Film comes out of the fridge, with Ben Vine
"I recently "sacrificed" the vegetable section at the bottom of the fridge to make room for film"
Tell us about yourself.
I'm 43, I was born in Britain, grew up in Italy, studied in London and ended up in Madrid where I live and work. I spent a long time working as film maker for advertising agencies but now I'm trying to edge my way towards working full time as a photographer and visual artist. It's a long, slow journey but I do have my fair share of little breakthroughs.
When and how did the film journey begin for you?
It began when I was in my teens and a friend of my parents' told me to get rid of my focus-free 110 camera and get an SLR. But the truth is I only really started taking my photography seriously when a friend bought me a pro flickr account and I felt compelled to organize and present my work in a more structured fashion.
Up until then I had always been an "opportunist" photographer, shooting what happened in front of my eyes without giving it too much thought; after that I started going out of my way to give form to the ideas I had. It's only once I made the breakthrough of conceptualizing ideas then going out to shoot them that I really consider myself a photographer.
What type of film do you usually shoot and what made you choose it?
I have a deep love for Velvia and Provia film. Recently I've also been working a lot with Portra. I used to shoot a lot of Elite Chrome and cross process it but I'm running out of stock fast and they're no longer making the stuff. My fridge hardly has any room for food in it (I recently "sacrificed" the vegetable section at the bottom of the fridge to make room for film). I go to great lengths to get hold of expired slide film and rolls of 220 which I shoot like they were the last rolls I'll ever lay my hands on.
I just love the infinity of shades of blue and green that Velvia delivers. And cross-processed Provia film gives everything a wonderful greenish-blue hue yet keeps warm yellowish skin tones (see the picture of my son's hand on a piece of driftwood). I have nightmares about the day when my fridge runs empty of Provia.
What camera makes you click?
Since my camera dealer placed a Hasselblad 500 CM in my hands I haven't been able to put it down. It's my favorite camera by far. I don't give a damn how much the bloody thing weighs, she comes with me almost everywhere. The other camera that drives me insane is my RBT stereo. It's a custom job made by an engineer in Germany who slices two identical cameras in two, then splices them together to make a stereo camera. It's an unbelievable piece of kit!
Here are a couple of shots I took in the woods with my mother and my son fishing for tadpoles in a pond. They're taken on expired Provia film on Hasselblad using the 80 mm Planar 2.8 lens.
Between black and white and colour film which would you choose?
Colour, every time, hands down.
Even this early morning post-sónar festival snap taken on my Olympus Mju II looks stunning thanks to a roll of expired Elite Chrome.
What lenses do you use?
I recently spent a very long time hunting down a Carl Zeiss 50mm Planar lens for my Contax. It gives me superb sharpness and a bokeh to kill for. Mind you the 80 mm Planar on the Hassie isn't bad either!
I'm sure you can understand why I just adore the Planar lens, this was taken using a Proxar close up lens, which focuses exactly at 50 cm and blurs anything outside the focal plane. Once again, cross-processed Provia's bluish hue is mesmerizing while the yellowish skin tones retain their warmth.
Do you make any experiments on film?
I love to experiment on film, in fact I burn loads of film on trial and error. I find analogue experiments infinitely more rewarding than working in photoshop. On film you only get one chance, and it either goes wrong or turn out totally magical. I have two series on which I play with in-camera double exposures: "Second Sight" and "Twins". The former is a series of portraits shot on the Hasselblad over which I overlap a texture. The image that results from the interaction of the two images is often unexpected and surprising, I really use the whites in one shot to bleach out areas in the other one, and the blacks as a canvas into which to compose the second shot. Since you have to take both shot sequentially before winding the film on there's little opportunity for cheating.
A photo from "Second Sight" in which I overlapped a portrait of a friend of mine with vintage ceramic wall tiles in Lisbon.
And here I used the silhouette of the trees to cut into my self portrait. The results are always surprising and astonishing: there's no way I could have planned that branch on underlining my shoulder in such a way, nor could I have expected that tiny black dot in the previous photo to land exactly on Frank's pupil giving his glance such a strong effect.
Which brings us to Twins, a series of double exposures I shot with a Polaroid Spectra. There's a trick that allows you to shoot double exposures with this camera, all I had to do was flip the camera 180 degrees and shoot again. The expired Polaroid softtone film did the rest. Once again, there isn't a ounce of photoshop in any of these photos.
You can find Ben Vine here: