Your New Favourite Person - Otakar Hevler
I think I first stumbled upon Otakar's images after seeing his comments on one of my blog posts. Ota and his photographic partner Marek run the www.landandcolors.com website, which is a collection of galleries showing their work and a blog. If you aren't aware of it I recommend you take some time to explore the site as it the imagery is superb and the blog posts always make for an interesting read.
A few months ago Ota & Marek ran a competition on their site where a few lucky people could win a print of their choice. I won one so ha to you all (I am assured by Ota that the competition was not fixed in my favour)! As I held Ota's immense print in my hands I realised that I foolishly had not yet done a "Your New Favourite Person" article on him! I have since rectified this situation and encourage you to read on to learn more about Ota and his work.
To start with tell us all a little bit about yourself – who you are and what you do.
I am a hobby photographer with a great passion for nature and analog black and white photography. I was born in Prague quite some time ago and I currently live with my family in Geneva, Switzerland.
How long have you been taking photographs?
My more serious involvement with photography started around 2001 when I bought my first SLR camera. I wanted to document my first trip to the US and I was sure that a good camera was everything one needed to make great pictures. How disappointed I was when my first photos arrived from my local lab! But this disaster was good for something, I started to learn about photography and I have kept learning ever since.
I know it’s always a bit of a silly question to some, but how would you describe your photographic style to those who haven’t yet seen your work?
It is hard to say. Black and white, minimalistic, melancholic, dramatic and abstract.
It seems we share some things in common - cloudy, rainy days! Why is it that you seem to so often find yourself out in what other landscape photographers consider poor conditions? Is it a conscious decision, or does it just always seem to be cloudy when you can get out?
Unfortunately when I get a chance to go out it is mainly sunny and “beautiful” so I do not take many photos, I am using these conditions to discover new locations. When the weather is perfect - cloudy, foggy, rainy and windy, nobody gets out and I have the landscape just for me; I am able to move freely and watch the amazing show mother nature can play with all these elements. Sometimes it gets pretty scary, especially in the mountains. But every storm ends and after that the conditions are simply amazing. I just love the atmosphere bad weather can create, and I am trying to translate it into my photographs.
You shoot just film. What is it that draws you to film?
Film has a soul! In my opinion there is nothing nicer than a good print from the darkroom, with all its gray tones and grain. I also like the uncertainty which is associated with this type of photography. It is so nice to come home from a trip, put the negatives back in the fridge and develop them later - with all the expectations and the fear that something can go wrong. When I develop my negatives and print them in the darkroom the emotions and memories from those places come back to me. I feel like I travel back in time.
Every photographer has at least one shot they have taken that really speaks to them on a personal level. Which of your photographs has a special meaning to you and why?
It is a hard to pick one, but if I had to choose it would be a photograph from Iceland which I call “Nothing lasts Forever”. I will not tell you why, I have my own story on this photo, and I leave you to find your own.
When looking at your galleries it is clear to see that you have a great love of landscapes. What has been your favourite landscape to shoot and why?
It has to be Iceland that is for sure. I find the landscape there so unusual and abstract, I always want to go back. Recently I traveled to Scotland which is also an amazing place and I will definitely have to go back there.
When shooting do you plan to be in a certain place at a certain time or do you just hit the road and see what you can get?
I want to be the first one, but mostly it is the latter. I am not very good with planing.
Gear-wise do you have a favourite camera, film or paper that you tend to be drawn to or do you just use what is to hand at the time?
My favorite camera is my Ebony SW 45, but I have not been using it that much lately. Most of the time I travel with my Mamiya RB 67 camera, which is also great. I am mainly using Kodak T-Max and Tri-X films, but I have been experimenting with Ilford HP5 recently and I have to say it makes an amazing negative. I just need to sort out some technical issues I have with drying and I can see this film will be a permanent member of my film family. Regarding papers I am using mainly Fomatone MG 131 and 132, but I also like Ilford multigrade warmtone fiber paper.
What, for you, has been the biggest challenge you have had to face while continuing to use film and darkroom products in an age of digital growth?
It was a few years ago, it was difficult here in Switzerland to buy equipment for the darkroom - chemicals and sometimes also films. Fortunately times have changed quickly and we can see a new wave of interest in analog photography so local stores have some of the stuff I need back in stock.
Which photographers do you think have influenced your style and which photographers do you admire?
The very first one was Galen Rowell. Later it was Michael Kenna, Sally Mann and all the analog enthusiasts I have met on my way.
The world is saturated with photos due to the availability of cameras, apps like Instagram and other social networking sites. What advice can you give to those who are trying to carve out a unique style in a world where everything seems to have been done already?
To be patient, humble and hard working! I believe that invention is unlimited and although it seems that everything has been done already suddenly there will be something new.
Any last words?
Thank you for the interview and also for all the amazing articles and advices you are providing to all of us on your website!
Many thanks to Ota for agreeing to this interview. Hopefully this article has introduced you to a new photographer that maybe you did not know of before, and hopefully his images have inspired you in dome way. For more from Ota visit his website at www.landandcolors.com.