To be able to travel the world and tell people's stories is the everyday life of Willie Schuman (@wil6ka). He traverses the world for his job as a journalist and filmmaker going to some of the world's least visited places to bring forth authentic stories.
Willie started his Lomography journey in 2000 when he was working in Hannover and living with another artist and photographer, Orest. Though Willie had already been dabbling in film photography he was enticed by the cameras that his friends had – the Horizon Kompakt and the LC-A. He visited the Lomography Embassy in Berlin and the rest was history.
My main field is film and television, and I tend to travel a bit for my work and I like that very much. In fact, my work gets me to places and to meet astounding characters. I started with film photography at the end of the nineties and intensified it shortly after through Lomography.
Willie's first articles for Lomography revolved around film reviews. He tested a lot of obscure films which helped the community experiment and find new film stocks that they could use.
Among all the rare films I like the Kodak Ektachrome Lumiere 100. It was discontinued already in the early nineties. Through a little wonder around 8 years ago, I bought a very large quantity from a guy in Hamburg, who kept them in a fridge forever. So maybe at that very point, I have some of the largest quantities of that film.
I love the film and especially on my trip to West Africa, it served me so very well, especially when cross processed. I think it is an ideal match with the LC-A 120.
@wil6ka's photography can be described as authentic. There are times when people try to highlight cultures and stories of other people and it seems self-serving. No trace of that can be found in Willie's work as he takes his time in building relationships with the people he meets and does not try to stage anything in his photos. He is able to capture and tell people's stories without tokenizing them and it feels very respectful every time he captures something.
Well, I am very interested in people and their stories. A great landscape makes a nice backdrop and good design, but I love people, the way they look, what they are doing, and their potential. So I have to go close, I try to engage with them. But sometimes I am sneaky and just do it, because I know I would not get a genuine moment if I ask for permission. That gets me in trouble sometimes, rightfully so, but I kind of charm my way out of the pickle I put myself in.
One of the most popular series we have on the Lomography is The World According to Herr Willie. The series started with a field test of the La Sardina called the Caviar Diaries where Lomography asked Willie to test out the camera when it was first released.
I have been growing with Lomography my whole analogue life and I have seen a few transitions of the webpage. With time user-generated stories alongside the photography got more traction and that resonated with me from the get-go. I was also asked by Lomography to try out the la Sardina camera, make a trip with it, and write a book about it. Thus I made "the Caviar Diaries by Herr Willie“ for the Beluga and Czar edition of La Sardina. As a follow-up on that project we talked and the idea for "The World According to Herr Willie“ was born.
The series shows Willie's travels from one part of the globe to another and how he meets people. Going through his articles some of the most fascinating would be his series on North Korea and his visit to Chernobyl. These stories give a glimpse of places we wouldn't normally go to due to how risky it can be but it shows the bravery and cunning of Willie as well as how well he can bring to life these places with his trusty Lomo LC-A+. Reading his travels is very inspiring and shows someone who really embodies the spirit of Lomography.
It’s about creating worlds, always, with words and photography and I think the combination works great for me. I am grateful for the love I am receiving on the series and even if there are sometimes larger breaks in between the articles I would very much like to continue with it and I hope the readers are forgiving of the delays.
With many Lomographers waiting for the next installment of his series, Willie says his next article might focus on one of his assignments in Cameroon. He had the opportunity to meet the Baka people of Cameroon and shared their story through the broadcaster 3sat.
In the past two years I have been a few times to Cameroon for several film assignments. In one way or another, I came in touch with the indigenous groups of the Baka people, who have a close relationship with the rainforest. These encounters are very precious, even though they are short. I learn a lot going to places that are offside the main roads, and I feel privileged to experience these different lives. I think this will be my newest addition to my Herr Willie series.
For Willie, despite always globe-trotting, there are still a few places he wants to visit and create a series for. One place he needs to go to is Antarctica as it is the only continent he hasn't gone to. He's currently making plans to get there and have a few projects but for him, he wants to plan it out in order to get the best results. Willie wants to return to almost every place he visits since there's always something new to focus on. Among all the places he has been his top two places to return to are North Korea and Iran.
There are plenty of places that are still very much on my list, I am generally curious about everything new, so I will continue to try to explore. I really would like to do a project in Antarctica, as is the last continent I haven’t been yet and I am working on some long term projects to make it there. But the most interesting places take time in preparation to get there, you have to be patient and ready to roll when it happens. Almost all places I have been before I would like to return, with a new objective and fresh eyes and to meet friends I made along the way.
Willie recently finished work for the Goethe-Institut, the German cultural institute. He created documentaries for the various recipients of the Goethe Medal 2022 which is the official cultural award of the Federal Republic of Germany. He went to Cairo, Bangalore, and Johannesburg to capture the lives of the winners and his next assignment will take him to Sudan to cover the independent film scene of the country.
So I filmed with the artist Mohamed Abla in Cairo, the founder of the Holocaust and Genocide Center, Tali Nates, in Johannesburg, and the art producer duo Sandbox Collective in Bangalore. The films were presented at the award show in Weimar a few weeks back. It was great to present the films to the awardees and a large audience, among them, was the German Foreign Secretary Annalena Baerbock, and I have heard that she liked them. The films will also run on DW very soon.
Cairo was quite a discovery for me lately and I want to return soon. I like this shot from inside of the Pyramid and the fact that there is no Pyramid.
In Spring I was in Costa Rica covering the story of Bernd, an amputee who is living his dream of flying gyrocopters. I was very touched by him, in being so full of life and still vulnerable.
This spring I was in the Congo Basin Rain Forrest to explore a project of the indigenous Baka People. After a while, my friend Jean Jaques was very trusting and asked me to photograph his whole family. I was very happy and touched by it. This shot is of his sister and his child. I like the pride and curiosity on her face.
Last Fall I was in Senegal for a couple of projects. On our way back from Saint Louis to Dakar, we passed through desert-like terrain and a herd of wild dromedaries were grazing and later passed the street. It might be just me, but this junction of urban and rural was kind of cool for me.
From showing the power of lesser-known films to showing how the Lomo LC-A can be used in any situation Willie's impact to the Lomography community is huge. His travels and stories continue to inspire not just us but the world through his work as a filmmaker making sure the voices of the unheard and overlooked get shown through different mediums. We thank @wil6ka for his many years as a Lomographer and we cannot wait for more stories and photos from his point of view.
Enjoy the process. Enjoy the failures as much as the moments of photographic bliss. I think, photography is a long shot game and it is very fluid. You will change with the times as will your photography. In general, it would help if you buy a lot of film, get out there, mingle with people, and explore the physics and the light of photography. Try different cameras, because they all have a personality you can profit from. Live and love and the great pictures will follow. I think, your photography says more about you than everything else, it’s more an attitude and approach to life than all the technical elements that photography entails. And…be nice to people.
Lomography Pioneers is an ongoing tribute to our earliest community members, whose stories and photographs helped shape our thriving online community into what it is today—diverse, creative, and inspiring. See the Lomographers we've featured so far!