Film Folk: Nina Menzel

Location: Berlin, Germany
Genre: Portraiture
Camera count: 14
Film stock of choice: Kodka Portra 400 + 160, Agfa APX 400, Ilford HP5 400

Tell us about your path to becoming a photographer.
My interest in creating visuals began when I turned 14 and first owned a camera. I initially had a camcorder and digital camera. I started photographing random things and filmed things that fascinated me. Then I started photographing my friends and family, especially my sister. I became interested in analogue photography because of my close friend Linda, who gave me an analogue camera that had belonged to her mom. I’m not sure if she remembers. I didn’t use it much right away but after some time I finally started using it to photograph a friend. It has been over three years since then. I knew that I wanted to shoot analogue from that time onwards, after seeing how beautiful and authentic those first photos turned out. I decided to go to school to study film directing but during that time I was not able to photograph much. I felt that I didn’t have enough time to really focus and give my all. After I finished film school, I decided to focus on photography more and give it another go, but with all my time and passion it deserved. I don’t regret choosing to study film because I learned a lot about filmmaking however sometimes I regret not focusing on photography sooner. So now I make it a point to shoot regularly and finally focus on that passion. Your Instagram feed is full of faces and bodies; what draws you to photographing people and have you experimented with other genres?
The reason I started to photograph was because of the human face. I always loved how my sister looked so I wanted to capture her the way I saw her. I am simply fascinated by that. Especially as a female, I want to capture how I see other females. I want to capture them in a natural way from the perspective of another female.

I have experimented with other genres, I really enjoy capturing still life – more precisely landscapes – since I’ve been traveling and seeing so many different places. I would also like to try documentary photography.You have a very distinct style with a beautiful muted colour palette. Tell us about your journey to discovering your photographic direction.
Thank you! I think discovering your style is a journey. As you grow older you explore more about yourself and the way you are. That only begins with trying and experiencing things. I think that’s the same for me in terms of photography. I try to always experience and learn new things. I also read to learn more and more about colors.What do you primarily shoot with and why is it your weapon of choice?
Currently, I shoot a lot with the Canon EOS 300 with a 28-80mm lens. I really like the softness of Kodak Portra 400 and the colors that aren’t too orange or green in comparison to some other film stocks.

Who’s your lab of choice and do you integrate post production into your film photographs, or prefer to keep them raw?
I think finding a good lab is one of the most important things. I really struggled with that during my travels because I had to try a bunch of different ones. I was really disappointed by a few, which makes it even more important to mention the good ones. In Berlin, I always go to Fotokotti – they are pretty inexpensive and their quality is amazing. I also want to mention a lab in Los Angeles, CA called Gold One Hour Photo – someone recommended them to me and I’ve been really happy with the results. I do integrate post production, I won’t deny that. Some people really find that a no-no but for me, it’s not. I feel like we can’t really compare analogue photography from 1900 for example with what we are doing right now. There is a new interest in analogue photography and the way we use it is different, too. The fact is, we digitalize those analogues and in that process, even during scanning, adjustments are made. The scans are getting better because the technology has become better. I think there are are many possibilities that can be created from combining what we have now in terms of Lightroom and the simple outcome of a film roll. I don’t edit them too much and always try to stick to the original vibe however sometimes I like to try different things and see how it turns out. In the end, the film look is still there so it’s just a kind of a soft signature. I think there is no way to reproduce the look of a developed film image to a digital image and that makes it so interesting to me. No matter how much people edit a digital picture nowadays it will never has the authentic and unique film look.Do you shoot digital at all or are you 100% analogue?
I try to avoid shooting digital as much as possible because I’ve become used to shooting analogue these days, and it is my preference. I would say 98% of my work is analogue.

If you don’t have a camera in your hand, what would we find you doing?
There are many things and they change nearly every week. I do a lot besides photography but I wouldn’t say I have a specific hobby.

Show us your most loved photograph captured on film.
This photograph is of my friend, Amelie. I think it’s my most loved photograph because it’s one of the first shoots I ever did on film, and I have an emotional connection to it. I always loved the eyes of Amelie.You can only shoot with one camera, one lens and one film stock for the rest of your life. Which do you choose?
That’s a hard one…I think I would go for a Mamiya RZ67 with Kodak Portra 400. Although it’s really big and difficult to move around with for the rest of my life, I’d get really good quality out of the 120 – I would go for quality if I only have one choice.

Mac or PC? Mac
Kodak or Fuji? Kodak
Colour or B/W? Color
Frontier or Noritsu? Frontier
Self-Develop or Lab? Self developed is cooler but depends on the situation sometimes a lab is just easier
Portrait or Landscape? Portrait
Lightroom or Darkroom? Darkroom
35mm or Medium Format? For now I would say 35mm cause I use it most of the time
External or In-Built Light Meter? External light meter

Check out more of Nina’s work on her website and follow her on Instagram.

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