In our Photographers’ Stories series we are interviewing Goodman Camera builders and users about their experience. Regardless of their day jobs, these guys have a clear passion for film photography and each of these photographers has truly adapted the camera to their unique desires and created something unique with it. Our aim with this series is to showcase how versatile little boxes we designed, and hopefully we will have you convinced that there truly is a Goodman Camera for everyone.
Interview with Tobias Staerk
Tell me a little about yourself, how did you get started in photography, what drew you into the medium?
T.S: I was always a very visual person growing up and at the same time always drawn to understanding things from a technical perspective, so I found a good combination of these two aspects working as a Visual Effect Artist and VR Developer. When I started with photography in my early twenties, I chose digital photography first and tried to recreate the look of analog in photoshop. At some point, I realized that the easiest way to make it look analog was to shoot analog in the first place. A shelf full of old cameras and a fully equipped darkroom in my closet later, analog photography is still very dear to my heart; I love the moment of surprise when you see the developed film or scans for the first time days after you pressed the shutter. Especially because I deal with digital images every day, I very much appreciate the chemical & mechanical process and not having to rely on any electronic device or battery (except a digital light meter sometimes). With the emergence of very affordable home 3d printers and people like Dora Goodman, open-sourcing and sharing her designs creates totally new opportunities for people interested in this medium. Customizing these cameras to your needs, printing and assembling them yourself at home was what excited me to start with this project. This camera is definitely more “my camera” than any other I own.
Other than photography, do you have any other hobbies/passions?
T.S.: My biggest hobby aside from photography is probably traveling. There is almost no better feeling for me than getting lost in a foreign country. I’m also a big virtual reality fan which led me to develop (no pun intended) a VR experience/simulation to teach you how to set up and use an analog darkroom and show people where all these tools in photoshop originally come from. (More here: vrdarkroom.com) It was a passion project at first, combining new technology with an old manual process. Still, I received a lot of interest from people worldwide after showing it at two art exhibitions in Berlin and Hamburg. I’m looking into it now to turn this into a proper learning experience with the help of photography & darkroom teachers, and various companies.
First, your work is amazing and seems to focus on travel/adventure. As a Mamiya RB67 shooter myself, it is the light weight properties that drew me to the Zone for travel. Have you had a chance to hit the road with yours? If so, tell me a little about your experiences.
T.S.: I took the Zone with me on a trip north to the baltic sea around Rostock/Germany to put it through its paces and shoot the first few rolls of film. Shooting with it was very smooth, and so was changing the rolls from the printed 6×6 magazine. Compared to my other medium format cameras (such as the brick-like kiev88), it is very light too! Most people who approached me wanted to know more about this beautiful camera that I was holding and were stunned when I told them that I myself had 3d printed it at home! When I received the scans, I didn’t expect much, to be perfectly honest. I thought most of them would be out of focus anyway and have terrible light leaks, but I was pleasantly surprised to get extremely sharp images back with no artifacts at all. Some credit goes to the nice sharp blue dot Mamiya Press lens, of course, but the Zone is so well designed that most props need to go to Dora Goodman for this. It’s a sure companion for future trips.
With its left-hand grip, charcoal body, and rich veneer, your Zone looks classic, like it was designed to be as much a part of the adventure as a good pair of hiking boots. Tell me a bit about the wood-infused PLA you used to print the camera. Is that what gives it its unique look?
T.S.: I bought this wood-infused PLA called LumberJake from 3DJake a while ago and decided to use it for all parts that I touch or interact with on the camera (grip, darkslide handle, magazine knob & screw heads) as I love that it feels and looks like parts cut out of woods. As an added benefit, the whole room smells like a woodworking shop while you print it. It is a bit harder to print as you need a bigger nozzle to avoid clogging it up with the fine wood particles, and it tends to string quite a bit. As I was not fully convinced that it would be lightproof, I printed the rest of the parts & the body with an easy-to-print semi-matte black PLA from colorFabb. What really nailed the look for me were these beautiful wood veneer panels that took many evenings to cut & sand to fit but make it look elegant and classic.
Where do you draw you inspiration from, and what does a typical day of shooting look like for you?
T.S.: Sometimes I have a rough idea of what I want to shoot, but most days, I barely do any preparation at all and just go out and see what I find. I realized at some point that as soon as I have a camera in my hand, I automatically activate my picture-taking mode and look at the world differently and keep searching for interesting angles, things, and places to photograph. That alone makes it worthwhile for me to bring a camera wherever I go. It can really be anything I draw my inspiration from – a super obvious tourist spot or a red garbage can in an empty alleyway behind it. I enjoy the process of taking pictures, practicing to see, and being present where I am.
Just to get to know you a bit better, do you have any stories/anecdotes about yourself you’d like to add?
T.S.: I just became a dad! I hope my son will love this analog stuff as much as I do since I’m not throwing anything away! Get ready for a ton of cool cameras and darkroom equipment! Not getting the Goodman Zone, though – that one is all mine.