It’s rare nowadays to find a photographer who still shoots solely on film. Everybody is in a hurry, everybody has deadlines and not the time – or the money – to develop films. Rafael Gonzalez is different. He does it his own way. Still shooting on film with different analog cameras, mostly in black and white and with an eye for compositions and moments that document more than just a skateboard trick.
[Interview: Stefan Schwinghammer]
Rafael, first of all, please introduce yourself.
Hello everyone, this is Rafael Gonzalez, skateboarder and photographer from Panama city, Panama.
How is the skatescene in Panama?
It’s not that big actually as it’s a small country, but it’s been growing fast the last couple of years. There are more people into skate related culture and also some things going on in the city more often like contest, events and art shows. Regarding the spots, these are rough and not that smooth as in Europe or in the US, but I guess it’s a chance to get different visual material. Some teams such as Element, DC, Girl/Chocolate and some others have visited the city to get footy for their videos.
You seem to travel a lot. How much time did you spend on the road last year and were did you travel to?
I actually don’t spend that much time traveling in a row during the year but instead do several short trips here and there. Last year I visited San Francisco, New York, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Madrid, Istanbul, Amman, Petra, Rotterdam, The Hague, Bilbao and in between.
What’s the best place you’ve been to?
I must say Copenhagen, the vibe during the summer is something you have to experience to be able to understand it. Middle East was amazing also, totally different from what I have visited previously.
You shoot everything analog. Why still analog or why is analog still better then digital?
I shoot analog because of the results I get with it, the grainy mood, textures, contrasts and accidents are something you can’t get with a digital camera unless you’re really good on photo-editing. Also, it makes me think way more before shooting as you have limited photos per film, that’s a way to train your vision about what could look good and what not. I can’t say film is better than digital, both have their pros and cons, but I just stick with film and chemicals.
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What cameras do you use?
I use the Hasselblad 500C/M, Leica M6, Xpan, and lately have been shooting some stuff with the Graflex Speed Graphic. I like shooting on different formats depending on the situation.
Which one is your favorite?
If I have to choose one I could say the ol’ trusty Hassy 500C/M. The glass is really sharp and the square format allows me to experiment with compositions.
What do you like about the XPan?
I like its cinematographic/panoramic format, so when you’re shooting skateboarding with this camera, you can get in frame the entire surrounding and not just the trick/person. It’s also a 35mm camera, so you can get film easy.
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Isn’t it complicated to work analog, when you’re on the road a lot?
It depends, sometimes I have to hit the local lab if I have to send photos to somebody in a hurry. Or if it’s not the case, then I wait until I get home to get all my stuff developed/scanned or printed.
You don’t shoot common skatephotos. How would you describe your style and what are you looking for in your photos?
I’m not sure about what could be my style in skate photography, I could say it’s a bit journalistic as I try to document not just the trick on the photographs but the surroundings, and also a bit of geometric when it comes to compositions and perspectives. It’s just a personal expression of how I see things on my daily basis, I guess that’s what I want to show with my work.
Florian Dalhuijsen – Ollie
Why do you shoot nearly everything in black and white?
It gives this timeless and classic feeling to the photographs, also when doing it I just have to concentrate on the compositions more than the colors of the scene. Besides that, it’s easier for me to develop black and white films at home than color.
Are there any projects coming up?
Sure, I’m working on some photo-zine projects and also would like to do some exhibitions with photographs from previous travels. Hopefully I can make some of them in Europe. I’ll keep you guys posted! You can keep track of them on my Instagram or tumblr.
Nick Garcia – Switch Frontside Feeble