In Focus - Monika Danos Posted On 8th September 2022 To Magazine, Lockdown Sessions & In Focus
Monika Danos is our 60th In Focus interview. When not taking care of daily life, her love for trees and gardens means that she can be found chasing shadows with her pinhole camera, or printing in the darkroom. Patterns and lines that are created by light and shadow influence her style of work. Photography and the cyanotype prints gives Monika the opportunity to share what she see's in nature and in her daily life.
Section 1 - Background
Share your favourite image / print shot on ILFORD film and tell us what it means to you?
This is one of my current favourites - I made it last year and it’s one of my first 35mm Ortho+ negative contact prints on cyanotype. I have a chronic illness that had given me a really nasty flare up, and a compact camera was the only thing that I could walk with for any distance. Even then I had to keep my walks short and non strenuous. I had recently been gifted an Olympus XA2 from someone in the film community and won a selection of ILFORD films in #FilmFebruary. I decided to photograph the shadows on this trail near my home, to see how they would work as tiny contact prints. This photo represents my sheer stubbornness to not give up making prints, even if it means adjusting my vision to adapt to my limitations. It is a reminder of the kindness and generosity of people in the film photography community.
Just in case anyone doesn’t know who you are or what you do can you give us the overview?
I’m Monika, I live in Seattle and work as an engineer. I love gardens and trees. I’m fascinated by the patterns and lines created by light and shadow. Photography gives me the opportunity to share what I see in nature or in my daily life. Sometimes that’s beauty and sometimes it’s a kind of self reflection - I’m connecting with what I see, without always having the words to say why. I see printmaking as an important form of self expression. I cohost @printparteh and @drawATogParty (draw-a-photographer) “participation events” on twitter.
How and why did you get started shooting film?
When I got into photography, film was the only option! When I was a teenager, my mom was in an art program at our local community college and Introduction to Photography was a required course. She made a pinhole camera from an oatmeal can, and learned to make darkroom prints. I fell in love with her results and knew then that someday I would learn to print. My parents gave me a Pentax K1000 so that I could learn the basics of taking pictures, but I didn’t start learning to print until I was at university and could use the student darkroom.
Who has been your biggest photographic inspiration to date?
This really changes, depending on where I am in my photography journey. In the beginning it was Imogen Cunningham’s botanical photographs. At the moment it’s my conversations with other photographers that really get my wheels turning and help me get out of my comfort zone. Erik Gould (@clickerik on twitter) is one of these people - our discussions about contact prints, and small prints, have fueled my current explorations in making tiny cyanotypes.
What is the best piece of photography tip or advice you have ever received?
Many years ago I took a printing workshop from the late Ray McSavaney. He told me that I needed to work on my tones, but he wouldn’t tell me how he thought my images should be printed. He advised me to print an image dark, light, and in the middle. And to also make sets using the low, high, and medium contrast filters. It felt like a waste of paper at first. But I learned so much about printing and contrast. That exercise trained me on what could be done in the darkroom, developed my printer’s intuition, and helped me develop my style.
What film photography related projects are you currently working on (or are in the pipeline)?
On hiatus is my Remnants project - photographs of skeleton leaves that I collected on walks. I’ve settled on using my LF camera for this project, and I really had wanted to make darkroom prints of the images, but it takes more energy than what I have at the moment. Hopefully I’ll come back to it one day.
Right now I’m pretty immersed in making tiny cyanotypes that are contact printed from film negatives. There’s a surprising amount of testing involved in getting a good look and figuring out how to manage the tones. I need to approach subject matter differently since the prints will be so small, and I like the challenge of that.
What / where is your next shoot and how do you decide what film / kit you will use?
My shoots are a bit spontaneous at the moment. Local parks, parking garages, my home, garden and neighborhood are where I’ll be in the near future. If I’m photographing flowers - I’ll probably pick something from the Delta line. Or, ahem, color film. If it’s a sunny day I’ll be hunting shadows with Ortho+ and either my Reality So Subtle 6x12 pinhole, the XA2, or Olympus Pen S.
What are your photographic goals going forward? (Can be business or personal).
I’d love to finish my Housebound project where I used a pinhole camera to photograph around my home. It’s all hand printed and I have a few images left to print, so it’s on hold until I have enough stamina for darkroom work.
I’m taking things a day at a time: not making goals and being open to opportunities and new ideas. Sometimes constraints can really push me to explore more.
SECTION 2 - SHOUT OUTS
We all need a bit of inspiration and love so this is your chance to tell the community about yours – from the film photographers whose work inspires you, the labs you trust with your film, your ‘go to’ film photography stockists, your favourite community darkrooms or just anyone in the community who you feel deserves a special mention.
Give a shout out to your 3 favourite film photographers (not photography hubs) currently active on IG or Twitter and briefly tell us why others should follow them.
Just 3? Not fair! These are just a few of the terrific photographers that I follow on Twitter:
@kimmiechem2 makes wonderful panoramic photographs of New York City, where she lives. Her viewpoint shows me all the things I wouldn’t see when I’d just be trying to cross the street. She also actively engages with the community.
@klizana is a fantastic photographer, darkroom printer, and is helpful and generous in sharing her wealth of knowledge. I’m in awe of the pinhole camera that she made out of a wooden wine box.
@chichic creates beautiful, dreamy photographs of flowers in Japan. Her work is like a glimpse into a peaceful garden.
Give a shout out to your favourite photography YouTube channels (apart from the @ilfordphoto one).
I haven’t gotten into YouTube for photography. But these are some of my favorite books on technique:
- Cyanotype: The Blueprint in Contemporary Practice, by Christina Z. Anderson
- Using the View Camera: A Creative Guide to Large Format Photography, by Steve Simmons - worth it just for the chapter on contrast control and film developing.
And these are some of the people that I turn to when I have a technical question:
@grumpyfck - darkroom printer, knowledgeable about cameras, he’s always happy to help answer questions.
@cpindell1 is a LF landscape photographer, darkroom printer, and zone system expert.
Give a shout out to your favourite photographic retailers (name, location and website).
Glazer’s Camera in Seattle, WA https://www.glazerscamera.com/
Blue Moon Camera and Machine in Portland, OR https://bluemooncamera.com/
Give a shout out to your favourite lab service, if you have one, (name, location, website).
Moon Photo in Seattle, WA. https://www.moonphotolab.com/.
Section 3 - Favourite kit#
What film cameras do you own and which is your favourite?
When my Bronica SQ-A died, I felt like my skills were finally solid enough to get a Hasselblad 500c/m. I’m not a gear head, but…. those Hasselblad lenses! The Zeiss 120mm Makro really suits my style.
Aside from your camera, lenses and film what accessories make it into your camera bag?
A light meter, notebook, pen or pencil. I can’t live without my Zone VI preview filter. My phone calculator for pinhole/LF. Measuring tape for LF. Extension tubes for the Hasselblad. Lens cloth. I often carry a tripod.
What is the best piece of photography kit you have found or been gifted?
I’ve been the recipient of some really generous gifts from people in the photography community. But “the best” gifts came from my husband, who isn’t a photographer but wants to support me in my work. He won’t pick out cameras, but has occasionally surprised me with accessories. The first photographic gift he gave me was a grain magnifier.
As this is an ILFORD interview it would be remiss of us not to ask about your favourite ILFORD products. Tell us your favourite ILFORD film, paper or chems and why?
I’m in love with Ortho+ right now. It really suits my tiny cyanotype project and yields a really lovely range of tones and detail.
I’ve been using both the Delta range of films and multi grade paper for ages. I know how to get the prints that I want with them.
Nominate one other person you think should fill in this form and we will reach out to them
@LoreHealy on twitter. She makes magic with Holga and pinhole cameras, and her photographs have a wonderful sense of place.
About The Author
Monika developed her love of art and photography while growing up; her mother painted and family trips to art museums were frequent outings. It was when her mother took an Introduction to Photography course at a local art school that Monika’s interest in darkroom printing took root. Monika has developed a deep love of traditional photographic processes which include making cyanotype photograms, pinhole photographs, and darkroom prints from film negatives.
An engineer by profession, Monika lives in Seattle, WA with her husband, two children, and cat. When not taking care of daily life, she can be found in her garden or chasing shadows with her camera.