Photographers often wear multiple hats, but Poland-based photographer Joanna Reniewicz's hats are quite peculiar. As a photographer and biologist her images are the byproducts of an artist and (mad) scientist. Drawing inspiration from music, movies, and books, such as Daphne du Maurier's novels, she photographs portraits, as well as still life and nature. Her large-format pictures are particularly delicate and meticulous as a reflection of her photographic style. We asked Joanna what it means to shoot large format and what are the challenges she faces.
Hello Joanna! Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got into photography, especially analogue photography?
Hello Lomographers! My name is Joanna and I’m a biologist from Poland. I discovered analog photography three years ago thanks to an old Soviet camera named Zorkij 4K
that I received as a gift.
How did you get started with large format photography?
I started to shoot with a large-format camera around a year ago. My friend found a leather case with a flat camera at his parent's house and brought it to me to check if it works. The camera turned out to be an F.Deckel Munchen 9x12 folding camera, that I still use so far.
What camera do you shoot with?
I use two large-format cameras – first is the 9x12 Solid Bruckner Rubenau with Extra Rapid APLANAT No.2 lens, second is F.Deckel Munchen with Compur Xenar f/3.5 45mm lens, also 9x12. The film sheets that I use in the second camera are very rusty, but still usable - they just give the photos a bit of a weathered and aged look.
How is it different to shoot with large format vs medium format?
Great question. Of course, there are many differences related to the specifics of the medium itself, but I think that the biggest difference is the sharpening method on a ground-glass – the image is upside down, which sometimes makes work difficult. Cameras are heavier (even compared to my beloved medium format Mamiya C200f).
When it comes to the image itself, absolutely everything looks better on the large format – the plasticity of the image is incomparably better and honestly, the image on the ground-glass is one of the most beautiful things you can see in photography. Also, with a large format, it is practically impossible to take a photo outside in peace, because there will always be someone who will ask about the camera.
Your subjects seem to be at ease with you. How do you make them feel comfortable?
I usually work with people I know or with people I have worked with before. I think it's always worth taking some time to talk to your model, try to get to know each other a bit. The most important thing about working with people is communication. This photo is a collaboration I've made with my husband as part of the project (Fotocytoza) – it is contact print which I got by putting two large-format negatives on top of each other I would call it some kind of experimental large-format photography .
What do you usually like to shoot on large format?
What are the challenges you face of shooting large format? And what are the advantages?
For me, the biggest problem is the availability of the 9x12 sheet film here in Poland. Most often I work with an expired film produced by a Polish company named FOTON. Each shot is a surprise and often 90% of the sheets have various interesting artifacts. The biggest advantage is the process itself - finding the frame, taking a picture, developing the film. It is all magical.
What advise would you give to someone trying out large format for the first time?
To quote my husband, without whom I probably would never have used an analogue camera, make no excuses, just go ahead and try. Even if half of your photos are out of focus, don't give up. Like someone once said, sometimes you have to fail to succeed.