Nick Collingwood is an NYC based photographer, inventor, overall insanely talented creator. Working with a whole bunch of different kinds of old models that he repurposes to fit the modern film types, his photos are sharp and classically stunning. Photographing subjects from weddings to portraiture and landscape, it seems like Nick can photograph just about anything. We were able to have him test out the Diana Instant Square and gave us his thoughts and feelings on the camera as well as his photo background.
Hi Nick, welcome to the magazine, you have such a unique ambition and drive to restore and revive vintage photography, can you tell us where that love started?
Hey! Thanks for having me! Love the Lomo community so I'm happy to support it. For me, I kind of stumbled into using vintage cameras while at art school for animation. I found an old Polaroid Land 250 for like $10 at a garage sale and fixed it up. I was so enamored by it, when I went home for break, I dug up my dad's old Canon AE-1P and started firing away. Since then, film has been a constant in my life with special regards to instant film.
You've revived and amped up a lot of old cameras, what about the older models do you find make great photographs?
For starters, I've always been a tinkerer. With toys or electronics or what have you. I like making old things work again. Plus, I just think there's something about older cameras and the look they give the photos. Often times, newer cameras are too sterile and clean. Too perfect. Whereas older film cameras still look fantastic but there's something... different about the output from them. Something a bit... removed from reality in a sense.
You work frequently with instant photography, what about instant photos and film do you find attractive?
I'd say it's a combination of things. In some ways, it's the perfect mesh of digital conveniences and film. You still get to use film and the beautiful aesthetics that come with that, plus you get instant gratification that shooting digital affords you. So a nice middle ground. Plus, the tangibility of holding a real film photo in your hands can't be overlooked. It still blows people's minds when I show them the photo I took mere minutes later in their hands.
How'd you enjoy working with The Diana Instant Square? How'd it compare to some of the other cameras you've worked with?
It's a fun little camera! It definitely has that lo-fi feeling and being able to change lenses on an instant camera is something I've always wanted. It's great to have flexibility in the type of lens I want to use. Plus the square film is such a classic format for instant film so that's a great fit for the Diana. The camera is very different. Some of the instant cameras I've used the most are fairly high end, like my Polaroid 110B with Lomography's BelAir back on it. But as much as it's great to try and extract as much detail and sharpness from instant film, the Diana pushes back against that. It's so much more casual and lo-fi. It doesn't feel like as much of a thinking process to shoot it as my other cameras.
Why do you think there's such a major renewal of analog media in the last 10 or so years?
I think people are tired of the overly perfect digital photography and audio that surrounds us. Everything from million pixel cameras and overzealous retouching to songs and music that sounds too produced and don't have the warmth of older analog methods of capturing light and sound. Plus new technologies almost make things too easy. There's no struggle to create, and I personally think that struggle with the medium, however minute, helps craft the artist's vision. Also using analog media doesn't feel like reality in a way. It's kinda like reality+1. An escape. Just a little something more that makes it different from being a carbon copy of reality. And as I said before, having something tangible in your hands, whether it's an instant photo, a bona fide book, or a record, there's something about the experience of physically using those things that is really nice. You can disconnect from the barrage of photos, songs, and social media and connect to something right in front of you.
What do you think makes analog photography so special?
I think a main thing is the physical connection to the medium. You're putting your time, money, and effort so you feel a bit more of a connection to it than firing away 1000 shots in a day and never looking at them. You end up taking less photos but the photos you DO take are more meaningful and I end up liking a higher percentage of shots I take. You really get to know the medium and learn to embrace it's intrinsic qualities rather than trying to recreate those qualities digitally later.
Where do you see yourself using The Diana Instant Square, if you had to travel with it anywhere where would it be and why?
Perhaps on a hiking trip would be a great fit. It's so light that tossing it into my pack wouldn't weigh me down like some of my other analog cameras do and with the variety of lenses, it'd be easy to capture landscapes with the wider lenses and then switch to the standard lens and flash for some campfire pics later in the evening. Plus being able to just pass the photos around to my hiking mates immediately would be great. Instant photos are always a great conversation piece.
What advice would you give to new users trying The Diana Instant Square out?
I think experimenting is key. It took me a little bit of time with the camera to unlearn my normal methods and adjust to the Diana but after that, I was able to get some really cool, dramatic shots with it that looked totally different from anything I normally shoot. So play around with the lenses, and lighting and find what works for you! Also have a steady hand!