Happy New Year 2017

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First of all I want to wish all of you a Happy New Year 2017! It has become a little new year tradition for me to share with you a selection of my best pictures of the year and talk a little bit about the previous year. This year making the final selection of pictures was really difficult and once I had finished, my husband added a couple more pictures that he thought I couldn’t leave out. It really was a great year photographically and I’m really rather pleased with the pictures I’m sharing today.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Rolleicord V, Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 75mm f/3.5, HP5+ @800, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

Life and all the rest

This last year was a bit of a frantic ride. Between lots of photography, lots of travel and a 3 month bout of learning French – I can read books and watch series in French now – I basically failed to keep up with my film development entirely. In October I actually had to go on a 2+ weeks stint of developing 5 rolls a day to catch up with a backlog. I had accumulated 115 rolls of undeveloped film during trips and over the summer, which needed to be developed before I could shoot in earnest again. In general I also had to work so much harder to get good shots this last year, because the city was even more crowded than usual. For a couple of months every shot looked like any other crowded scene which is why I stopped insisting so much and started to learn French instead. I normally don’t mind crowds as long as I have my camera, but this year it was too much even for me. Also, my Canon WP-1 broke which meant that my walks on the beach had to remain undocumented. On top of things 2016 was one of those years that just didn’t want to end. So many awful things happened all over the world that it was difficult to focus on the good things that were happening in my own life. I guess we live in troubled times and can’t really hope for things to get better anytime soon. At times this affects me and my work rather badly, but I try to go on anyway, even if it’s not always easy. Although sometimes difficult and frustrating I would qualify this year still as a huge success though. My health was cooperating most of the time thanks to discovering acupuncture and this allowed me to work in a rather focused fashion on several projects. I also had many wonderful opportunities this year and I’m really very happy with what I have achieved photographically. And on top of things I learned a new language that I have been wanting to learn for more than 15 years now. Really, it was a good year for me.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, Delta 400, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Zeiss ZM C-Biogon 35mm f/2.8, HP5+, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

New Gear

Last year started off with the acquisition of a Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1 for my Leica. I sorely needed a lens that does well in low light, since this was the one issue I had the year before while shooting only with my Zeiss C-Biogon 35mm f/2.8. As it turns out the Nokton f/1.1 was a great choice! Although this is a rather quirky lens with lots of glow and swirl wide open, it gets actually quite amazingly sharp when stopped down even a little. It has so much character that I also enjoyed shooting it during the day with low ISO films and it has brought a different new look to my work. It also pushed me out of my comfort zone a little, because I actually have to point this lens directly at people instead of just shooting it from the hip like my Zeiss. And of course the wide aperture allows me to shoot when I would have given up with my f/2.8 lens.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, APX 400, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, APX-400, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

In April followed a new camera for me: A Zeiss Super Ikonta 530/2 6×9 camera with a 105mm f/4.5 lens from 1937, which I bought with a specific project in mind. It is a very beautiful folding camera with a coupled rangefinder that produces stunningly big 6×9 negatives – just 8 pictures per roll. Although rather cumbersome to use in comparison to my other gear – separate viewfinder and rangefinder, no double-exposure lock, red window film advance – the image quality makes up for the slow handling. It is a rather old camera, 80 years this year and it still runs like a trooper. I had to adjust the rangefinder of course and there is still a very small light leak that I can’t seem to find, but in general it’s in great shape and produces great quality. I’m very happy with it and it will allow me to shoot with medium format quality in a 2:3 ratio. The main reason why I got the Ikonta is that I needed a medium format camera that is not 6×6 so that I could shoot with an orientation to the picture while still taking advantage of the increased quality. I shot the project for which the camera was intended in June and it turned out exactly how I envisioned it. Really, a wonderful camera and a perfect choice for what I had in mind.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Rolleicord V, Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 75mm f/3.5, Delta 400 @1600, Rodinal stand | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

Just before the daylight saving time ended I also bought another low light lens for the winter in my favourite focal length: The Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2 II. Within just a couple of months I have shot more than 35 rolls with this new lens and it really inspired me to shoot a lot more after dark. By now it seems as if the Nokton 35mm will be my winter lens, whereas my Zeiss will be my main lens during summer time when I don’t need the extra speed. The lens has definitely filled a need and I am very happy with the results so far.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, RPX100, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, Rollei Retro 80s, Rodinal | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

My new lenses for the Leica have definitely made shooting street in this city a lot more flexible. After living here for a couple of years I have figured out that shooting street here is so difficult because it’s mostly about the timing of things. Right in the middle of the day there is the siesta time which basically creates a whole lot of dead time when hardly anyone is on the street. It therefore only makes sense to go out shooting before 1pm, at which time one mostly sees retired folks and adults running errands, or after 5pm when the kids start to return from school and play outside. In summer shooting after 5pm can get very crazy, because there seems to be a never-ending torrent of people milling about everywhere making the pictures often way too cluttered. A rather limited depth of field cuts down on a lot of the distractions, so my Nokton 50mm came in handy for that when I felt like braving the crowds. Also in winter the fast lenses help since in winter the light is fading fast at 5pm. Even after dark I now don’t really need to push beyond ISO 800 with these lenses, which makes for cleaner images in general.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, APX 400, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, Rollei Retro 80s, Rodinal | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

Low ISO film

For many years I didn’t really have any use for low ISO film. I struggled immensely when I tried to shoot slide film, because I just didn’t really use low ISO before. I learned on ISO 400 film and almost always shot from the hip, so ISO 100 made things much more difficult. However, with my new wide aperture lenses I finally found a use for it in my practice. In fact I even challenged myself to shoot only low ISO during the whole month of May, which was a lot of fun. Low ISO film allows me to use the wide apertures of my new lenses even during daylight to cut down on clutter and since I’m pointing the lens at people anyway I might as well use less fast shutter speeds and take advantage of more fine grained results of such films.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, RPX 100, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, Rollei Retro 80s, Rodinal | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

Medium format

Of course I’ve been shooting medium format for a while already. However, I really took it to a new level this last year. Between the Rollei, the Mamiya C220 and the Zeiss Super Ikonta 6×9 I shot more than 100 rolls of medium format film last year. I reached and even surpassed my goal of shooting one roll a week with the Rollei and actually there were 2 entire months in which I shot only with my Rollei. The reason for this is not only the lovely quality of the Rollei pictures, but also the reactions I get with it on the street. In a place that is pretty much overrun by tourists the locals don’t care much for folks with cameras and react rather defensively most of the time. The Rollei and also my Ikonta folder on the other hand cause curiosity, which means that I meet with much more friendly reactions when I’m out with these cameras. The wonderful medium format quality is just an added bonus to the nicer shooting experience. All in all I would say that this year has brought me to a bit of a cleaner look in general. I shot a lot of low ISO and medium format, pushed my film less and tested less grainy film stocks. Although I’m not sure that this will hold forever, since I’ve been looking at a lot of Japanese Photography lately, it is definitely an interesting development (pun intended)!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Rolleicord V, Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 75mm f/3.5, HP5+, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Rolleicord V, Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 75mm f/3.5, Fomapan 400, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

My own darkroom

In winter I finally found a way to integrate a darkroom into my office. I managed to find an enlarger with a baseboard that fit into one of the wardrobes that was used for storage before. The enlarger is a Durst M670 VC with a Nikkor 50mm f/2.8 lens for 35mm and a Schneider-Kreuznach Componon-S 100mm f/5.6 for medium format with which I can print up to 6×7. It’s a variocontrast diffusion enlarger with integrated bw filters purely meant for printing black and white. There are colour heads for this enlarger too, but so far I don’t see the need for colour printing yet. Since I got my enlarger I’ve learned quite a bit about printing and successfully printed quite a few of my pictures. Street pictures happened mostly on Ilford Multigrade paper which is simply wonderful and I also experimented with cooltone fibre paper to give the right finish to my Progress through Demolition pictures. I’m still learning and exploring here, but even my rather minimalistic first attempts with only little dodging and burning look way better when directly compared to the digital prints that I found quite decent before. There is less grain than in the scans, the results are even sharper and the tonality is also way better. It has been magical and I’m very happy with the enlarger and the results I’m getting from it.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Zeiss ZM C-Biogon 35mm f/2.8, APX 400, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Zeiss ZM C-Biogon 35mm f/2.8, HP5+, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

Travel

As usual this last year brought lots of travel with it, which is always a welcome change to my routine. The longest journey was again one to Argentina in April. We spent a whole month there and this time we were somewhat unlucky with it. The fun included catching a rough cold and struggling with various other health issues, having my Paypal account hacked while being stuck on the wrong continent, public transport woes and crazy weather. Things just didn’t want to go well for us. Nevertheless, I managed to shoot another 53 rolls over there (Kodak Gold 200, Kodak Farbwelt 400, Kodak Portra 400, Fuji Provia 100F), and I brought back a ton of interesting new pictures, including a rather promising start to a new series.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, HP5+ @800, Rodinal stand | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, HP5+, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

Other travel this year included a few days in Bilbao in January, where we saw some nice art and managed to avoid the 24h drumming that would have annoyed us at home, the Düsseldorf area in June – a crazy busy trip with lots and lots of shooting, PhD related meetings and nice exhibitions – as well as Madrid in September, where we were slowly melting in 40°C weather, struggling to breathe or move. From all these trips I brought back interesting pictures, although I really have no idea how I managed to shoot in Madrid in this heat. I guess it helped that we cooled down in the museums where we saw some of the most amazing art – a big Bosch exhibition, Goya’s black paintings and lots more.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Zeiss ZM C-Biogon 35mm f/2.8, Kodak Gold 200 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, Kodak Gold 200 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

Exhibitions and publications

Last year was also full of amazing opportunities for me. One of the pictures of my Progress through Demolition project was accepted for the newest book of the Film Shooters Collective: NSEW 2016, which was published in November. In the wake of this success my picture was shown at the first Film Shooters Collective group show in St Louis in the US. Shortly after that the slide film article I wrote for the Film Shooters Collective website was actually picked up by the German analog photography magazine PhotoKlassik, which published a German translation of the article along with my pictures. This magazine has a quite decent print run and can be bought at any well-stocked German bookshop. Who would have thought that my colour experiments of all things would find such wide distribution? At roughly the same time I got the opportunity to show a selection of my newest street photography in a video installation in the context of the Platzhirsch Festival in Duisburg, Germany. What a year!

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Zeiss ZM C-Biogon 35mm f/2.8, APX 400, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, Kodak Farbwelt 400 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

The most amazing part of this is that most of it just fell into place without having to struggle for it at all. I did spend quite a bit of time on perfecting the submission for the FSC book by printing different versions of some of the Progress through Demolition pictures on Slavich Cooltone paper in the darkroom, including some rather failed lith printing attemps, but all the rest just happened effortlessly on the side. Maybe things just fall into place when you do the things you love!

And beyond my own photography I can also list another great success, which is that the first print issue of our She Shoots Film magazine was funded via crowdfunding just a few days ago! After running the publication online for a couple of years we are really excited to move into print and the first issue is going to be amazing! We’re very excited about it and the first issue should appear in April if all goes according to plan.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, Fuji Superia 200 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Zeiss ZM C-Biogon 35mm f/2.8, Kentmere 400, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

A new project

I have also embarked on a rather exciting new adventure in December: Pinholes and toy cameras. I was never really interested in this kind of thing before – my style of street photography relies heavily on having excellent gear like my Leica and my Rollei, so toy cameras / pinholes fall far outside my comfort zone. Although I know of one person who regularly uses a pinhole camera for street, neither that nor toy cameras would work for me personally. This is therefore definitely going into a new direction. However, the motivation behind it still relates to my street photography somewhat. For a while already I’ve been thinking about using a panoramic camera for my street photography, but frankly I find the available cameras just way too expensive. The idea then was that I would one day like to build such a camera myself. This could be 6×12 or 6×17, or maybe even both. Since I have no experience with building cameras, I decided to start with something inexpensive and small, pinhole cameras in different formats and then go on from there. I would also like to get started on large format photography, but since the developing tank is already quite an investment, my first 4×5 camera would have to be inexpensive as well, like a DIY 4×5 pinhole camera for example.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Rolleicord V, Schneider-Kreuznach Xenar 75mm f/3.5, Delta 400 @1600, Rodinal stand | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, RPX 100, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

The toy camera aspect happened by accident actually. I got myself a Holga 120N to convert to a pinhole camera and after shooting a test roll “before destruction” with it, I realised that I would actually like to keep it like it is and play around with it a bit more. This got me thinking about a few more toy cameras I have lying around unused and I decided that if I was to experiment with fuzzy images, I might as well do it properly. So, one of my goals for 2017 is to play with one of these things once a week. This could be using one of my toy cameras, repairing my Mum’s old Lubitel, converting a couple of cameras to pinhole – a 6×6 camera and a 6×9 camera -, playing around with tins and cans for paper pinholes and possibly even building the 4×5 or the panoramic pinhole if things go really well.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Zeiss ZM C-Biogon 35mm f/2.8, Tri-X, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Zeiss ZM C-Biogon 35mm f/2.8, Tri-X, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

 

Other goals for 2017

At the beginning of 2016 I decided that I wouldn’t have strict goals for the year in terms of shooting so and so many rolls or experimenting with anything specific. I wanted to follow my gut instinct and do those things that I enjoy the most. It allowed me to have the ease of mind to do whatever I wanted without any pressure, which resulted in darkroom explorations, experiments with slide and low ISO film as well as a sudden increase in medium format. And without having the goal I actually shot 315 rolls this year, which is a new record! I obviously enjoy this kind of freedom and I think my instincts draw me naturally along the right path, which is why I have decided to continue along these lines in 2017 as well, with the exception of my pinhole / toycam project.

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, Rollei Retro 80s, Rodinal | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, Rollei Retro 80s, Rodinal | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

There is nothing wrong with talking about likely fields of exploration though. First of all I want to master developing ECN2 films this year. I have developed the occasional roll already, but have so far hesitated to shoot large amounts of this stuff. For a while I have had 200ft each of Kodak Vision 3 50D and Kodak Vision 3 500T in the freezer and I’m aiming to shoot maybe half of it this year.

Also far up on my list of joys will be my darkroom. I want to improve on the setup a bit and then print the rest of my Progress through Demolition project. Since some of the negatives are a bit of a mess this will likely also include some fancy hybrid printing with contact prints. Apart from these explorations I will as always continue with my film tests which will include an eclectic mix of high and low ISO BW as well as various colour negative films depending on our travel plans this year. So far we have already a trip to Madrid and another one to East Germany on our plan and I’m sure more will be added to the list as the year progresses.

Most importantly I will try to have a lot of fun though. It seems to be the way I work best.

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, FP4+, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

© Lilly Schwartz 2016

Leica M6, Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.1, FP4+, HC-110 | © Lilly Schwartz 2016

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