Artist Bob Jones lives and works between Berlin and Leipzig and creates moving and timeless large format portraits for her project Wanderkamera. We asked this intriguing, young artist to test our LomoGraflok 4x5 Instant Back. The results are beautiful, dark and playful portraits. In the interview, she tells us about her approach to photography and art, and reports on her experience with the LomoGraflok.
Hi Bob, welcome to our online Magazine! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live and work as a fine artist in Berlin and Leipzig. In Leipzig I am currently working on my photography diploma in Tina Bara's class at the Academy of Visual Arts.
How and when did you first get into photography?
When I was little, my grandpa brought me a yellow plastic camera from World Savings Day. There were no films available, but I carried the camera around with me anyways and imagined the pictures I could take with it. When I was 12 or 13, I bought a compact camera and started taking portraits of myself and my friends. I only discovered artistic photography much later, when I was studying photography at the Berlin Technical Academy of Art.
Do you have any artistic role models?
At first I understood the camera as a direct connecting tool between the outside world and myself and did not even think about forms of expression. In my training, I then got to know positions that resonated with me. One artistic persona I keep coming back to is Claude Cahun. I also love the work of Zanele Muholi, Francesca Woodman and Ana Mendieta. But I also look at other media such as painting, where I find Lee Krasner inspiring, for example. These works have an incredible strength, they are concentrated, intelligent and multi-layered, and they transpire an inherent attitude.
Many of your works are created in large format, what makes this format so special to you?
Large format photography is a form of performance for me. I set up my camera in a public space where I try to portray an unknown person in just one photo. The special thing about the encounter is that it would never happen without a camera. There is something calming about the process, as it creates a moment of stillness, and something mysterious, as I develop the photo directly on site and then give it away.
As a photographer, I have to consider so many things at the same time, both technical and human - and when I succeed, it's great. It doesn't always happen, but often the people photographed and I come out of the moment totally enriched. I find it fascinating that such a focused encounter can take place in noisy and overstimulating places.
You shot a series for us with the LomoGraflok. Was there a concept behind the photos?
Yes and no. I loved the idea of snapping away without a theme or concept. At the same time, I realise that formal principles have crept into my head over the years. For example, I now know exactly what doesn't work at all with my large format camera and what does. In terms of content, my pictures are certainly also based on my earlier work and on what I see in pictures every day. What has run through my work since childhood is a great interest in performative strategies and the questioning of identity categories with the help of stagings. These are never planned, but emerge in conversation with the people photographed and with the help of props that can usually be found at the respective location.
What equipment did you use to take the photos?
The photos were taken with my self-made wooden camera. I was surprised that the LomoGraflok could be mounted on there without any trouble. The only thing that took some getting used to was the somewhat smaller image detail compared to the original 4x5" format, as my pull-out is not as mechanically flexible as that of an industrially manufactured camera - in this respect I had to weigh up sharpness against detail at times.
How do you like the results? And how was it to work with the LomoGraflok?
I found it very exciting to suddenly be able to shoot direct positives in color with the large format camera. My interest in large format photography is actually the specific timelessness of black and white photographs in connection with a long shooting situation. With the color photographs taken here, one does not necessarily see at first glance how they were made. There are no direct traces of the shooting technique on the image, such as a cassette edge. At the same time, a certain rigidity always accompanies this form of photography. I will certainly explore further the combination of color photography, from which I expect dynamism, lightness and spontaneity, in combination with static large format technology.
Are there any future projects or exhibitions you would like to tell us about?
As for this area of my work: I would like to portray some ensembles and collectives again this year. In addition, a small video documentary of my Wanderkamera is planned. Since I give away almost all portraits, the pictures exhibit themselves in unlikely places. I sometimes find them again years later in friends' homes, or as digital, altered copies on social media.
Thank you Bob for the interview! If you want to see more of her, you can follow her on Instagram.