In conversation with
Hi Sam, please introduce yourself.
I currently live and study in Braunschweig, Germany. I study liberal arts in a painting and photography class with art education as an additional qualification. I just returned from Japan where I had an exchange with a focus on printmaking and darkroom work. I have always been interested in analogue photography and when I finally ventured into analogue photography myself, with the encouragement of good friends, I could not go back to digital. For as long as I can remember, I have preferred to work with slow, old and perhaps somewhat strange processes. That has simply become my medium.
What does analog photography mean to you? What excites / fascinates you about it?
I think for me it’s mainly working with the material. In digital, a lot of steps are skipped and I enjoy working with the haptic. Holding more in my hand, taking small steps and being able to go in different directions again and again between the individual processes.
In your opinion, what are the advantages and disadvantages of analogue photography?
My advantages are clearly not an advantage for every person, but I enjoy the slow and the small. By limiting yourself in analogue photography, you give much more attention to individual motifs. The disadvantage is all the rubbish that accumulates, also in the form of chemicals, and the huge financial outlay. It is increasingly difficult for me to be able to afford to work morally and financially.
Do you concentrate on a certain topic in your work?
In my photography, I put the body and nature in relation to each other. I am increasingly concerned with artefacts, rituals, memories, imagined constructs and nature. Circuits, protective mechanisms, human rawness and the significance of places play a central role. Through planning and staging, the images are meant to feel both abstruse-extra-worldly and authentic. To enhance this feeling and expand the notion of photography, I experiment with various analogue developing techniques, post-colourisation methods and alternative as well as installation presentation possibilities. I often combine other media such as painting and sculpture with my photographs to further strip them of their reality and place them even more in my own imagined cosmos and context.
Are there (analogue) photographers who have influenced your aesthetic and approach?
I am particularly inspired by other photographers who also pull photography into a kind of mixed media and show that it can be something other than the picture on the wall. That is a train of thought that is becoming more and more important to me. People like Jordanna Kalman, Masao Yamamoto, Jamie Johnson fuel my desire to play with and question the medium. In addition, I am also moved by artists:inside like Ren Hang: people who not only have a unique visual language, but also fight or have fought for something far beyond the image. Even if it is small-scale and personal.
Do you have certain cameras and films that you prefer to work with?
My cameras change often, also because I like to take the chance to work with those of friends. But I always come back to my Yashica 124 and Canon 100, even if both cameras are really not in good shape anymore, I really like the blurred and often broken images. With film I’m not picky and if I’m not going for the cheap option I often choose the Ilford films because you really can’t go far wrong with them and I really like the contrast.
Speaking of films: What does your workflow look like?
Since I work mainly in black and white, I usually develop myself. First I scan the negative strips to have a first look. Then I digitally dust the finished picture. Sometimes I hand-colour prints, for which I use different colours: from watercolours and oils to old glaze paints. It is important to decide whether I want to make a darkroom print or a digital print. Depending on this, the choice of paper is different and is suitable for different colouring techniques. I usually colour the print by hand in several layers. Afterwards, I have to make a repro of the finished picture for documentation purposes.
What advice would you have for other photographers who are reading this interview?
It cost me a lot of time and fun in photography that I didn’t dare to do what I wanted, but rather what people were used to and wanted to see from me. I let myself be too committed to delivering something specific and was blocked by this for a long time. I didn’t like my own work because I realised in the process that I actually wanted to do something else. That’s why I would advise everyone: Dare to break out of your own bubble when you realise it’s time. It might upset people in the beginning and it might not be easy, but in the end it’s the best thing for you and your work.
If you publish your work on Instagram: curse or blessing?
Instagram, of course, offers the opportunity to be seen, to share and be inspired, to have an exchange no matter where you are. It also gives you the chance to discover and be discovered. But as I just mentioned, being in a bubble is also sometimes a curse. Suddenly seeing myself in a strange comparison definitely eats away at me. Especially since I work so slowly and don’t have as big an output of new work as others, I often feel very hung up, even though I keep trying to tell myself that I just have different processes. Still, it can quickly become overwhelming and also discouraging. I think each person can deal with that differently.
Which 3 photo books can you recommend / should you definitely own?
One recommendation I can make: Buy your friend’s photo books. Or art in general. No matter how many big or important names you have on your shelf, having the names of people you know and care about in your hands is priceless. Also to show each other how much you appreciate each other artistically.