Spring has always symbolized new beginnings; a season to look out for, and with optimism and a clean slate, plunge into. But the melting of frost, the clearing of roads once heavy with snow, and the slow appearance of color can also prompt reflections of a distant past or even an uncustomary cloudy present.
Such are the feelings conveyed by some of community member Antti Hulkkonen's (@anttihoo) galleries taken during the slow arrival of spring. We had a nice chat with him about his film photography experience, what the life-long hobby means for him, and what it’s like to photograph the coastal landscapes and urban architecture of Helsinki, Finland.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, how you got into film photography and what still fuels your interest in it now?
I'm pretty sure I took my first photos at the age of seven or eight with a family heirloom, my grandmother's Box Tengor from the early 30s. My family wasn't in any way serious about photography, but there were always cameras around, and taking snaps to record memories felt natural and obvious – something you should do. I was about 10 years old when I realized I wanted a camera of my own, and my older brother helped me find a secondhand Minolta Hi-Matic F. It was an amazing machine! I was hooked from the first roll.
I was soon doing all sorts of weird experiments, trick shots and odd angles, trying to fool the viewer into seeing things in my photos that aren't really there. Some forty years (and dozens of cameras) later, that's still something I find endlessly fascinating – capturing reality, but with an odd twist. That's also why I prefer film to digital.
In some ways, a digital photo is not "real" to begin with; when you press the shutter button, a very clever computer inside the camera makes a guess about what you want to see, and creates a pleasing pixel painting of it. Film is an actual, physical thing, a permanent reflection of light passing through the lens. Tricking that into showing something that seems unreal is somehow more fulfilling, much more challenging and way more fun.
Tell us about your Spring/Welta and Towards Spring albums. What is it like capturing Helsinki in that season and did you have themes in mind when you took the photos?
In black and white photos, I'm weirdly obsessed with contrast. And I sometimes feel the weather here in Helsinki is deliberately trying to make it hard to achieve! I live on the coast, an actual stone's throw from the Baltic, and humidity often makes the sky hazy, even on an otherwise sunny day.
This year, spring was also unusually grey, cold and cloudy, and I often dashed out with a camera to capture something – anything! – when the sky cleared and there was at least some light and shadow to make things look interesting. The coastal climate makes light unpredictable. Sometimes it's like living under a giant diffuser, sometimes a bright, sunny day is interrupted by a dramatic, dreamy fog bank rolling in from the sea.
I rarely plan my photos in advance, but I'm always looking for intriguing lines and angles in buildings and the landscape in general; things that intersect, things that frame other things or put them in perspective. The square format shots of trees and the sea are from a small park just across the street. I've taken probably hundreds of photos there, but I try to come up with some new angle or composition every time.
What camera and rolls did you use?
I'm always trying out different film/camera combinations, looking for good (or at least interesting) matches. These were shot with three different folding cameras and a TLR, all medium format.
The TLR is a magnificent Meopta Flexaret III with a super sharp Mirar lens that works really well with Fuji Neopan Acros, one of my favorite films ever. The 6x9 folder is an Ihagee Ultrix from the early Thirties, and the two 6x4.5 folders are Weltas, a Perle and a Weltax. I really like old German folding cameras, they are super portable, simple enough for even me to repair, often have fantastic optics – and look really cool!
Which subjects usually pique your interest?
I often find myself shooting street scenes, buildings, urban grime, probably because I take most of my photos on my way to work through the city. Helsinki has a wide range of architectural styles packed in a small area, and I enjoy spotting interesting details and textures on the buildings I pass (be they Neoclassical, Gothic Revival or Late Sixties Brutalist). Doors, especially, for some reason. And people on the street, particularly in crowds, demonstrations and parades.
Do you think you’ve arrived at your own style of photography? If so, can you tell us about it?
I don't think I'm quite focused enough to ever really develop a proper style of photography. But many of my recent photos have a sort of a common theme or mood, best described as "accidental oldschool". I often use 90 year old cameras and black and white film, so it's no surprise my photos look older than they are, but I also seem to have begun to emulate an older style of composition and choice of subject. I'm not trying to be retro on purpose! It just happens!
Do you have any plans for your photography, for example side projects you want to work on?
I'm a translator/graphic designer/layout guy by trade and sometimes need to come up with creative ways of using photos in books and other publications. I'd love to take on a proper photo book for a change, and there's also a cookbook I've been meaning to write and take photos for.
I also have a secret project I'm sort of working on (if daydreaming can be called working). I don't want to talk about it too much, but…two words: "photosensitive furniture".
Thank you very much, @anttihoo, for sharing your images and reflections with us! We wish you good luck on your personal project, and we definitely think daydreaming is part of working, too! :)
Check out his LomoHome here for more of his work.