more in touch with the art form...
By Jacob Stordahl
Greetings from Analog Revival! We are finally done with our first feature, and it is a good one. So here it is, Exclusive film photographer, Dan Domme, Enjoy!
When you look at Domme's website, the first thing that comes to mind is the simplicity of it all. This is not to say the layout is easy to navigate, but the simplicity of his work is effortless and beautiful. Every photo is of a very normal and average setting. This is what makes his work so intriguing. The simplicity adds to the emotions of every image. For instance, in Domme's "Dogs" collection, when you view the images, you can feel the excitement and energy, rush over you, as if you were playing fetch or walking that dog in the image. The simple and natural composition of every image make them very real and relate able. This, along with Domme's commitment and integrity to the film medium, makes him one of our favorite photographers, here at Analog Revival. We asked Dan some questions about his experiences and opinions and here is what he had to say...
Q: Do you remember what the very first film camera you ever used was?
A: Of course. When I was a kid, my dad bought me a 110 format Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles camera. I took it on a lot of field trips in elementary school. After that, it was a Kodak Advantix point-and-shoot, which was really fun, because you could select the aspect ratio for each picture. They were oddball formats, sure, but I never really cared about the picture-making process until I returned to film again. I should also mention, though, that while I was using these cameras, my grandfather had a Canon AE-1. I didn’t know much, but I understood that it was a much better camera than the ones I was using.
Q: How did you start to get into photography as a career?
A: Well, it’s definitely not a career. In fact, I get almost no money out of photography. I’m one of the lucky ones who aren’t doing this as their primary means of making a living. I’ve never really sold prints, and I only get a paying gig once in a blue moon. I used to lament it, but now I see it as being free to make the photographs that I want to make instead of potentially tarnishing the art by having to churn out a regular product.
Anyway, to answer your real question, this “serious hobby” of mine started after I could finally afford a DSLR kit in 2008. SLR cameras were still the things that set you apart as being serious about photography, at least in my mind. I used it quite a lot and learned my basics—exposure, composition, lighting, focal lengths, and so forth. The one thing I will grant to the digital camera is that it makes it remarkably easy to learn these things when you’re just a novice.
Q: Why did you choose to stick with film instead of “going digital”?
A: Well, after shooting digital for a while, I realized that I wanted all my photographs to have a certain “look” to them, and there was an online tutorial that really nailed one of the looks I was going for. They gave a recipe for what was known as a “Lomo” look, and within five minutes of searching on Google, I had been exposed to cross-processing and cameras like the Holga. I kept shooting digital, but a serious film itch had started. I finally caved and got a Canon EOS 35mm SLR, and my first roll through it was Kodak Elite Chrome, which I promptly had cross-processed. That was the beginning of the obsession, because soon enough I was trying a medium format TLR and ordering the darkroom supplies necessary to start developing my film over the kitchen sink.
Q: What are the advantages of shooting film, instead of digital?
A: Well, there’s something for everyone, really. First off, it can be far cheaper to shoot on film instead of digital. Sure, you have to pay money for every new roll of film and all the processing costs, but the cameras are dirt cheap, and really, there’s no reason to buy more than one. You might spend a couple years looking for that perfect film camera, but it will never become obsolete or have drivers that are incompatible with your computer’s new operating system.
Then, there’s the tangibility factor. Loading film takes time, money, and effort for each new roll. If you’re shooting black and white, then the processing of the negative takes patient (or impatient) minutes spent at your sink of choice. But it pays off in the end, since you get a sheet of negatives that cannot be destroyed by a mere hard drive failure, and photographs that exhibit the degree of effort that went into their creation.
Finally, there’s the work that’s involved. I’d much rather agitate a film tank than adjust a slider in Photoshop. Software has a small role in the film photography process, and my body is grateful that I’m spending less time at the computer. In fact, especially with color film, you can simply choose to ignore the hard work and let a photo lab handle things like color correction and proofing. If you’re shooting for clients, there’s no real difference in your price tag, because what they would have paid for the hours spent slaving away in photo editing are simply charged as a fixed lab processing fee.
I haven’t even touched the more technical aspects like dynamic range and resolution. But film wins there, too.
Q: Out of all of the locations you have shot at, which has been your favorite?
A: I love visiting new cities, and while I love the closer proximity of the metropolis that is New York, I’d say that some of my favorite photographs came from a trip I made to Seattle. The character of the Pike Place Market is something really unique, and I never had a dull moment there.
Q: Do you have a favorite format of film?
A: To be honest, not really. Everything has its pros and cons. 35mm is awfully convenient, and I use it whenever I might want to show the grit of film grain. You’re never really going to have a chance to showcase grain in larger formats. Many 35mm cameras are also excellent for street photography. 120 can yield a step up in terms of quality, and I’m a real sucker for the 6x6 square format, whether the image in question was made with a Holga or a Hasselblad. 4x5 is a completely different animal, but I find it’s the best way to make portraits. The slower, more methodical process of setting up a shot is great for getting the best out of a human subject.
Q: How about a favorite brand of film?
A: Again, it depends. I think for black and white, I’m almost always going to want to shoot Ilford, but Kodak Tri-X will always have a place in my bag as well. Color negative is no contest, because I love each one of Kodak’s professional offerings, Ektar and the two Portra films. Fujifilm gets some of my money, too, since they produce the last E-6 films. (I prefer Provia.) I also shoot the occasional peel-apart instant photo, and Fuji is the last supplier there, too.
Q: If you could only shoot with one of the cameras in your collection as of right now, which would you pick? Why?
A: Probably the Hasseblad 500 C/M. I would still want a lot of versatility, and I know the Hasselblad could handle everything from street photography to fine portraiture. You also get the added bonus of the killer Zeiss optics that makes all the resulting images scream “Hasselblad.” As a matter of fact, the last time I checked, about half of my top photos on Flickr were shot with the Hassy.
Q: Who would you consider an inspiration of yours?
A: For street photography, I consider Garry Winogrand to be the undisputed master. He taught me that it wasn’t just about capturing a specific moment, but revealing scenes from the world in a way where you could inject something personal and produce something, say, witty or sardonic.
The world of portraiture has many more candidates. I’m very fond of the work of Dan Winters, and I consider Chris Buck to be a personal inspiration. Buck in particular, because he’s got a sense of wit—a different flavor than Winogrand’s, but it’s still there. I’m sure there are other portraitists who have influenced me as well, but those immediately spring to mind.
Q: Do you have any tips for people trying to get into photography?
A: Practice is one of the keys to getting successful in terms of making striking photographs. In 2010, I did one of those 365 projects, where you take a photo a day for a full year. I see so many people who try one struggle with it, like each photograph has to have a distinct purpose. As if a photograph could fully encapsulate what it means to live on this particular instance of May 21. Really, though, it’s a project about discipline and practice. If you keep it up, then by the end of that project, you’ll know your equipment inside and out. You’ll have a better understanding of composition and whatnot. And with any luck, you’ll be able to look back on everything and start to see your own personal style evolving.
By the way, that’s another thing: print your photographs. I decided very early on in that 365-photo project that I was going to put everything into one-off photo books. Photos simply aren’t finished until they’re printed on paper. Silver gelatin darkroom prints are one of the best (and simplest) ways to print, but even if it’s getting your scanned negatives printed at your local pharmacy, just put it on paper. Hang it up if you like, or relegate the prints to a binder, but don’t settle for a post on Flickr or Facebook. Like I said, isn’t there some value in having something tangible?
Q: How about people who shoot digital, but haven’t tried shooting film yet?
A: It’s very easy and cheap to get into film. Yes, you have to pay for film and processing, but the cameras are dirt cheap. If you’re used to using a DSLR and want a comfortable transition, one of the later-model Canon EOS film cameras or the automatic Nikons will offer you a forgiving learning curve. If you would rather see some of the more extreme things film can do, get a Holga or, if you can afford it, spring for a cheap old Polaroid camera and some Impossible Project instant film. You’ll get some killer photographs that way.
Or maybe there are digital shooters out there who think film is somehow inferior. All I can say is that you have to try it before you can dismiss it. I tried it, loved it, and after a while, I ditched the digital camera for good.
Domme included a list of his equipment he uses regularly, and here it is...
Cameras (listed alphabetically):
- Hasselblad 500 C/M
- Holga 120N
- Konica Auto S2
- Nikon FE2
- Olympus Stylus
- Olympus Trip 35
- Polaroid 230 Automatic Land Camera
- Polaroid Impulse AF
- Polaroid SX-70 Sonar
- Polaroid Spectra
- Toyo D45M (4x5)
- Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim
- Yashica Mat-124G
24mm f/2.8 - Nikon AI-S
135mm f/2.8 - Nikon AI-S
80mm Zeiss CF T* - Hasselblad
210mm f/5.6 Schneider-Kreuznach Symmar-S - 4x5 large format
152mm f/2.8 Komura - 4x5 large format
Nikon SB-26 (2)
Nikon SB-26 (2)
These were our top ten photos by Dan Domme in no particular order
Here are some words from others about Dan's work
Go check out Dan's work and support him!