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 Virgil Roger
Tell me a little about yourself, how did you get started in photography, what drew you into the medium?
V.R.: Honestly, I’ve always been into visual arts, but nothing stuck. Doodling during class, bits of painting, more elaborate drawings, it was fun for a while but only photography took a real hold. My first photography-related memory must be going over to Germany during middle school with my parents’ Olympus µ (before it was cool, right?) and shooting way too many rolls which cost a fortune in developing once back home. I got into the medium “for real” way later when my then-girlfriend got tired of me squatting her camera and got me my own for a birthday. Astonishingly, it escalated. Quickly. And here we are now.
Other than photography, do you have any other hobbies/passions?
V.R.: I’m a bit of a tinkerer. Always liked dismantling stuff and working out how it worked, and why it didn’t anymore once I put it back together. Hence engineering school later on, where I did my classes in digital photography thanks to the local photo club. Which led me to web development (yes I’m a professional developer, who also happens to develop film), and it can be considered a passion, lucky for me and my job. I’ve been into bikes and especially mountain bikes for way too long too. Just got back on the saddle after a living-in-the-city hiatus. Skiing as well. Pretty much anything where I go up or down a mountain of some size. I got into 3D printing during the first lock-down™ and it clicked together. Matter-hacking is fun, boys and girls!
From your Instagram feed, I see that you clearly enjoy printing/building multiple types of cameras, so what drew you to Dora Goodman cameras?
V.R.: I don’t remember how I stumbled across Dora Goodman, but it’s in fact the other way round. I got into 3D printing to print one of your models! A friend of mine took the leap and bought an Ender 3 Pro and we got together to build ourselves a couple 6×7s ;). He made a standard Zone, and I built an Axis (can’t remember exactly why), and we got hooked and even ended up designing our own models. The big item for me is Open-Source. Being from an IT background, open source is a value I hold dear, and being able to modify stuff to my needs and / or give back to the community is paramount to a hacker-like mindset. I used Edgar Kech’s design for my own 4×5″ camera for the same reasons, and tried to help out the project.
Which Goodman Cameras have you already printed and which one is your favorite? What do you like most about it?
V.R.: Surprisingly, I didn’t build any standard Zone. But I made a 135 Scura, a 6×7 Axis, a 6×12 Zone, and a few accessories such as the Not a Gimbal (to film bike outings). Favorite one so far is the Zone 612, as the panoramic field of view is a game changer, but I had amazing results from the Axis. I’m sure I’ll end up building a standard Zone someday, for lightness’ sake!
I know you also did a lot of modifications on the files, and designed your own versions. Tell us more about it, what have you done so far?
V.R.: Well, you rendered my hard work obsolete, since most of my own modeling was to make a 6×12 camera and you came out with the Zone soon after! I thank you not 😀 I did modify the original magazone to this extent though, to fit my own YAMCam back design, and allow for 6×6 to 6×12 options. Really most of what I did was adapting stuff to fit other stuff. Tinkering yet again!
You obviously enjoy photographing a wide variety of subjects such as portraits, architecture, landscapes, and candid street photography… Where do you draw your inspiration from, and what does a typical day of shooting look like for you?
V.R.: The hard question. Inspiration. I stole a phrase from someone (forgot who, obviously), and like saying I like to photograph subjects which aren’t subjects (sounds better in the original french). So yes, ugly concrete walls, subjectless streets photography, architecture, anything that could or would go unnoticed to most people. Which entails that I don’t go out shooting for specific subjects. A typical shooting day for me is actually an everyday, any day, on which I happen to have a camera with me, and shoot along the way. I very rarely go out for the sole purpose of taking photos. Except obviously when I take the large format camera or even 612 out. The sheer amount of gear needed does make it more of a voluntary effort. Going back to inspiration, I like to see stuff, watch everything and try no to overlook my environment. Be it on Instagram or in the local forest, I try to really look around. Please Look Up was the title of one of my first solo exhibitions. I feed on many media, and really pick around what I find pleasing. The breadcrumb between all these situations remaining contrasty, textured, geometrical black and white renderings as I tend to see the world better this way.
How do the Goodman cameras fit into your workflow? Do you find yourself gravitating towards specific subjects when shooting with them?
V.R.: There is a definite pull from my Goodman cameras to specific situations, quite simply since I built around the film formats I didn’t have conventional cameras for. So yes, 6×12 makes for a very different usage than my Olympus XA-based 135 work. The exception being the 6×7 Axis, which I lugged around pretty much anywhere, shooting staged portraits all the way to street photography with. That one I just used like any other camera. Where the 3D-printed cameras shine is when I need something specific. And it’s a game-changer then.
Just to get to know you a bit better, do you have any stories/anecdotes about yourself you’d like to add?
V.R.: We’re currently on the market for a house with my sweet [Ofé] (https://instagram.com/