Featured Photophile, our recurring segment showcasing talented amateur photographers, is back. Today we’re spotlighting a wonderful shooter named Stéphane who’s created some amazing photos with two very distinctive cameras. But as we all know, the camera is only as good as the photographer holding it. No sweat. Stéphane is very good.
So take a look, and see what happens when an excellent photographer gets his hands on a couple of legendary cameras; the X-Pan from Hasselblad and the Rolleiflex TLR.
Hi, Stéphane. Introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m Stéphane Heinz. I’m 43 years old and live in Switzerland where I work as a teacher of History and Geography at the French School of Zurich. I was born in Germany from a German father and a French mother, and thus have double citizenship. I lived in Germany and France before moving to Switzerland three years ago, and I also had the chance to live for four years in French Polynesia, on a little island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (where I worked as a teacher as well).
I love to travel and discover new places and cultures, as well as literature, music, movies, and of course, analog photography.
My nickname, Vicuña, came from a trip I made to Peru and Bolivia thirteen years ago, where a local compared me to this animal (a relative of the llama). I was called that name as a joke during the whole trip by my friends who travelled with me, and it became a natural nickname I use for my accounts on social media.
When did you start shooting? What’s your favorite camera? What type of film do you use?
I started shooting in 1996 with an Olympus OM-20 and taught myself all about photography, spending hours looking at the works of iconic photographers and how to improve my technique. Then, in 2004, I discovered a book called My Holidays with Holga by a French photographer named Fred Lebain. This was a kind of revelation as the look of the photos made with this cheap plastic Holga camera truly fascinated me. So I bought one and discovered the lomographic movement. The amount of cameras in my collection has grown to more than fifty, but my two favorites are the Hasselblad X-Pan and the Rolleiflex Automat.
The Hasselblad X-Pan is a panoramic rangefinder with interchangeable lenses. The framing is very accurate, allowing precise composition of the picture, the lightmeter with AE mode works perfectly, and the lenses deliver extremely sharp pictures. It’s a real pleasure to shoot, and I’m always stunned with the quality of the results when the films are processed.
I’m fascinated by the unique format, as it allows me to capture so many things in one picture. It’s a perfect storytelling tool, whether shooting landscapes or street photography. And the panoramic pictures always make me think back to the glorious times of the cinemascope movie format that I loved as a child, where the landscape was the main character of the whole movie and shown in all its greatness.
My other favorite camera is the Rolleiflex Automat. Of course, it’s an iconic camera that delivers absolutely stunning results, but for me it’s more than that. My Rolleiflex is the camera my grandfather bought in the 1950s. He then gave it to my mother, who took all my childhood pictures with it, and now it’s my turn to use this family treasure. For this reason, the Rollei offers something different when I shoot with it. There’s an emotion I don’t have with any other camera.
I mostly use it for portraits, as the TLR design makes it a lot easier to shoot people. You don’t point a huge lens at someone’s face. Instead, you look down into the waist-level viewfinder. Thus, people are able to be more confident and sincere, less aware of the camera, and I think that this kind of portrait shows more truth of how the people really are.
What are your favorite subjects, and why?
My favorite subjects correspond to my two favorite cameras that I’ve mentioned, the X-Pan and Rollei. I love shooting landscapes and portraits. I brought the X-Pan for my trip to Scotland this summer and it was clearly the best choice to shoot the amazing and moody landscapes of the Highlands. The beauty and poetry of a landscape can be stunning, and I’m always looking at nature like a newborn discovering the sense of beauty for the first time.
As for portraits; earlier this year I visited Burkina Faso. It’s a country I love for the warmhearted and generous people who live there. The name of the country means The Land of Upright People and I made a series of portraits to show how true, sincere and proud these beautiful people are. The Rolleiflex was the perfect camera for this project.
Why do you shoot film? Do you also shoot digital? What do you think of the argument between film and digital?
I love film. I love processing it, and I love film cameras. In fact, I don’t have a digital camera. But don’t understand me wrong, I have nothing against digital photography, it’s simply that I’m not interested in it.
I think that the process of creation is totally different for analog and digital. With film cameras you have to make choices beforehand and do your best within certain limitations; the choice of a specific film, the limited exposures available, the sometimes limited specifications of the camera. You need to think about what you want before you take the picture, and then you have to wait to see the result. The whole process involves patience and self-confidence in what you do, as well as accepting failure and sometimes unpredictable results (especially when shooting expired film). Processing the film afterward is also very exciting. Analog shooting is a different state of mind.
The performance and technological perfection of digital photography somehow doesn’t excite me. I find it boring to fire a lot of different shots, change the settings, let the camera do the job and then sit behind the computer for hours to get the shot. Some people do this very well, and create great photos. But it’s not what I want to do with my photography.
I use digital devices to scan and share my pictures on social media, but this digital work on my analog pictures is just to clean the dust and particles (which are impossible to avoid when you process and scan your pictures at home), and adjust the contrast and brightness of my shots.
What is unique about your work?
I like to think that my photos can tell stories, and that people who look at them can feel something, can let their imagination tell themselves a story about the scene. I generally don’t like to explain my pictures. If you feel something, no need to explain, and if you feel nothing, no explanation would change that.
I don’t know if there’s something specific in my work, but in a sense, it’s the faithful representation of what I feel, what I look at and what I see. I am as unique as any of the other seven billion people on this planet; my photography simply represents me, and nobody else.
How do you achieve your results?
As I said before, the analog process of creation begins long before you take the shot. I usually have three different cameras with me (medium format, panorama and 35mm), with a lot of different films (slide, color, b&w, expired, etc.), and I take my time to look around and feel the location. If something tells me that there’s a good photo opportunity, I wait. Sometimes for a long time. It’s all about patience and observation. When I finally take the shot, I’ve already done the whole job in my mind.
During my Scotland trip, I waited often to see the sky clearing up to get a ray of light between the clouds. In Burkina Faso, I spent time to speak with the people, and the shooting itself didn’t last more than a moment.
When I process the film it’s very exciting and rewarding when the shots are good and you’re happy about the results. It can, of course, be disappointing when the results aren’t what you expected, but that’s part of the process. Finally, I scan and clean the pictures before uploading them to my social networks.
Where do you hope your photography goes from here?
I don’t have any specific hopes or plans for my photography. I just want to shoot a lot of things around me, and plan new trips to countries and places I’ve never been. Traveling and photography are strongly linked together for me, and I always have a camera with me for everything I do outside of my job (and even at work I created an analog photo club for my students).
Do you have any advice for new photographers?
Be patient. Be true to yourself. Believe in what you do and accept your failures and mistakes in order to learn something new. And just shoot, shoot, and shoot again!
[All images used with permission]
Many thanks to Stéphane for sharing his work here. If you’d like to have your photos featured on Casual Photophile, tag your photos with #featuredphotophile on any social media post, or send a message to Contact@FStopCameras.com.