In this number, I would like to share with Uma Kinoshita San, who has kindly given me an interview in the past on the Fukushima photographic project (2011-2014), some notes of photographic techniques and her preferences on this subject.
B: From the pictures that I saw, I deduce that you prefer to use an analog camera rather than a digital one. What does the analog camera give you that the digital camera doesn’t?
U: First of all, I am an analog person! I like doing things with hands. The unrepeatable “only one” nature of the analogue method is very attractive to me. I believe that it also has a sort of warmth. Above all, I really love the time I spend in my darkroom.
B: Do you believe that analog camera and digital camera are different or they have different purposes?
U: Today, there are so many good, or super, digital cameras. Just by looking at prints, it is sometimes difficult to tell which is used. Furthermore, there is now a wide variety of inkjet papers with great nuances. But, just because of the reasons mentioned above, I continue to use an analog camera.
B: I noticed that you shoot both in B/W and Color. What makes you decide which picture must be in B/W and which in Color?
U: Basically I shoot in B/W. This is my style. Before Fukushima, my theme was very introspective and I felt that there was no color. It was natural to me to select B/W. But when I started to take pictures of Fukushima, I thought, to capture the reality in front of me, I should include color. So, it was a challenge to me. The challenge was successful and I enjoyed it very much. But recently, I mean, from the third series of Fukushima, I started to try not to capture the surface, but to seek the deeper meaning through the reality. Then, colors seemed to me to be just too much. Thus, I came back to B/W. In addition, when I am in the no-man’s land, everything seems really monochrome to me.
B: Do you prefer certain films or you choose them according to the type of work that you must do?
U: I always use Kodak TMAX 400 for B/W and Fujicolor Pro 400, for they are very neutral and well balanced. For me, paper selection is much more important than films.
B: Which format do you prefer and why?
U: I like a middle format for its descriptive capacity. Especially, I prefer 6 x 4.5. The balance is nice for me when I decide what to include in the frame without sacrificing the rest out of the frame.
B: What type of optics do you use? Do you have any preference?
U: With my camera CONTAX 645, I use 2 lenses, normal and slightly wide. Both are fast lenses. When I take photos outside, I usually use the wider one.
B: Do you develop your films by yourself or do you give them to somebody? And when you develop, what type of products do you use and what kind of precautions do you take?
U: I have my films developed by a professional lab.
B: How do you handle negatives? Do you choose the pictures through contact sheets or do you scan them and then select them according to your feelings of the moment?
U: I scan the negatives and select from them which to print. I print all that might be finally included. So, at this test print stage, I print relatively a lot. For the final selection, I choose from these test prints. But I check the scanned data again, in case I have missed any great shots!
B: How much do you intervene on a picture, if this actually happens?
U: I don’t think I am doing anything particular. But I am really particular about papers. I have a favorite baryta paper, but after the plant was moved, the specific feeling and nuance were lost. I bought a stock, but it is also running out. This is one of the reasons why I started to make photographic papers by myself, using Japanese traditional hand-screened paper.
B: In the set of pictures “In Silence and Sorrow” (2014), you have used a traditional paper called “Kamikawasaki-washi”. Can you tell us a little about the history of this type of paper originating from Nihonmatsu that, not by chance, is in the Fukushima Prefecture? I read that there are only three craftsmen who make it. What kind of procedure did you use for printing? And what kind of advice would you give to those who want to try to use it for their pictures?
U: Japanese hand-screened paper has a long history of over 1,200 years. The technique spread from Kyoto to nationwide. Even today, hand-screened paper is produced in various parts of Japan. The characteristics vary widely depending on the area. Among them, Kamikawasaki-washi is one of the oldest. It was highly appreciated by novelists and poets of olden times. As is often the case with this kind of traditional handcraft, however, the number of successors has been decreasing. Now, there are actually just 3 female craftspersons there, although it was once a major industry of Nihonmatsu. These 3 craftspersons do everything by themselves, starting from planting paper mulberry by themselves. The most notable quality of this paper is its toughness. As a matter of fact, as it is very tough, it does not decompose at all, even after it goes through the long-time process of washing. To make it a photographic paper, I put emulsion and leave it in a darkroom until it is completely dry. It is difficult to control the use of the brush and the state of the emulsion. But, it is interesting that I never get the same results. Even when something happens, which would be normally unacceptable (for example, strange brown dots or uneven brush marks), such accidents sometimes add good effects. If you want to try to use this paper, I would advice you to enjoy the improvisational nature of this method.
B: Thank you Uma.
B.O. © Floz Visions 2015