Dublin-based Josh Mulholland fell into photography quite accidentally through his love of the creative arts. His portfolio of work is vast, ranging from professionally commissioned shoots to his personal portraiture work using digital and film. We sent him the Petzval 80.5 mm f/1.9 MKII Art Lens to test out and he chose to shoot his dancer friend Simone O’Toole to create a series of photos bursting with fluidity and movement.
Hi Josh, welcome to the Lomography magazine, if you could tell us a bit about yourself?
Hey! Thank you very much for having me. I’m a photographer from Kildare, Ireland, but I’m currently living in Dublin City. I’m into all sorts of stuff and have plenty of hobbies. I just started a fishing club in my hometown, Kilcock, I've been fishing mad since I was a kid so it's great to finally see a local club. I love to go skateboarding, make music, and recently just got into cycling. I’ve actually just started training for a charity cycle that I’ll be doing with my friends for the Irish Cancer Society. Photography also, yeah that’s a given. I'm always taking photographs everywhere I go.
How did you get into photography and what's the personal appeal for shooting with film?
I never intended to get into photography, it just sort of happened. In school, I wanted to do something along the lines of illustration or animation as art was my strongest subject, but I wasn’t fully sure what it was I wanted to do as a career. So anyway, I went on to do Art, Design, and Mixed Media in BCFE as it has a mixed bag of modules, which is great, it gave me a feel for everything. We had a darkroom photography module there and when I first picked up a camera for the class I never looked back, I took to the medium pretty quick. So quickly, in fact, the lecturer would leave me to teach various techniques to my classmates. I then went on to do Visual Communication as a BA and then a master's in photography later.
Digital has its place, and it’s more or less my bread and butter, but there are certain characteristics about film, particularly medium format, that I just absolutely fall in love with every time I get images back from the lab. It’s impossible to fully emulate film with digital files, I feel even now I’m pretty close, but I don’t think the sensors capture the essence of the subject as much as the analog film does. It’s so amazing to see and I think the more I learn about it and understood the science behind it, the more I fall in love with it. It really is something magic. That’s the reason I shoot film for all of my personal work.
Tell us about these photos, what were you trying to convey with this series?
These photos were created with a girl I met through Instagram, Simone. She’s a dancer and a very good one at that. Usually, when I photograph someone I try to capture them in such a way that it’s just them, being themselves, which I think is the reason why my portraits are usually so close and intimate. Simone reached out to me and asked me to shoot and I couldn’t say no. I asked her to dance for me under the protection and shade of the trees, where we could be ourselves, playing in nature and documenting the fluidity of her dance. I wanted to capture the playfulness of her motion, but I also wanted to get my usual up close and personal portraits that I love so much. I think we ended up with some nice images overall. We even ended up taking a few on our walk back into town.
How did you find shooting with the New Petzval 80.5 mm f/1.9 MKII Art Lens and did it help you achieve the look you were after?
Shooting with this lens was so amazing. I couldn’t believe how swirly and soft the bokeh was, something you know I love if you’ve ever seen my work, as I like to shoot wide open when making portraits. The lens gives such a dreamlike effect that the photos actually look and feel like actual real memories, something that no other lens has managed to capture, not in my experience anyway unless you’re shooting large format or something. It definitely added a sense of playfulness and nostalgia to the photographs which was super fun to play around with. It also brought more attention to the subject which I quite liked, it told the story in a much softer and delicate way in comparison to other lenses.
Any advice to share with people shooting with the Petzval 80.5 Lens for the first time?
Definitely, if you have the chance, go out play around with it. If you find you’re shooting with autofocus lenses most of the time this will take a bit of getting used to. I found no issues with getting the hang of it as I shoot a lot of manual focus lenses anyway. Try and center your subject as the edges of the shot will be affected by the swirly bokeh if you’re opened up pretty wide in terms of aperture. Other than that my only advice is to have fun with it, it’s a really beautiful lens and it will make you fall in love with shooting all over again.
Do you have any exciting projects planned for 2021 that you would like to share with us?
I haven’t done a long-term project since I was in college and university, but I’ve never stopped working. My plan for this year is to keep making work doing test shoots with people I meet on the street or see on social media and just keep taking jobs as they come. Things have obviously gotten very slow since we went into lockdown, but jobs have started coming in again and I’m excited to shoot them. You can keep updated with what I’m up to on my Instagram joshua.mulholland
You can also see more of Josh's work by visiting his website.