Dear Young Shutterbugs, create and learn together! - A Letter from @kitos_lab


No man is an island, as the famous adage says. Everyone is a part of the whole, and every decision creates a ripple effect. In our increasingly connected world, art especially finds a way to connect people, no matter where we're from and the differences in our circumstances. Film photography, for example, becomes a way to see the world through each other's lenses.

In this edition of Dear Young Shutterbugs, we talked with Ukrainian photographer and camera seller Hennadii Kolchev about his five-decade journey with film photography. He shares his experiences in war-torn Kyiv as a native and film photographer, and talks about the enjoyment he still finds in the craft, which is maximized by sharing his knowledge and results.

Photo Credits: Hennadii Kolchev

Hello! My name is Hennadii Kolchev. I live in the suburbs of Kyiv. I am 56 years old and I developed my first film in 1972 when I was six years old. At that time, mass photography was developing very much, and my parents gave me a Smena 8M camera for my birthday.

The first film I loaded into the camera was very low light sensitivity, it was a Svema 32, but then I didn’t know anything about ISO at all, it was just fun to load the film into the cassette under the covers with my own hands and take pictures of everything I saw around. Of course, the result was sad, in the entire film only two shots were successful, which I took outdoors in good light. Failure did not stop me, at that age I could read and my brother gave me the book “Photography for a Schoolboy.” I still have it!

When I was 14, I was taken to photography classes for teenagers. The teacher first gave the task to cut out a 6 x 9 cm frame from cardboard and learn to observe the world through it. Subsequently, the Master gave us a very large amount of knowledge and practical experience. He illegally ran a photo business, in the Soviet Union absolutely any business was prohibited, so it was all done illegally.

Credits: kitos_lab

In 1985 to 1987, I served in the Soviet Army and it so happened that my main camera during this period was the compact Soviet novelty LOMO-135.

My photographic activity in the army consisted of two parts; I shot officially, made reports from official events, made portraits for documents, for the honor roll, etc. But all this was just a cover for what I really liked. I photographed real life and did it completely illegally. Therefore, I needed a very specific camera, it had to be compact and at the same time give high-quality pictures.

That’s how I met the LOMO-135. The lens gave confident quality under different shooting conditions. Apertures ranged from f2.8 to f22. The focal length of 40 mm allowed shooting both close-ups and long shots. The design of the camera was compact enough to be carried easily and discreetly in an AK-74 mag pouch.

Separately, it should be noted the place where my comrades and I equipped a photo laboratory. It was a bunker intended for the defence of our guard.

Photo Credits: Hennadii Kolchev

Ninety-percent of my archives remained in the Donetsk region in the occupied territories. I don't think I'll be able to get there for the rest of my life. But something has survived and I'm ready to share them. Many slides were made on ORWO Chrome. I have always been very fond of this film, a very interesting process of development and compact saving of frames.

In one of the photos is myself and my wife Olena Kolcheva in 1988. We were young and beautiful. Now we are only beautiful.

Photo Credits: Hennadii Kolchev

My son has a hobby of making videos, and we had a great time together making camera reviews on Youtube. Now we have a lot of stress caused by the war. We no longer want to use Russian products. We’ll be back to shoot, but I don’t know in what format yet. Most likely it will be small videos for both YouTube and Tik Tok.

With the beginning of Russian aggression, I was in territorial defense and defended my house with weapons. We defeated the Russian horde near Kyiv. In 1937 the communists shot my grandfather. In 2014 the Russians attacked my house. In 2022, fragments of Russian missiles fell on our heads. Almost 100 years of aggression.

My youth passed behind the “Iron Curtain” in the early 80s. I was told that only oligarchs, policemen, military men, drug addicts and prostitutes lived in America, all the rest are unemployed. The fact that there are ordinary people in the USA, I learned only from the Voice of America and BBC radio stations.

Now I have the opportunity to communicate with the whole world and I find it very interesting and necessary, although I am a little shy. Today, during the war, trading on my Etsy site is my only income.

Of course, trading on Etsy has dropped a lot. During the period of hostilities near Kyiv, I completely stopped trading. Now I am trading again but only in the USA, in other countries I do not have the possibility of delivery. During the fighting, I had a thermal imager and a sniper rifle. It is strictly forbidden to take pictures and even turning on the light is prohibited. It was really scary.

Photo Credits: Hennadii Kolchev

I want to try Lomography films. I also want to try Caffenol and expired film. I’ve never done this before and now I’m interested.

Never get into a debate between analogue photography and digital photography, it’s pointless! What is better, cash dollar or dollar on a bank card? It is convenient to pay with a bank card at a distance, but a cash dollar will work where there is no Internet and electricity. With cash and a bank card, your opportunities expand, you become more free. The same is true with analogue and digital photography. You will become freer, learn to see the world more sharply, draw with light and enjoy it.

Now about the cameras, sometimes I like point-and-shoot. In some cases, they are indispensable, for example, at a good party with friends, on the beach, in good light they can give a wonderful vintage picture without requiring additional knowledge and skills. But in order to truly understand analogue photography, I highly recommend you a fully mechanical, simple and inexpensive camera to begin with. By working with aperture, shutter speed and depth of field, you will soon understand the principles of painting with light.

Don’t photograph everything you see. You are limited by the number of shots on film. Open your camera when you really want to take a picture. Get yourself a notebook. Now this is your Creative Lab in which you conduct your experiments. Experiment with aperture, shoot the same object at different aperture values, changing the shutter speed proportionally. Write down the shots taken in a notebook, this will quickly help you understand the results.

Credits: kitos_lab

Your pictures will get better, even those that you will take with your phone, but now the analogue camera will become your friend and you will no longer be able to part with it. Visit your favorite places with her at different times of the day, in different weather and at different times of the year. Shoot, compare and the difference will impress you very much.

Keep experimenting and you yourself will be surprised how deep you can go in the knowledge of the world. Experiment with color and black and white, over time you will have a desire to start experimenting with light filters. You will have a desire to develop the film yourself and you will no longer be able to live without new experiments.

Share the results with your friends and find like-minded people. I’ll tell you a secret, I’m also studying now. Most of my photos were taken in the 20th century, but now I see the world a little differently and I am learning to take photos in accordance with my current vision.

You know, we will someday leave this life. But you and I will leave traces. These will be our negatives and prints. They will definitely catch the eye of young photographers who will be interested in our work and our history. They will start their experiments and learn the world together with us. So we will never leave. We will create and learn again together with them. It’s very cool!

Thank you very much to Hennadii for sharing about his experiences and work with us. For more of his work you may follow him on his LomoHome and Etsy store.

Through this series, we hope to inspire a new generation of film photographers to dip their toes into the craft and learn from the adventures and advice of some of our long-standing community members. You may view previous letters here.

Want to write your own letter? Connect with with the subject Dear Young Shutterbugs!

written by sylvann on 2022-11-27 #culture #people #places #dear-young-shutterbugs #smena-8m #ukraine #kyiv #lomo-135 #kitos_lab #dear-young-shutterbugs


  1. roaringtree
    roaringtree ·

    A great read and advice, thank you very much!

  2. kitos_lab
    kitos_lab ·

    @roaringtree Thank you! I'm really glad that you liked it

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