This is the 19th 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 Walter Sans! Sans has been working with photography as a medium for over a 15 years. Though he has had this passion since he graduated high school, Sans chose to fulfill his military duty and then peruse a degree in communication through the Higher Education System in the Netherlands. After he graduated, Sans worked in the communications field for over a decade as a press spokesman and head of communications for multiple national authorities and companies. While working in his corporate capacity, San's attended professional training as a creative photographer at the Photo Academy in Amsterdam in 1995. During this time he was writing press releases during the daytime and spending his evenings in his darkroom making the most of his time and getting ready to take the leap into a full time photography position.
In 2004, Sans left his job in the corporate world for good and took over the photostudio from publisher Sanoma. He did this together with his wife Iris Planting who started working there in 2000. This was due to Sanoma deciding to end their in-house photostudio. After working on their business plan and speaking to management, Sans and his wife became the proud owner of the studio space at the Sanoma building in January 2005. The result of this accusation gave life to Studio5982, a creative photography studio that now employs 7 different photographers with their own unique style based in the Randstad Region, Netherlands. His studio now has headquarters and two studio’s at the World Fashion Center Amsterdam, Netherlands, a studio at the Sanoma headquarters Hoofddorp, Netherlands and at the headquarters of bol.com in Utrecht, Netherlands where they shoot for magazines, advertising agencies, online shops and several large international brands.
During this time of amazing growth of his studio, Sans has put out five photobooks including Booty Call in June 2012, Two Shoots with Angela in October 2012, and Fragile in July of 2015. Fragile being his most notable work that features his work for the 2010 Dutch Pink Ribbon campaign shot on expired Polaroid Chocolate film and a Polaroid 600 SE Camera. Sans' work has been shown in numerous international exhibitions including the 2015 BDP group show "Modern Pinup" in Amsterdam, the Netherlands Artfair Alkmaar in the years 2011, 2012, and 2013, and the 2000 Millennium Photo Project at the Chicago airport in the USA.
Tell us about when instant film came into your life and what inspired to you to keep using it:
Instant film came into my life around 1995, during my four years of study at the ‘Foto Academie Amsterdam. There - in the pre-digital time - we used it mainly to test the light and sharpness of our setup. At the same time I discovered the alternative processes of emulsion lifts and scratching and manipulating the emulsion of SX-70 film and started to experiment with it. At one point, I has a small portfolio published on the original Polaroid-website.
At this moment, I have been the owner of one of the largest studio’s in the Netherlands: Studio5982 for close to 12 1/2 years. With seven photographers, we work on a daily basis for all kind of clients including magazines, webshops and advertising companies. However, this work is all digitally created with a Canon EOS1 and Hasselblads with Phase-One backs.
When you work all day in an all digital environment, it’s so nice to switch to instant film for your own personal projects. With instant film I slow down and make unique pictures which are so different comparing to my digital work in the studio. Also, it’s very special to experience the difference over a digital shoot. Models are now used to looking at the computer screen during shoots and everything can be photoshopped. With instant film you can take more time, make less pictures, and the result is always a surprise.
What attracted you to Expired Film. What's your favorite to use?
Of course, all the original Polaroid films I use are expired by now and this gives them their special characteristics. My favorite ones are the original chocolate, blue and sepia films. Also, I cherish the 669 type film.
How do you describe your work and how do you decide what subjects to photograph? What sorts of things capture your attention?
I choose the film and camera according the subject. For the project of portraits I shot for the Netherlands' Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer-Campaign, I used expired Polaroid Chocolate film which gave me the fragile look and imperfections that I needed. After the campaign, I continued with the series and still photograph models under the same conditions with this film. I call it the ‘Fragile’ series.
Another example of the way I choose which analog camera and film to use is my series of the D-Day beaches in Normandy France. I shot them all on a sunny day with an original Japanese Polaroid pinhole camera on the very colorful square VIVA instant film. When you first see the images, you think: well those are nice dreamy pictures of a sunny beach, but when you know that those are the beaches where thousands of soldiers fought for our freedom, it hits you.
Another unique experience was the modern Pinup series I made on Type 100 Silk Polaroid pack film. The aim was to make a 50’s style pin-up series without any photoshop or manipulation afterwards. We made five unique pictures in one evening with just two packs of film.
What are the main difficulties and hurdles obtaining and using expired film in this format?
Expired film is very sensitive to cold or heat and the way you store it. I have used Chocolate Film in my studio with the same light under different circumstances and have often received different results from different packs of film: the contrast and color changes. It’s difficult to master, but at the same time you get these wonderful imperfections. Obtaining film is difficult. Luckily, I still have a full fridge of it. However, at some point it will be depleted. People are asking very high prices now online for these films, but sometimes you’re lucky and you can swap film with a colleague or obtain them for a normal price.
What types of Instant Cameras do you own? Which One is your favorite and why?
I have collected many cameras over the last years, from a Calumet 8x10 - which I use with Impossible Project Black and White instant film to my SX=70 and SLR680 camera's for integral film, to my Polaroid 180 and 190 landcameras. I also have Polaroid pinhole cameras, a Polaroid Conversion of the Alpenhaus 4x5 and a rare Italian Mini-Portrait camera that features six lenses, the Lupa 6. My favorite camera is the Polaroid600 SE. I bought a complete set with all the lenses that has the rare extension tube accessory from a factory-laboratory that switched to digital. The 600SE is so versatile that you can use it for almost everything. The Calumet 8x10 and the Polaroid 600SE are what I mainly use in the studio where I usually take the Polaroid 180 or 190 with me outdoors.
Any tips for those interested in experimenting?
Know your camera and films and test them! It’s fun if you get a nice picture accidentally, but much nicer if you make the picture you already had in your head by using the right camera and film for the job. Also, you will be able to make similar pictures for series or if a client asks you for a similar picture. But of course: experiment! I made lot’s of double exposures, emulsion lifts, and bleaches which we’re terrible. At some point you’ll master it and make really nice ones.
When you are not shooting expired Polaroid film, what film are you shooting and why?
My favorite 35mm film is Agfa Pro200. Also, an expired film. It has this nice 70’s look and feel. My All time favorite is Kodak TriX. It's very versatile and I love the grain. Especially when you blow the pictures up. I use it with my Leica R6.2 or with a Rolleiflex.
Do you have any instant photographers that inspire you?
I always look at the contact sheets and Polaroids of the ‘masters’ like Helmut Newton and Peter Lindbergh. They inspire me and I like to research the process of how they created their picture which have became very well known. Sometimes it was one shot; however, sometimes it took lots of changes. Also, very inspiring is the Polanude book by Andreas Bitesnich.