching. Almost all photographic contacts have been created and grown through Instagram and I have not only been able to discover talented artists:inside, but also develop real friendships that have made the leap into real life. People who now sit on my couch in sweatpants, with whom I go on vacation, go to concerts, and of course take photos together, and whom I would never have met otherwise.

Which 3 photo books can you recommend / should you definitely own?

“Permeable Membrane” (Chantal Convertini), “Masculinities” (Alona Pardo) and of course “of Corse”, the catalog for our exhibition at KBHGeiger in Basel.

Thank you so much for your time!



Mamiya RZ67, Rollei SL66, Hasselblad 500cm


Ilford HP5, Cinestill 800t, Kodak Portra 400

Farbe & s/w

Color & B/W

Selected works

© Felicitas Schwenzer
© Felicitas Schwenzer
© Felicitas Schwenzer
© Felicitas Schwenzer
© Felicitas Schwenzer