Historian as profession and photographer in his spare time - Maarten van Riel, our newest Dutch Lomo Amigo, has written a beautiful story and took beautiful pictures. Curious? Read on.
Name: Maarten van Riel
Call it nostalgia
As a child I owned a plastic camera from an unknown Asian brand and a roll of film from a store called Kruidvat. I used to shoot animals, agricultural vehicles and still life of nature. Overall I captured well thought out images, but I’m not sure about that. Later on I have not developed photography consciously, I studied history and international relations. After I graduated, I wrote a book, Zaterdagmiddagrevolutie (Boom, 2010), and since a year and a half I am involved in detecting explosives from the second World War as a historian.
Until last year I mainly used a Canon EOS400D and every once in a while a black and white film in my father’s old Chinon. But then I started shooting analogue more often with a discarded Minolta from the nineties. My friends noticed that and gave me a Holga for my birthday. It’s not the most practical camera, but it introduced me to Lomography. Since early 2011 I have moved away from digital photography for good. The Canon, which I once bought with such feelings of happiness, is lying under the closet unused. There are 5 analogue camera’s lying around the house and there is a box full of film in the dresser.
What do you do with it?
Because I have never received training in photography, I am not familiar with conceptual thinking. But photography books (favorites are Satellites by Jonas Bendiksen, The Roma Journeys by Joakim Eskildsen and a reference work of Martin Parr) inspire and motivate me to photograph thematically. Since june 18th this year I have started a project called Wendepunkt – registering the 30th year of my life.
What is your view on photography?
Something that has also played a role in my decision to discard the Canon, is the obviousness with which is being photographed digitally. The British allrounder John Ruskin (1819-1900) could, according to Alain Bottons De kunst van het reizen, really go off the deep end about the obviousness with which people photographed: ‘Instead of using photography as an addition to the active, conscious watching, they considered it an alternative and they paid less attention to the world then before, trusting they would own it automatically because of the photograph.’ Of course there is an explanation for this: people in the 21st century, unlike those in Ruskin’s 19th century, travel more than ever. Multiple holidays a year, weekend- and day trips, in short: the average (western) human being is away from home more and more. Those people use photography to capture memories and share them through social media. I don’t think people want to own something as much as Ruskin once expressed.
Analogue photography forces you to watch and think more – the rolls of film and development are cheaper than ever, but it is still more expensive than transferring digital pictures to your computer. It’s no difference with the Sprocket Rocket. ‘Lots of light’ was the advice when I got it, and ‘don’t think too much’. During holiday in Spain and Portugal I’ve tested the the Sprocket Rocket thoroughly, but almost every photo was taken thoughtfully.
Too bad almost the entire roll was overexposed. I thought I took great pictures in the Mezquita in Cordoba. My idea was to place the camera on a closet while open the shutter for 30 seconds long exposure. The first shot failed due to the fact a guard was talking to me about my position – fully sweating leaning to the closet. The next try become a failure too. Conclusion – luck is what you often need. When I shot a cylcist with a roll of Lomography film in my old Chinon, the picture ended up great. Thanks to the light meter, the film is exposed exactly right.
I had to get used to the sprocket holes at first, but eventually they give value to some pictures.
The coolest thing about the Sprocket Rocket is the fact it has a widescreen and it has a rewind function. That’s why these pictures below ended up very special – my favorites of this series.
What do you photograph?
I used to prefer taking still life shots, but I photograph people increasingly. The Sprocket Rocket is perfect for snapshots – an underdeveloped technique of mine. I have noticed that the possibilities of snapshooting depends on the country you are in. For example in the Balkan it is better to ask people up front if you can photograph them. A practical solution is shooting someone’s back – which was an item on your site recently. For Wendepunkt I document my own life (although it is difficult sometimes, what represents your life?) with my Minolta, despite the fact that the Sprocket Rocket produces surprising images. With Lomography the result invites you to look.
If your photo selection should have a soundtrack, which artists and tracks would it get?
- The Cure – Play for the Day (for dark photos)
- Fool`s Gold – Surprise Hotel (for summer pics)
- Kings of Convenience – Boat Behind (for nostalgic photos)
And what the future?
Well, at the moment the Sprocket Rocket is lying in the closet – too little light outside! I am going to focus on Wendepunkt. A selection of this work brightens up café De Balie in Amsterdam this month (October/November 2011). But this summer’s Lomography experience excited me. I would like to experiment more so I will definitely keep using Lomography film.
Check out more photos by Maarten van Riel: