Known for his fantastic images of urban and skate culture. (If you're not following him already then you should be). Rafael González is the 30th interview in our In Focus series.
Section 1 - Background
Share your favourite image / print shot on ILFORD film and tell us what it means to you?
I have so many photos I really like it’s so difficult to choose one specific but this one is one of my favourites I must say, I shot it during a skate session with my friends, nothing planned just cruising around the city with my camera. It’s just one of those simple moments in our everyday life and I guess that’s the main reason I really like it, because of its spontaneity and simplicity.
Just in case anyone doesn’t know who you are or what you do can you give us the overview?
My name is Rafael González, photographer based in Panama city, Panama. Urban scenarios, architecture, daily life and skateboarding culture have been my source of inspiration since I started shooting photos. I like experimenting with different film formats and cameras, from 35mm to 4x5, and lately have been working with 16mm film cameras.
How and why did you get started shooting film?
t all started because of skateboarding, looking at photos in magazines, and wondering about the process of shooting them and how to get a certain result. For some reason, being a skateboarder makes you pay extra attention and be very curious about your surroundings and I guess that trained my vision even before start taking photos. Then on my first travel out of the country, I finally decided to get a film camera, just to document and have some memories from the trip. I came back with a bunch of exposed rolls, learned how to develop film, and then how to make prints right after that. That moment of seeing the images on the negatives for the first time got me hooked since then.
Who has been your biggest photographic inspiration to date?
There are a lot of great photographers nowadays it’s just difficult to choose and keep track of all them, but some of the photographers I always have admired and take as references are (in no particular order) Henri Cartier-Bresson, Trent Parke, Josef Koudelka, William, Klein and Berenice Abbot.
What is the best piece of photography tip or advice you have ever received?
I haven’t received that much advice regarding the technical side of photography but on the general aspect of it some I could mention are: Shoot as often as you can to get comfortable with your equipment and subjects, don’t follow all the guidelines and make your own rules instead, don’t rush things, and print your work whenever you have the chance.
What film photography related projects are you currently working on (or are in the pipeline)?
I’m working on the 4th Issue of my magazine project Interstate (@interstate_mag), a printed publication about skateboarding, photography and visual arts.
What / where is your next shoot and how do you decide what film / kit you will use?
I shoot almost every day and always carry around a camera with me, but the next planned shoot is going to be this weekend, I’m going to shoot some more photos for my magazine project here in Panama. I’m definitely bringing the Hasselblad 503CX, Hasselblad Xpan, and maybe a 4x5 set up, all loaded with Ilford HP5 Plus. Those are my regular cameras I usually shoot with.
What are your photographic goals going forward? (Can be business or personal).
To keep focused on personal projects here and there, I hope travels become a regular thing again soon with no major restrictions, and also to work more with brands, agencies, and galleries. Other than that, to stay inspired and shoot as much as I can.
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.
Some of my favorites film photographers on Instagram are:
Zander Taketomo: One of my favorites skateboarding photographers shooting on film these days, and with the Hasselblad system.
Quentin de Briey: Amazing portraiture, fashion, and documentary photography.
Elliot Erwitt: Archival photographs from Magnum Photographer Elliot Erwitt.
Give a shout out to your favourite photography YouTube channels (apart from the @ilfordphoto one).
I usually don’t watch that much photography content on YouTube, but one channel I can mention is Daniel Milnor.
Give a shout out to your favourite photographic retailers (name, location and website).
BH Photo in New York. (www.bhphotovideo.com)
Casanova Foto in Barcelona, Spain. (www.casanovafoto.com)
Give a shout out to your favourite lab service, if you have one.
I process/develop/scan my films at home.
Section 3 - Favourite kit
What film cameras do you own and which is your favourite? (Please send us a picture of it if you can).
I have the Hasselblad 503cx, Hasselblad Xpan, Leica M6, Olympus Pen FT, Graflex Speed Graphic and a Polaroid SX70. Difficult to choose just one as my favourite camera since all of them have their uniqueness, but I really like shooting with the Hassy 503cx and the Xpan.
Aside from your camera, lenses and film what accessories make it into your camera bag?
My Sekonic light meter is definitely an essential, a red filter and an extra film back for the Hasselblad in case I want to change film stocks in between shoots.
What is the best piece of photography kit you have found or been gifted?
I’d say my old trusty Hasselblad Xpan with the 4/45mm lens, I bought it years ago before prices went crazy high on the market, and also my 30mm Distagon fisheye lens.
As this is an ILFORD interview it would be remiss of us not to ask about your favourite ILFORD products. Tell us you favourite ILFORD film, paper or chems and why?
My favorites film are Ilford HP5 Plus (box speed or +2) and Ilford Delta 3200 Pro, been shooting with these for years I already know how the photos are going to turn out in terms of contrast, shadow detail and grain. For printing I really like the Ilford Multigrade Art 300 paper textures and the Ilford Multigrade FB Warmtone Semi-Matt.
Nominate one other person you think should fill in this form and we will reach out to them
All images ©Rafael Gonzalez
About The Author
Photographer from Panama city, Panama. Influenced by urban environments, skateboarding culture, and daily life scenarios, Rafael has developed a signature vision exploring the relationship of these elements through meticulously constructed images taken in a variety of places, where cultures and societies collide or coincide.
His specific use of contrast, light, shadows and well-defined framing is related to his analog approach to image-making. He uses a range of film cameras, experimenting from large format to 35mm, and it gives his work a certain edge that feels both secretive and original, sacred and true.
Since 2015, his work is part of the Permanent Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Panama.