Toby Van de Velde takes centre stage this week as the 29th interview in our In Focus series. He was nominated by John Whitmore back in September who described him as 'Constantly producing wonderful analogue images.'
Section 1 - Background
Share your favourite image / print shot on ILFORD film and tell us what it means to you?
This is a tricky one to answer. Narrowing it down is nigh on impossible.
This is a recent favourite from a couple of months ago, shot on Kentmere Pan 400, shot in my Billora Bella 44. This 127 camera fits a 35mm cassette without the need for re-spooling.
I love history. Reading about it and experiencing it. Hence my love of 20th century cameras I guess?
This image has a primordial feel to it, like I was checking over my shoulder for rampaging Velociraptors as I was opening the shutter. Images that I took 'in the today', but look like they could have been taken 100, or 1000, or 10,000 years ago satisfy me.
Just in case anyone doesn’t know who you are or what you do can you give us the overview?
I am a commercial photographer touting a D810. I have a client list that includes Corporates, NHS Trusts and Local Government - as well as social photography, weddings, family events and portraiture.
I shoot film as an antedate to my day job, where my clients expect images to be pin sharp, well exposed and have good colour rendition. My analogue cameras give me an outlet for experimenting with styles that may not necessarily be lucrative, but give me a sense of artistic freedom. I am my own client and my brief to myself is ‘Try it and see what happens’.
How and why did you get started shooting film?
In 1987 that was all there was. I hadn’t done great in my exams, so started a vocational course that introduced me to the school darkroom. The rest is history.
Who has been your biggest photographic inspiration to date
Cripes. I can’t narrow that one down:
Weegee for when I was a press photographer.
Sebastio Salgado for when I am out shooting the natural world.
And when I am just out trying out something that may or may not work, all the experimenters I communicate with on Insta and Twitter. All over the Globe. You know who you all are.
What is the best piece of photography tip or advice you have ever received?
Never say ‘No’ to a job offer.
In the freelance world that is like pulling your own plug. I know it from personal experience.
Say ‘yes’ and then worry about how you will juggle childcare/dog walking/everything else you have going on later. Just accept the job.
I have left my wife and daughter whilst on holiday, gone home, shot, edited and transmitted the job, stayed overnight, then rejoined my family the next day.
Never say ‘No’ to a job offer.
What film photography related projects are you currently working on?
During lockdown I bought a bulk roll of Kentmere 400. I have shot it in my Canon AT-1, my Olympus 35RC, and my daughter’s Olympus OM1n.
I have also been merrily re-spooling it into my old 127 backing papers and shooting my Kodak Vestpocket Autographic, Bencini Comet and Billora Bella 44. I love sprocket holes, and 127 cameras, they are so full of character.
I also have a stable of (homemade) pinhole cameras and use Ilfospeed Grade III to shoot paper negatives. This year I started to slowly put a darkroom together and plan on getting on with contact printing my collection of 10x4 and 5x7 negatives from these images.
What / where is your next shoot and how do you decide what film / kit you will use?
Wherever I find myself. Usually either west London or South Wales.
I pick my emulsion depending on how the light will be. I usually take more than one type of film with me. I’m not afraid to push my emulsions.
I try to rotate my cameras so that they all get used reasonably frequently. I do have a special few that see more action than most though: My Hasselblad 500C, Canon AT-1 and Olympus 35RC - and of course my previously mentioned collection of 127 cameras.
What are your photographic goals going forward?
Going forward from late 2020 I would very much like to see what I can rebuild from the COVID19 ruins of my professional career. As a photographer who shot mainly ‘social gatherings’ my work diary was wiped out in the spring. I am trying to adapt my role, gain new skills, and seek out new opportunities to find photographic work in areas I haven’t ventured into before.
I teach photography for two local council Adult Education departments in London. Getting better at using the Google educational suite is an ongoing priority.
I don’t doubt that my working world has changed forever. No one’s life will be going back to normal anytime soon. Flexibility will be key to sustaining my income through my camera.
On a personal level, to keep on using my 20th Century cameras. I find just holding these beauties is a joy. Taking the time in a day to go out just to shoot has always been a key part of my life. No hounds, no Wife, no Daughter. Just me, my camera, and quite often my Sekonic L308. It’s a pathway to inner peace.
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.
Kids of the Black Hole (@kidsoftheblackholetx) is an Insta account run by Madison Somervile featuring her mono work documenting the music scene of Austin, Texas. Live music is something close to my heart.
Dale Willets’ Insta account, @delusions_of_competence is a great feed of experimental analogue photography featuring work made with a Holga, pinhole photography and a series of ‘older’ cameras.
@Stig_Ofthedump on Twitter is another photographer who’s work I admire. He is out shooting a variety of film and film cameras around his native Liverpool regularly. Stig is producing some amazing observational work.
Give a shout out to your favourite photography YouTube channels (apart from the @ilfordphoto one).
Melanie King has a very nice, experimental, YT channel. She does a lot of Alternative Processes, and shoots film Astro-photography as well.
Give a shout out to your favourite photographic retailers.
Analogue Wonderland - United Kingdom - www.analoguewonderland.co.uk
Paul, Mary and the team are consistently on hand to facilitate any film needs anyone might have. They are on point, helpful, and in the analogue film world a font of knowledge that is invaluable.
Give a shout out to your favourite lab service, if you have one.
SilverPan Film Lab - United Kingdom - www.silverpan.co.uk
Duncan and his team have been my go to lab for a while now. I met Duncan at the UK Photoshow 2019 and haven’t stopped sending him my (Colour) films since.
I do my own black and white.
Section 3 - Favourite kit
What film cameras do you own and which is your favourite?
Hasselblad 500C - My ultimate camera.
Canon AT-1 - I have owned this since I was 17 (1988)
Olympus 35RC - My holiday stalwart.
Voigtlander Bessa - What’s not to love about 6x9 negatives?
Kodak Vestpocket Autographic - Too cute for it’s own good.
The AgiFlex AgiPinFold - A pinhole conversion I made by smashing out the lens with a hammer and screwdriver. The first two parts of an Emulsive series on this camera are posted here: https://emulsive.org/?s=agifold I owe Em part three, I hope this will be coming soon……
Bencici Comet and Billora Bella 44 - My two 127 staples.
Nikon F100 - This was my pre-digital workhorse. If only it still worked, I can’t bring myself to throw it away.
Various home built pinhole cameras, made from foamcore, coffee cans, clay, beer kegs etc etc.
Aside from your camera, lenses and film what accessories make it into your camera bag?
I love my Sekonic L-308.
A blower bulb is always handy.
Two things my camera bag is never without are a hank of paracord and several metres of Gaffer Tape re-wrapped around a 120 film spool.
What is the best piece of photography kit you have found or been gifted?
An attachment that bolts onto the front of my D810 that lets me digitise 35mm negatives with ease. This was gifted to me by (the legendary) Jeremy North.
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?
I have always loved the HP5+, and (since I’ve been shooting film since 1987) it’s predecessors - but went budget this year (lockdown frugality) and bought Kentmere Pan 400 in bulk. I’m loving it just as much TBH.
The last box of paper I bought was Ilfospeed Grade III. This was to try and get a bit of contrast in my paper negs. I should try the pre-flash technique really.
Will Ilford ever make a film monobath???????????????????
Nominate one other person you think should fill in this form and we will reach out to them
David Collyer of Abergavenny. Insta: david_collyer_photographer
David’s film photography behind the scenes at the hospital he works at during the COVID19 summer lockdown produced some amazing images. Very intimate and moving. - That's a second nomination for David, watch this space!
Images ©Toby Van de Velde
About The Author
Toby Van de Velde
I’ve been a photographer since I found the school darkroom in 1988.
Once I’d finished education, in 1990, I worked as a lab technician for 11 years. There isn’t a photo process that I did not have a hand in at some point in those years. I specialised in black and white develop and print though, and that was where I was always happiest. I even used to eat my lunch under the safelight.
Come 2001, the digital revolution had destroyed 90% of the traditional lab industry and I got a job working for Trinity Mirror as a regional news photographer.
I had a healthy freelance business on the side (the worst kept secret in the company I was told) and gladly took voluntary redundancy in 2014 to strike out on my own.
As already mentioned, I have corporates, local governments and NHS trusts on my client list as well as social work – weddings, family celebrations, portraiture.
The last three years I have taught photography and art for adult education.
I hope that 2021 might see an uplift in the photography industry again. Both for myself and my struggling colleagues.
www.vandevelde.co.uk I blog about my (mostly) film photography here.
https://www.youtube.com/feed/my_videos All sorts of little videos here, cyanotypes most recently.
Twitter and Insta can tend to be a complete mishmash of film and digital, both work and personal projects. You never know what you will end up looking at.