Nuno Cruz is a photographer based in Amsterdam, committed to capturing the everyday life of the city he calls home on film. Nuno told us he had been waiting to try out some panoramic street photography on his Hasselblad XPan, so we sent him a Sprocket Rocket camera and two rolls of Lomography Lady Grey 400 and Berlin Kino 400 film to see how each black and white panoramic combination performed on the streets of Amsterdam!
In this interview, we speak with Nuno about his experience shooting panoramic street photography, what inspires him, and the inevitable challenges of early winter light.
Hi Nuno! Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and how you got started with film photography?
My name is Nuno Cruz, born in '87 in a small city in Portugal called Trofa. I studied computer science in Porto (2005 - 2011) and it was during this time that my shutterbug was born. I was given a digital camera that was extensively used throughout my academic years. Later in 2011 I left Portugal and after a small stop in Poland, ended up in Amsterdam. It was there in 2013 that I got my first film camera, a natural step for an engineer curious and interested about photography. After seeing the results of a few rolls, I was instantly hooked and the next year I shot a hefty amount of around 60 rolls. I always had a film camera on me and being in a new country and a new city came with the aspect that everything was a novelty, everything was a photo opportunity.
What attracts you to street photography?
At first it was being in a new city and genuinely falling interested in its people. How different they looked, exotic and different styles from what I was used to - I had to capture this - that's what I told myself. Like many, I started to naturally do street photography without knowing it was a thing. Well was I in for a surprise when the UNSEEN festival of 2013 screened the documentary Everybody Street. My little mind was blown away!
The whole world of street sub-genres and iconic photographers opened up, and I was hugely inspired by most names in that documentary. From the aesthetics aspects to a more genuine interest in the people behind the photos I was making. This documentary was such a huge fountain of inspiration and that's also one of the reasons why my numbers of rolls in 2014 shot up so much, so suddenly. I wanted to be out telling the story of the interesting people of this new city I had fallen in love with.
What do you feel is the most important thing to capture in your images? What excites you?
I like my images to have a sense of humanity in them. Perhaps this is hard to put to words, but I like that with my images people can understand something that would follow a phrase like: this is who we are, for the good or for the worst, this is us! I like to bring humor to my images too. I like to create funny little captions that can skew the viewer into interpreting them in a funny lighthearted way.
A lot of things excite me on the street that elicit me to click the shutter, but I will name a few favorites.
Trash, yes trash! I find trash very interesting and unfortunately Amsterdam as a touristic city has a lot of it. To me the thing about trash is the human that disposed of it, or in this case, how they chose to do so, how they leave it on the street, leading to very interesting frames. Such as neatly tucked away in a corner, nicely balanced on top of the bin, perfectly aligned in a row. For some reason, some people get really creative with trash and I gravitate towards that.
The bike culture is a huge source of inspiration and photo opportunities too. I am particularly attracted to when people are carrying something unusual on their bike. Being a dog in the front basket or another human on the back rack. This is also something that I would like to make into a project in the future.
When it comes to people themselves I like a good uncluttered composition. I tend to gravitate to having less humans in my frames. And then I look for gestures or actions. Again people carrying something unusually big or cumbersome, it brings a humorous dynamic element to the frame. I also end up gravitating to people working on the street, and acts of kindness, such as hugs, kisses, a smile, a helping hand, people sharing a drink, or just in a group conversation smiling.
You chose to embark on this project using some of our black and white films and two different panoramic format cameras. What was the reasoning behind these choices?
The premise was simple, I wanted to do street photography with my XPan. In order not to introduce too much novelty at the same time, I chose to do so in black and white. The classicism of the black and white approach brought some safety to what I needed to do, removing the added complexity of trying to think simultaneously about the composition, but the colors within it too.
But outside of safety came fun and novelty too. Trying a new aesthetic format that can turn every frame into a movie still. Having to rethink how to approach and capture a subject with the extra real estate of the frame. Thinking of which corners of my city would lend themselves for a backdrop, with plenty of horizontal texture and leading lines. All of this drew me out more to the streets again, like it was 2014 all over again.
How did you find shooting with the Sprocket Rocket, in comparison with your XPan?
It has to be said that they are two different beasts. The XPan requires more planning, both because you have to set the focus more carefully, and since the frame is narrower, you need to compose better. The Sprocket Rocket removes these worries with fewer settings. There's only two of each, close or far focus, bulb or 1/100s shutter speed and F/16 or F/10 aperture. Most of the time it's all set to the same settings and I didn't have to worry as much.
The composition was also not a hard concern because the Sprocket Rocket is much wider than the XPan, everything in front of me was in the frame. All of this combined was very liberating, it practically worked as a point and shoot panoramic camera, all I had to do was to hunt for the right moment and click!
How did you find shooting with Lady Grey and Berlin Kino? And in the end, which did you prefer?
Amsterdam November weather proved challenging to shoot with low aperture cameras. Add in the mix daylight savings change which made it only possible to shoot on the weekends, which were all gray, like the Lady.
In that sense, these films were put to the test on their pushing capabilities. Both stood quite alright in this regard, but the extra contrast that Berlin Kino took my heart over the Lady Grey. I noticed also that Lady Grey showed more pronounced grain and less recorded information on the negative in comparison to Berlin Kino.
What do you think are the best situations to use the Sprocket Rocket and the two films you tested?
The Sprocket Rocket needs light, that much I can attest to. Berlin Kino will lend you some forgiveness on overcast days, but due to the small aperture, I would say sunny days with Lady Gray, since it has less contrast, and Berlin Kino for cloudy days.
Do you have a favorite shot from the project?
Yes, I really like the frozen men waiting outside a clothing shop against the foreground of the busy people roaming one of Amsterdam's most famous shopping streets.
It's one of those shots in which you envision the goal as you are taking it, you know what you want, and then when you scan the frame and it pops up on your screen for the first time your brain immediately goes - YAASSS!
Do you have any other projects coming up that you would like to share?
Sure! I have an upcoming zine which will be released simultaneously with the publishing of the album in which it is based off. The album will be on my website. I don't want to reveal too much about it ahead of time, but when the materials are ready, which should be somewhere next year by the end of January, I will be posting updates on all my socials and website too! Hopefully it will also be complemented with an exhibition of the work somewhere in Amsterdam. So stay tuned for all of this!