Back to the Roots – Slow Photography at PHOTOPIA

Film instead of memory cards - analog photography has experienced a unique revival in recent years. But who are these photographers, what are the new developments, and in what form do photographers use their images in the digital age? Oliver Heinemann, specialist in analog photography and owner of the Hamburg Khrome stores, provides answers.

Oliver, you are not only moving the entire Khrome store to PHOTOPIA for the duration of the festival, you have also invited some exciting, partly international partners. What are you particularly looking forward to?

Oliver Heinemann: We are very happy to curate the analog booth at PHOTOPIA this year. We would like to use our 200sqm space to bring together the wonderfully colorful world of analog photography, especially away from the big players. There will be someone on site who will be leathering old cameras, the Englishman Brendan Barry, who converts shipping containers into cameras, or Camera rescue from Finland, who want to save old cameras from the trash and check the cameras of the visitors with their Cambulance - a Finnish ambulance converted into a photo workshop. In addition, there will be talk rounds on the big stage, and smaller, more intimate talks in our area, in which our exhibitors will talk about the often very wild times that practically everyone in this segment has lived through.

That sounds like an exciting concept for all analog fans! Who do you expect as visitors, i.e. who are today's analog photographers?

Oliver Heinemann: First of all, I would like to say that the most important thing about analog photography is the community. It welcomes everyone with open arms, no matter if it's a newcomer with a cheap point-and-shoot camera or an experienced semi-pro. Everyone is welcome to ask questions, check us out, try things out, and look around! To the actual question: if we start from our customers, we expect mainly digital natives, young people who have grown up with digital products, between 20 and 25 years. More women than men, by the way.

In our digital times, what actually happens to an analog negative after it has been shot? Is it hung on the wall as a large-format print, developed as a classic photographic print, or digitized?

Oliver Heinemann: The demand for high-quality prints is growing again, but it's not easy to offer something like that at a reasonable price without the image losing its analog character. Most photographers have their images digitized. In fact, DSLR scanning, i.e. photographing negatives with a DSLR, is a big issue here. By the way, 50 percent of each is either low-resolution for social media or high-resolution for further image processing and large prints. We are active at the show ourselves with a 100-megapixel medium-format camera to digitize analog material at maximum resolution. The main advantage of this solution over a scanner is that the data is available as RAW when it is photographed, which gives the photographer significantly more options for further image processing. However, there are of course a few things to consider in terms of equipment and light. We will also talk about this at PHOTOPIA and will be happy to provide assistance, if desired.

Does this mean that you take analog photographs in order to digitize the images later? What is the attraction of analog photography from this point of view?

Oliver Heinemann: Analog photography is currently a huge trend. On the one hand, as an antipole to increasing digitization, similar to vinyl records. But above all, analog photography is about the process of taking pictures - keyword slow photography. Each shot here costs money, which leads to taking much more time for the individual image. We see analog photography as a must for beginners, not in place of digital photography, but complementary to it. Basics like ISO values, film looks, light metering, the way light works and many other basic processes can simply be taught much better with an analog camera than with a digital one, where you are always tempted to let the camera do everything. What's more, an analog camera helps the photographer build a more intense relationship with the subject.

How so?

Oliver Heinemann: Out of habit, many digital photographers look at the display after each picture to briefly check the shot. As a result, the relationship with the subject, the special moment, is lost. Especially with portraits, you often miss the second shot, which is actually much more beautiful.

Does camera technology play an important role for analog photographers?

Oliver Heinemann: Yes, of course. In addition to the aforementioned process, the feel, the mechanics, the noises naturally also make up a large part of analog photography. On the other hand, many of our customers, most of whom are young, as I said, are primarily interested in photography itself. They are looking for a simple tool with which to do analog photography and are happy about the low second-hand prices - and of course they all love the analog itself. Analog photography is physical, you have a film in the camera and later the images in your hand. In my opinion, this is precisely what makes analog photography particularly interesting for digital natives. For example, with a cell phone photo, no one would ask which model a picture was taken with. With an analog shot, practically all the data from the camera model to the lens and the film to the developer is usually under one post. This is where the aforementioned community idea comes into play again.

What about hardware? Analog photography is booming, how is the industry reacting to the increasing demand?

Oliver Heinemann: Kodak is currently building two new production machines, but it is still the case that supply cannot keep up with demand. There are fears here that prices will rise, but the bigger problem is actually the unpredictable availability. Even suppliers sometimes don't know when they will receive which ordered products and then suddenly have a pallet full of goods standing in the yard in the morning. This is also due to the fact that analog manufacturers have been through a long ordeal over the last 20 years and are now very cautious about growing again on a large scale after this "healthy shrinkage".

How does it look on the part of the camera manufacturers? Are they jumping on the analog bandwagon again?

Oliver Heinemann: The only manufacturer currently serving this segment is Leica. It would be great to see a new analog camera from Nikon or Canon, but unfortunately that's not in the cards.

Christopher Gorski (Lab), Anatol Kotte (Gallery) & Oliver Heinemann (Shop), Photo: Max Klein Photography