This is the 18th edition of our Q&A blog series titled "The Expired Eight". Our aim is to highlight instant film photographers using expired film in a variety of formats. Today's Q&A is with Vladimir Longauer! Vladimir has been working with photography as a medium for over a decade. From 2007 to 2012 he was the owner of small photography lab and studio in Dublin, Ireland. He studied photography at the Dublin National College of Art and Design, and is now settled in the magical, wonderful land of Norway.
Vladimir's work has been shown in numerous international group exhibitions including the Blank Wall Gallery in Athens, Greece and Gallery Ramfjord in Oslo, Norway in 2016. You may also recognize his work from appearances and features on flickr.com, polanoid.net, artlimited.net. His works are held in private collections in the USA, Canada, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, Italy and Sweden.
Connect with Vladimir Longauer on his website and Instagram!
Tell us about when instant film came into your life and what inspired you to keep using it:
To be honest, I don’t remember what or whose work specifically inspired me to buy my first pack of Polaroid. It could be the time I acquired my first large format camera, and wanted to use Instant Fujifilm for test shoots before exposing the negative. It used to be cheap in those days. The C41 process, on the other hand, was expensive for 4x5 sheet film. So maybe that or the visual characteristics of Polaroid Type 55 film, which I have always admired. I guess it was only later that I realized the convenience of using these materials. As my work with traditional film suggests, I’m interested in expressive form, and work with the scene in order to deform or alter it. I’m looking for the balanced composition in the subtle fusion of colors, depth and details. This approach perhaps correlates with aesthetic movements that I’m inspired by a lot - Impressionism and Pictorialism. Mimicking or interpreting reality was never my thing necessarily, so I guess the choice of using expired film as a tool is obvious to me.
What attracted you to Expired Film. What's your favorite to use?
As I mentioned earlier, I like the tool’s convenience. For landscapes, my all time favorite would be the SX-70, and lately I’m very fond of Impossible Project B&W film. They did an amazing job on this, kudos guys! Make it cheaper, please! For portraits I like to work with Polaroid Type 55 or Type 59, 79 respectively.
How do you describe your work and how do you decide what subjects to photograph? What sorts of things capture your attention?
It’s landscapes and portraits that I focus on. Lately though, I have been working more with a collages and often it is the combination of portraits and landscapes merged together that I use to create metaphors. I love nature and I spend all my free time hiking in the mountains. I only take my Polaroid camera with me if I know exactly what I’m going to be taking picture of. Many times the weather is not ideal, so I’ll just walk two days on another occasion, to reach a destination to see if I can be lucky to capture a scene. The scarcity of the original Polaroid film changes my habit of taking the camera out of the bag quite drastically. The scene must indeed be special and when I feel the place has potential, I’ll just scout around endlessly to find the the best spot to shoot from. Other times, I’ll just wait half of a year for the sun to be in ideal position, or for the leafless trees to appear, before I take actual shot.
If I have a portrait project to work on, I’ll check where exactly the sun will be at particular hour and schedule the shooting accordingly. There is nice app for this by the way, called The Photographer’s Ephemeris.
What are the main difficulties and hurdles obtaining and using expired film in this format?
Last year, yet again, I went to see the beautiful west coast of Norway with my friends. Seven days on the road or in the mountains around fjords (a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley). I took my last two packs of SX-70 Polaroids with me and ended up with 9 images that were ok, 8 images ruined due to the deterioration of the film, and 3 shots that I regret taking. I think it was the last chance for me to use the original SX-70 film. I’m not willing to acquire more due to the disgraceful prices they fly around for and with more than a 50% chance they won't work at all. Back in 2012, I bought 7 kilos of various Polaroid film from a Photographer in Denmark and since I’m so fundamentally strict about the use of this material, I still have quite a stash of various 4x5 sheets.
What types of Instant Cameras do you own? Which One is your favorite and why?
I have couple of SX-70s, a Polaroid 350, and all possible film holders for 4x5 cameras. Oh and a Mamiya RB67, which is great for Type 669 and its variations. It creates an interesting 3x3 inch square frame and it gives you the option to change the lens. This camera is heavy though. I prefer SX-70 because it’s compact, light, and has really cool TTL viewfinder.
Any tips for those interested in experimenting?
Compared to any cheap vintage camera on the market, you will have more control over your final image with a Polaroid SX-70. Avoid the Model 3, which has a plain optical viewfinder instead of the TTL. Impossible film is getting better and better. The SX-70 B&W version is already a state of art on its own.
If you’re into large format photography, Polaroid Type 55 is not too sensitive and is still useful even after 20 years from its expiration date. It is usually owned by photographers and stored flat in constant temperatures. You always want to double check on this with seller though, its also important that the film was stored in its original box the whole time. Do not buy it if its for sale only in its inner aluminium package, there is a big chance the film is ruined due to external compression. I learned this after wasting hundreds of dollars...
When you are not shooting expired Polaroid film, what film are you shooting any why?
It’s actually on really rare occasions when I shoot Polaroids. I have freezers packed with various 120 type films. These are mostly color films since I have ability to develop these at home with a Jobo processor. Similarly to Polaroid film, traditional negatives have particular characteristics that suits my niche. I love all the details and the spectrum of colors the film is capable of capturing. After a scan of a 6x6 frame, you have 42 megapixels of data that can be printed large scale without a loss of detail, which is a wonderful advantage over any Polaroid film, apart from Type 55, which in my opinion delivers one of the finest B&W negatives out there.
Do you have any instant photographers that inspire you?
Not particularly instant photographers. I’m not even sure if I know of any, who would use instant film exclusively. Oh, apart from the legend himself Bastian Kalous! This man is unstoppable, so prolific, and unbelievable. I love his work, as well as that of Richard Avedon and Reza Khatir, which used to shoot on large 20x24 Polaroids back in the 80’s. I also enjoy Irving Penn among many others.
Lately it’s more conceptual work that I’m interested in and it is the work of Tony Oursler that inspires me a lot. Also the work of Stephen Pinker and Benedict Anderson. These are people from completely different fields of practice.