The Visual Metaphysics of Thomas Sandberg: On Film (3)

The Visual Metaphysics of Thomas Sandberg: On Film (3)

© Thomas Sandberg. All rights reserved.

© Thomas Sandberg. All rights reserved.





Knut Skjærven:

You are a film shooter. Many would say that you could make life much easier for yourself by going digital and yet you hesitate. I have heard you say that the camera is not only a service tool but that it also creates your vision. That is a fascination idea. Would you care to explain what you mean by this? Does the creation of vision also include you preference of film over digital? 

Thomas Sandberg:

Yes, I prefer working with film.

I find the digital black & white to clean and too perfect. Of course you can make wonderful inkjet or lightjet prints from digital, you can adjust and balance your shots in Photoshop much better than in the darkroom. Nevertheless, I feel it all too perfect. I see more of the process in an analog silver-gelantine print. I experience how hard it is and how much the material resists. So I enjoy the battle, which others might hate.

If you are listening to a digital recording of a violinist, everything sounds so crisp and clear, the violinist has to play very precise, otherwise you will hear the finest little mistakes.

In former days, the analog recordings slurred away those things. By getting more and more precise, I find sometimes that musicality has been lost.

One of my favorite violin player, Itzak Perlman, plays with so much ease and so effortless, maybe it is not most precise way of playing but it has so much musicality. It reach my soul and actually that is the only thing that matters for me. Art is a communication of souls. In a way it creates one common soul, in Yiddishkeit we have the word „Neshumme“ for it.

 I am not hesitating going digital. I was one of the first who shot digital on assignment. Fuji gave me an early DSLR body and I used it for three weeks. When I gave it back, I had to go back to analog SLR and when I took the next pictures, I turned the camera around and wanted to see the picture immediately.

But there was just the black back and no monitor anymore. I was frustrated and  thought „they got you“ at the same time.

Beside the fact is that a roll of 35mm film is not a bad storage device and I love forgetting about batteries. I like the time gab between shooting and seeing the pictures.

I need that separation from the reality since I am more interested in the new reality my camera and I together produce. I believe a picture has it’s own reality.

I enjoy the whole after shooting process. Developing film, making contact sheets and make prints. For workprints I usually scan my negatives and print small draft prints on a laser printer. It is cheaper and they hold better on my magnetic wall for editing. Yes, the whole thing takes time and, yes, it cost money. But I find the time necessary and the results worth the money.

Very often I use 35mm film from a 400 feet roll and spool it into cassettes as I used to do when I was young.

What do I mean when I say, I believe that the kind of camera we’re using is not only serving our vision but at the same time also creating it?

Many photographer say, it is not the camera what makes the picture, but the photographer. Well, I find that statement underrated the magic of the machine we are using.

It is the camera which takes things out of space and time. Especially the last one is something, only photography can do. In my opinion that makes the total surreal character of the medium. I think the way that process is done, is not only determined by the photographer, but also very much determined by the kind of camera he is using. Every photographer knows this. You get very different pictures with a Rolleiflex or a SLR, and even a 35 mm SLR and a Rangefinder,  is very different. The view you’re  getting through pentaprisma and lens is different from what you get through a viewfinder. With a large format you see the picture rather with your eyes and not framed. The groundglass is more for control over sharpness and where the edges of the picture are and what you see is upside down anyways.

Through a middle format SLR you see the picture on the screen and even then a SLR and a twin-eye, like a Rollei, feels different.

So what I mean is your vision and the machine is so connected that you can barely separate this. The kind of camera has also an impact on the people you meet. And so on.

I recognized, students using a SLR tend to compose very much in the center. No wonder since they see many circles in the middle of the screen where they focus.

Through an open lens, other parts of the seeing image is unsharp because of a lack of depth of field until it is stopped down to working stop.

They have to realize and learn from their own experience.

We teacher can help with it, give little advice and show hints, without destroying the personal vision the student is just creating with the camera they have chosen.

One day a student came and all his pictures had a tendency of a falling horizon to the lower right corner. I realized he was looking to the exposure time what was displayed with green LED’s right there. Those little things have influence on the way we see and frame. I personally often don’t look thru the viewfinder at all. I know what´s gone be on my picture and love giving up control and taking risk. Every camera feels different and by doing so it brings different results. I learn from the device and that influences my vision. On the other hand if I am keen on materiality and structure I will probably take a larger format, then somebody  is interested in capturing moments.

I’ve read a wonderful example of that matter in the biography of Diane Arbus. She started with 35mm until she got the feeling that the grain of the 35mm film is not really what she needed. Everything looked the same, the skin like sky and sky like water, but she realized, she was rather interested in flesh and blood. I hope I recall that right.

Her teacher Lisett Model suggested using a different camera. So she picked up a middle-format, first a Rollei later a twin Mamiya. I am pretty sure, without that change, she might wouldn’t have developed her vision. I very much love that. It was a simple little hint, her teacher helped her with and I think Arbus was grateful for it. Another example is Robert Frank. I guess it was the art director Brodovitch who suggest using the faster and lighter Leica instead of the Rollei. Maybe he felt this camera would fit better to the personality of that man.

Franks work would look different if he had continued with his swiss precise Rolleiflex style. That’s what I think. Living in East berlin, I didn’t have a teacher like that, but let me put my self very immodestly in that row.

When I was 14, I came across Andreas Feiningers books, since the parents of a friend of mine, used to be close to the Feininger family. When I saw that famous picture of a photo-journalist holding a Leica in front of his face, replacing his eyes with lens and finder, that picture used to be also the cover of LIFE magazine, maybe that made my decision becoming a photographer and ending up using that very tool. So my own vision is also depending on the kind of camera.

And again it has to do with my physis. I am a to fast and nervous guy for using large format. Even so I love large format photography, tried by my self and was satisfied with the results.

So that’s why I think the camera is not only serving our vision, but also creating it.

These are Thomas’ words. I have made a few correction but have made no attempt to rewrite the text into a grammatically more correct English. It is ok to share this article but the text and the photograph must not be downloaded, copied and distributed in any other way. To read more of the talk with Thomas Sandberg just open this link.

Thomas Sandberg is a German photographer. He works within the traditions of the classical European street photography including people like Henri Cartier-Bresson; Robert Frank; Arno Fisher; and a few others.

Each post in the series is accompanied by one of Thomas Sandberg’s fine photographs exhibited at Collection Regard, Berlin. Go here for a trailer to Résonances.

The exhibition can be visited on Fridays from 2 pm to 6 pm and by appointment. In October (European Month of Photography) it can also be visited on Saturdays from 2 pm to 6 pm. The exhibition runs till December 16, 2016.

Copenhagen, September 27, 2016
© Knut Skjærven

#thomassandberg #résonances #collectionregard #knutskjærven #knutskjaerven #newstreetagenda #marcbarbey #streetphotography #ostkreuzschule  #streetphotography #newstreetphotography #germanstreetphotograpy #bronzebygold

#thomassandberg #résonances #collectionregard #knutskjærven #knutskjaerven #newstreetagenda #marcbarbey #streetphotography #ostkreuzschule  #streetphotography #newstreetphotography #germanstreetphotograpy #bronzebygold

About author

Knut Skjærven

Knut Skjærven is a Norwegian photographer, writer and researcher working out of Copenhagen, Denmark.

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