Musician and photographer Obi Blanche tested a few of our films last summer and we couldn’t let the chance pass by to ask him some questions. If you want to know how his childhood influenced his photography you need to read on.
Where are you from, how old are you?
Would you care to tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a photographer?
I’ve come to notice that my childhood has had a huge subconscious influence on what I’m interested in. My father was photographing a lot on slide films and one of the most exciting and celebrated moments was when we set up the silkscreen and our trusty Leica projector and we started to go through the archive. It went even that far that one of his friends bought a massive modern digital multitrack sound station synthesiser that he could create soundscapes to the photos. This was early 90’s. I was intrigued. Also, my father dug cool music, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Billy Idol and of course all the Finnish classics like Rauli Badding Somerjoki and J.Karjalainen. We had a vinyl player, so as a teen I started to scratch with that and sample the records. Photo and music was part of our family life, so I got the bite really early on. I toured the world as a musician and my father told me to document that. This started my interest to work on projects and to shoot more.
Do you professionally work as a photographer?
I do commissions, yes. Do I make all my money from photography, no. I’ve mixed feelings towards the word professional. Things tend to get a twist when that word is involved, work gets somehow automated, because as a professional that’s your job and you make living out of that. Isn’t that the perfect description of professional to begin with? Don’t get me wrong, I like quality and value the work, this professional mindset is important and I want to be the best I can, so if that’s being professional, yes.
Why do you like to take analog pictures? Do you shoot digital as well?
I really like the surprises that analog gives, also the film is limited. Limitations are creative. When you’re shooting, you’re concentrated on that, you can’t check the screen after every shot. Development can be another creative step, also scanning. But I like both formats, analog and digital, also in music. Best is to mix both. Work is about texture. There’s a texture or resonance that kind of authorizes its own being. When you reach that point with any of the mediums, then you know something is happening. It’s a bit when I’m playing bass or guitar and I’m in conversation with the instrument and see what it’s giving out today. Sometimes it feels like the instrument knows which notes work and I’m just trying to find those.
Do you have a favorite subject to photograph? If so, why?
It’s always been people. I remember back in the day we went to Kiasma book shop with my old friend Tuukka Tammisaari and I got this book of photographs about people. This was way before I started to shoot more. I wasn’t quite sure why I wanted to buy that, but I had an interest. There are so many different ways to shoot with people and they all exciting. It’s about the exchange. I’ve got a profound interest in people and with a camera, you’ve got a good opportunity to participate.
What’s your favorite analog camera?
We have piles of cameras with my girlfriend Isotta and we use them all. Every camera is a different tool. I like her Contax G2 a lot. Now when we learned how to use the thumb focus button, much more of the images are correctly focused. It’s pretty essential with that camera. I like the red Russian modern LC-A and the zone focusing because once it’s set you can be really fast with it. The lens is different compared to any other cameras I’ve tried. I had a Yashica T5 and that lens also had its own character, loved it until it got stolen from my pocket. I don’t choose the camera by whats my favorite, I choose it considering what I want to achieve.
Do you have a favorite revolog film?
By nature, I dig the subtle ones that change the white balance. Putting my seriousness aside I saw the possibilities of getting interesting images out of the other ones too. Had some stellar experiences with the Kosmos.
Do you have any future projects you’d like to talk about?
I’ve been working on visuals for Thomas Azier, we did this music video. It felt like a shoot I do with people, but this time we were a team and we did a video, but anyways the exchange and dialog were there, which makes it rewarding. Currently, we’re touring and creating with Thomas, you can follow what’s happening from @obiblanche and @thomasazier.
Thank you for the interview, Obi!