Interview
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Interview: Peter Gotz

“I realized how important portraiture is in the grand scheme of things and how important it is to photograph the people you love

When I first came across Peter’s IG account, I felt really compelled by his photos – they all feel so genuine. I hope that as I grow as a photographer, I can capture as many moments in such spectacular beauty as Peter has been doing.

JM: Hey Pete! Thanks for agreeing to do this.  As far as film photographers that I only know through social media go, I’d say I feel most akin to your style.  I really look forward to getting to know more about you. 

JM: Why do you shoot film?

PG: There’s a comfort and confidence that comes along with shooting film. You have a certain set of skills and you have to trust in yourself when you pit yourself against a scene. You gotta trust your instincts and get into a flow where you are sure of your composition and exposure choices. Once you commit and capture your image then there is a moment of pride and relief where you can take a breath knowing (or hoping) that you nailed it. Then you move on. When I’m shooting film I am not tempted like in digital to take many pictures of the same subject at slightly different angles with slightly different settings. My digital shooting experience is filled with chaos and double-guessing instead of peace and serenity. Shooting film is definitely a more enjoyable process for me. 

JM: What is your favorite film? Camera?

PG: My favourite B&W film is Tri-X. My favourite Slide Film is Velvia 50. My favourite C41 film is a toss-up between Ektar 100 and Portra 160. Those choices are highly influenced by what my favourite photographs have been shot on.

PG: My favourite film camera is the Nikon F3. I actually thought it was a pretty ugly camera initially but it has definitely grown on me. My collection of Nikkor primes are an absolute joy to use with that machine. Qualms I have about it though: – you can’t see the shutter speed LEDs in the dark through the viewfinder. It also is annoying to operate both the exposure compensation dial and also the mirror-lockup mechanism. There is no single perfect camera out there, only what works for you!

JM: What proportion of your shots turn out as you hoped (or better)?

PG: I don’t think I have ever developed a roll where there wasn’t at least 1 image that I was really happy with.. (That is except for the “Zeiss Crisis of 2017” when my roll came out completely blank from a Zeiss Contaflex that I picked up for $20 from a trunk of an antique shop in Toronto’s distillery district). The reason I stuck with shooting film is that the first roll of film that I ever shot (Ilford XP2 at the Calgary Stampede) was the best SERIES of 36 images that I had ever captured in a row. I flip through those 36 prints and am so proud of the variety, the story, and the quality, whereas if I scroll through 36 digital images in my Lightroom photostream then I just can’t wait to blast past them to get to the film stuff. There’s a certain magic that’s involved in the process of shooting film. I think there’s always going to be a proportion of images that turn out better than imagined, worse than imagined, and exactly how you envisioned. I try not to get too bogged down in it and try to stay humble. As long as I end up with one photograph that I am very proud of as a result of hours of shooting, developing, scanning, and editing, then I think it’s all worth it. The anticipation and delayed gratification is an amazing feeling. It forces you to sit with the images in your mind where they can live with you and the memories of the moment solidify before you ever even see the final developed photograph. Pretty awesome to slow things down a beat and practice some patience and contemplative photography in this Internet age where everybody else needs results yesterday.

JM: It’s really difficult for me to choose a favorite photo of yours.  If I had to pick one, I’d say it’s the one of your wife before you proposed (IG – 06Jan2019).  The mood of it reminds me so much of dozens of shots I’ve taken of Brittany.  Where does that shot rank for you?  

“Essentially the same light that touched your subject touched your film… I think that is so powerful and special.”

PG: Haha thanks! I actually brought my digital kit on that trip to Banff, Alberta, Canada, but made a last minute decision to swing for the fences and to try to shoot my engagement with the Hassy! It was a beautiful moment for us and I’m really glad I made the decision to capture it on a tangible medium which I value so much. I’m sure you’ve heard the analogy before but I really think it’s an important point to mention – when you shoot a portrait of a person on film then that emulsion is actually capturing photons of light that bounced off that person and which are then harnessed through chemical reactions on film.. Essentially the same light that touched your subject touched your film. I think that is so powerful and special. Years can pass by and you can lose loved ones but having a negative of that person to cherish is pretty awesome and special.

JM: What is your favorite shot you’ve ever taken?  What’s the story behind it?

PG: My favourite shot I’ve ever taken is a portrait of my dad. My then girlfriend at the time (now wife) and I were visiting my parents in Vancouver and it was a beautiful sunny day on Granville Island when Sirena, my dad, and I popped into the Granville Island Brewing Company to cool down with some refreshments. It is such a happy memory for me just chatting and sharing stories. I had just picked up a Yashica D TLR (60 year old camera) and had it loaded with some Tri-X that I had decided to push to 1600. I rested it on the table and placed a little booklet under the front legs to angle it upwards a bit. I set my aperture to f4 and my shutter speed around 1/125th and as we were talking and having fun I lightly pressed the shutter release and heard the quiet little leaf shutter click. It was just a genuine experience with my dad rather than a formal portrait shoot. The guy is my hero and I’m really proud of that image. Shooting portraits can be really hard and daunting but it doesn’t always have to be. I think it was that moment that I realized how important portraiture is in the grand scheme of things and how important it is to photograph the people you love. 

More of Peter’s photos can be seen below:

5 Comments

  1. This interview is amazing. I agree so much with the delayed gratification Peter mentions, it’s what keeps me buying the next roll! Can’t wait for the next interview.

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  2. Thanks to Kingston Film Shooters for sharing this interview and website on Instagram. As an old guy in photography, 61, it blows me away to discover a thriving film culture among youth in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada region. I carry my old Nikon FM2 (fully manual) no battery, no light meter, beside my array of DSLR-point-and-shoot, smart phone, drone digital devices. I develop my film at Downtown Camera where it is scanned and uploaded to a website where I can retrieve the digitized negatives. Film goes hand-in-hand with my occasional workshops on Contemplative Photography in Prince Edward County http://www.photographyadventures.net
    As you say, “My digital shooting experience is filled with chaos and double-guessing instead of peace and serenity.”
    However, it will be interesting to see if, after the film experience, you choose to transition back to digital with a new way of seeing and shooting…
    I always believed that the ONLY advantage we who started in film and evolved into digital had over those who never knew film was to appreciate how miraculous digital is. How difficulties like manually advancing each frame, exposing properly, not knowing if you captured the scene for several days, breathing darkroom chemicals, scratches and dust, and those instances you experienced when the film jams or doesn’t wind into the spool…
    That being said, there is a great satisfaction that “purist” photography is alive and well and the work of the pioneer photographers before apps and IG filters is being appreciated.

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    • Hey Phil! Thanks for the comment. While I cannot speak for Peter, I wouldn’t consider myself a “purist.” I still have a digital mirrorless camera and take it out with me sometimes – and I use the camera on my phone all the time. Having grown up at a time when the ubiquity of film and digital coexisted, it’s tough to say to say whether I’d be returning to digital or film. Growing up I had an old Minolta X-370 and used it through college when it was stolen. While I take shooting film more seriously than I did when I was a kid, I think that part of getting back to it comes from the desire to return to photos that mean something.

      Perhaps it is just me but I think that with the seemingly endless number of digital photos accumulating on my phone and computer, each one starts to mean less and less. With the creation of a physical negative and the fact that you’re paying for each and every photo, there starts to have more meaning attached to each shot. Not to mention, the sense of nostalgia that comes along with it. After a couple years with my mirrorless camera, I found myself trying to create art moreso than capturing memories. Film felt like the more natural medium for that purpose.

      So it’s not about eschewing digital or believing film is photography’s pure form, it’s about feeling comfortable with it and finding something beautiful in the simplicity and restrictions in shooting film. Just one man’s take on it* Either way – I really appreciate you sharing your perspective on film and digital. No matter what drives us to take photographs and no matter how we take them or what we take them with, it’s great to know there’s a community out there with an appreciation for photography.

      Cheers,
      -JM

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  3. Thank you too JM! Well stated. Great to be in touch.
    This past weekend I spent going through old negatives and film cameras and enlargers that my lifelong photographer friend is organizing to sell.
    Large format cameras, 35 mm SLR’s Pentax Nikon Canon Mamiya, Durst, monopods, darkroom equip… Even a 5-foot darkroom sink for print washing.
    I will post the items to be sold and anyone who is interested may contact me. He’s in Brockville in palliative care and I’m in Picton, Ontario and can deliver.
    PN
    http://www.instagram.com/county_photographer

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