When you grow old, you're bound to learn a thing or two about life. That is why it's always fascinating to hear the words of someone who's had more experience than you. That fascination still lingers whenever we read this interview with seasoned Lomographer Rolf Müggenburg (more popularly known as @rolfmg in the community.) Rolf has so many things to share and we're very happy to listen.
Hi, Rolf! What do you do? And what got you started with photography?
I have been a pensioner for two years now even though, Corona permitting, I do occasional work as a consultant. Before that, I worked in international development for over three decades–next to my desire to contribute to justice and equality, this vocation also satisfied my “wanderlust”. When I became a pensioner, I had hoped to “run free”, travel and shoot in full throttle so to say. Corona interfered with these hopes but there will be a time thereafter.
It all started in my early childhood. I was always fascinated by cameras–the mechanics as well as the magical moments when the photos were developed. Hence the longing to own a camera started early. I was perhaps nine or ten, in 1962/63, when I discovered in the toy section of a mail-order catalog this green-black toy camera (only much later that I learned that it was a Diana F ). It was so cheap—just four or five Deutschmarks in those days and I nagged my parents to order one for me. They were absolutely against it: “It is just a toy. You can’t make real photos with it. I will break soon” was their argument. They finally gave in under the condition that I bought and developed the films from my “pin money”.
Most of the shots I took with this camera are lost but my mother saved some prints which are uploaded to my Lomohome. This was the starting point of a love that—with different intensity during the last five decades—lasted up to now.
However, there were different “phases” I went through. Up to the mid-eighties, I was quite an active shooter and I always had a camera with me (Rollei TLR 2.8F, Rolleiflex 35). After they got stolen, I lost interest a little but then obtained a Canon AE-1 and later a Canon EOS 500 (which I still use today) and focused more on family shots, holidays, and job-related documentation (also with a point-and-shoot). For the latter, I even bought a digital camera which I also used (and on some occasions, I still use digital cameras). It was not more than eight years ago when the analogue bug “got viral again.”
How did you discover Lomography and what made you join our analogue Community? Who are your favorite photographers here?
It was the purchase of a Zorki 4 with Jupiter 35 mm lenses at a flea market in 2013/14 that brought me to Lomography. The camera was in mint condition and I decided to just try out a roll with it. I still found a couple of expired Ilford B&W films in the basement. I was so delighted with the results—the handling, the sound and the feeling, that I started to take my old cameras out of the vitrine and prepared them for use. Here's how my first roll with the Zorki 4 went.
Simultaneously, I was also looking out for a forum to exchange with like-minded people. I opted for Lomography because of its approach: “Don’t think just shoot!” As I do not like a rigid corset of rules and regulations, this approach spoke to me. And I do not regret anything—there is hardly any day where I am not screening through the homes of my fellow Lomographers. There is so much beauty, creativity, and freedom in them. Checking all the uploads has become an intrinsic part of my daily routine–one could say I am almost addicted! On the other hand, I have also collected a variety of vintage cameras—most of them in use and I re-started home processing too—still focusing on b&w but slowly getting ready for the C-41 process.
It's difficult for me to point out individual Lomographers—on my daily visits I find it exciting to look through the entire portfolio. They give me a lot of inspiration and ideas and I value the regular exchanges! On the other hand, one develops a particular virtual relationship with those whom I follow and/or who follow me. I highly treasured the early support of @guja, @klawe, @gheinz, @charliedontsurf, @rik041, @mlchaelbexley, @troch, @yago56 and @steamtug1959, and many others. I learned so much from them and their comments and advice. Their faithful support from the beginning of my Lomo journey until today gave me confidence and comfort within the Lomo community. Over time, the exchanges extended and I could continue to extend the list… It would take too long to mention all of them and I hope they are not upset with not being mentioned here. As I said—every day, a new favorite is added.
What makes you stay with film photography in this day and age?
I do not want to put digital photography down. It is also fun and the results are technically almost always perfect. But digital photography is quite predictable for me, results are immediate. One adjustment here and there with a computer but there is only a little or no surprise—the magic is missing. But there is this magical moment, taking the rollout of the tank (or getting it from the laboratory) which is so exciting and keeps me with analogue photography—I feel like a kid in those moments. There are also so many surprises—technical mistakes may develop into a creative add-on. Pictures show often much more than what one had intended when releasing the shutter. In short, every roll is so exciting. Like unpacking a present.
What's your favorite subject to shoot?
I do not have a particular subject, it depends on the situation and the environment I am in. The best way to describe it is that I love to see my surroundings and my everyday life with my cameras. Often an unexplainable impulse lets me press the shutter but sometimes I also have particular themes in mind—this depends on the situation. During the pandemic, I had a focus on my immediate surroundings. I loved to take shots of my walks and bike trips through the forest and surrounding nature (I am blessed that I live in a nice area of Germany) but I equally love street scenes, town walks, and candid shots. I have a particular inclination to capture interesting moments during my extensive worldwide travels (prior to Corona). And I am also inspired by the Lomo community.
For you, what's the best part about being a Lomographer?
As already mentioned, it is the inspiration from all the beautiful shots of the community members and the exchange with other Lomographers. But it is also the approach of Lomography: no limits, no right or wrong, all is possible! In a world that is limited by so many rigid standards and regulations, this approach suits me well!
What is your favorite Lomography camera and film and why?
As I have quite an extensive collection of working vintage cameras (including young timers such as the Canon EOS or AE-1), I like changing it up since I also to get a good feeling of the handling of all the cameras I own. But over time, one develops favorites. Since the seventies, for instance, I have used a Rolleiflex TLR (first the 2.8F and now a 3.5F), I can operate it in my sleep, and I love to use it for all kinds of photography but mainly in black-and-white.
The same love I have with my old working horse, the Canon AE-1–simple, reliable, and indestructible. Although it shows the years of heavy use (duct tape to avoid light leakages, etc.), it is particularly loveable. Another favorite is my Zorki 4—with the Jupiter 12 lens (35 mm) in particular—sharp and easy to handle. Last but not least and so easy to grab: the Lomo LC-A camera (with a lot of signs of wear and tear, too) and, for more demanding shoots, the compact Kodak Retina 1 A from the early fifties. But as said, when I feel that the other cameras get “jealous”, I change things up. Today, on a nice sunny Sunday afternoon, I am going out with my Kiev 88 along with my wife for a nice walk.
As far as Lomo Films are concerned, I prefer the Lomo Potsdam Kino 100 for black-and-white photos. The film is very forgiving when it comes to under or overexposure. The Potsdam Kino provides sharp images with lovable soft contrasts. In autumn and winter, I prefer the Berlin Kino 400. I have still an unused test roll of the Fantome 8. On a bright and sunny day, I will use it in the coming weeks for the first time.
For color shots, I do prefer the Lomography Color Negative 100 — a film with rich bright colors. City walks and street photography are for me best done with the LomoChrome Metropolis. I love the reduced colors on one hand but it has this strong accentuation on the other. The film is very flexible (100-400 ASA) which makes it easy to handle but you can also play with shifting the color accentuation. I have also used the Lomography Redscale a couple of times. Landscape shots almost appear like a classical painting–beautiful. Otherwise, I buy expired films in bulk here and I have a tender spot for the Fomapan 100 in black-in-white.
We would like to thank Rolf for sharing his story with us. Follow his LomoHome to see more of his photography.