Interview with Bastian Kalous
Q: Hi Bastian, welcome to Pellicola! Tell us something about your life and yourself.
Hello Pellicola Magazine. My name is Bastian Kalous, I was born in 1980 in a small town called Freyung. It’s in the deep deep woods of Bavaria. It’s very near to the borders of the Czech Republic and Austria. We have a National Park here, the Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald and a lot of other forests surrounds my neighborhood. My first big dream was always to leave this place because it bored me a lot when I was younger and it took a long time that I found my „home“ here. Nowadays I can’t think about leaving. What should I do anywhere else? Living in huge cities would destroy me and my soul for sure. I need the trees, the bees, the birds and all other beautiful beings of Mother Nature. I need this a lot more than any other funny free time activity. I work in the emergency room here in the hospital. A lot of young doctors are coming from time to time and it’s nowadays weird for me to see that they can’t live here. "There is just these forests, nothing else!“ Yeah and this is perfect as it is. I found my love to my wife here and now we have us, our little girl and Schoki the dog. I love hiking and within this activity I found that what I call „home“, the nature. With the viewfinder I can see what is really going on out there in this „nothing“. For me it is full of stories, full of adventure and full of peace as well. When I started photography as a hobby that changed my life I used only instant films for capturing moments. Polaroid was and is still my big love in Photography. These old and expired films create such beautiful and sceneries of my hiking trips. There is something otherworldly in them. It’s really magical. With the time these films are almost over and I had to look for something similar, which makes me as happy as Polaroids, I tried to create Collodion wet-plates, but it’s so much more time intense and this is what I don’t have too much these days. Now I found a similar love for the „normal“ film photography. First there was the 4x5 large format sheets and now it’s also 35mm and roll film. Developing b&w films, enlarge them for silver gelatin prints and some lithprints too.
Q: Tell us about how you discovered photography. Do you remember when and why did you start taking pictures?
There was this day when I saw a picture of a polaroid time zero image on the internet and from that day I wanted to do this. The problem was that everywhere I asked about time zero films for Polaroid cameras I get told that there isn’t any Production for Time Zero Polaroids. So it looked like I can’t start doing this. But I won’t quit searching for films. I called all the photography shops around also the Police stations just for asking if they have some old but gold Polaroid films. I found a store not far away from where I live and this guy gave me about 4 or 5 double packs of original Time Zero film. I was just so happy when I put them into my car and drove home. With time I found out how to look for these films and I got a good collection of old and expired films in the basement. I spent a lot of money for it. Oh, my… I shouldn’t think about that now, but yeah that’s how it started. My wife and I started with our parents old Polaroid cameras. We used fresh Polaroid 600 films and Spectra films, these were the types they still where produced. We tried all different things to „destroy“ the good and fresh look of the picture. It should look like the on I’ve seen on the internet. No Chance, I need Time Zero, and now I have it. And the first images was so amazing for me. I was infected by this kind of Photography.
Q: You are mostly an instant photographer, why instant photography among all the other options?
I love to show the here and now on my images. And I love to do this with the expired Instant films. They create such a special look. It looks mostly like from another dreamy world. The dream look is the biggest reason why to use them I think. I also love the fact that I can see the image immediately after taking a picture. And I totally love the fact that it is a „real“ image. Not just a pixel thing which is on the computer, it’s something more in the real life. I love looking in the digital world and I love the images which are shown in it, they look so amazing and clean but for me, it is more interesting to get something different than this. Not always. Sometimes I think about using my digital camera more and get „good“ images but I love the „not perfect“ pictures a lot more. Especially the Polaroids seem like they know what they have to do with the picture. They create flames, weird colors, light streams and leaks and I mostly fits perfect for the viewer, for me.
Q: Which devices do you use? Is there a story about your camera(s)? Did you buy them or were they family’s?
The first two cameras were the parents, a Polaroid Spectra and a Polaroid 600. Just simple plastic cameras but they still work nice. I bought a few Polaroid Packfilm Cameras but then I get the Polaroid 110a Pathfinder which got a great lense and which got no shutter and speed automatic. I need a lightmeter for it and in that way, I learned how to use it. It wasn’t easy at first for me but with some training, it worked well. And then I found my love to the large format cameras. I haven’t ever heard about such cameras and this technique but with some teachings of some friends, I get into that thing too. This is what I was doing with the biggest passion for a few years with the Polaroid Sheet films. All the time when my wife had to learn for school I get my backpack onto my shoulder, it was filled with the big camera and a smaller one, all in all there where about 25kg on my shoulders, and started hiking and exploring our nature here. There where fantastic trips. A lot of time passes by and some pain was brought back home with me after walking and photographing for about 10 hours or more, but I loved it. And I'm still in love with it nowadays.
For a while now I also found my love in riding my bike again, which I did when I was a teenager. And for this trips, I can’t bring the big camera. But the 110a fits perfect in my backpack. I love the fact being out there and move a lot but this without a car or so. I love using my body to see the beautiful areas here. No air pollution for my hobby. When I want to see something good I have to do something for it.
Q: When I look at your pictures it’s like looking across another time, their vintage look makes me travel across the past. Do you perceive the same connection with past?
Yeah, I can see some old mood in the images sometimes. Especially from the b&w ones. I also love this fact because I think a few times how the living would have been here before my or our time. The Bavarian woods were known as a cold and human-unfriendly place. Especially in winters. This is the season which I enjoy the most. All Is quiet and cold, beautiful… But it surely was hard to survive here in the past. It would be awesome for me to be one of the people which came here first. When there where no roads and houses. Nature surely was so very more impressive. I try to capture some little dream worlds from these days.
Q: You shoot in very enchanting natural places. How do you choose these places? Is there a specific place that you grow fond of?
I first found these places when I strove through the woods here but this has changed a bit. I still do the hiking without any thinking of some special place but sometimes, especially when I go to another place like the Bavarian Woods, I really have an image in my mind how it should look like. Sometimes it works, sometimes not and sometimes it’s getting a lot better. I love all places on earth but my dream place would be Canada or Alaska to travel to. There is also this „nothing“ which I look for all the time.
Q: Looking at your pictures we realize that the world we live in is a very beautiful place. Does a photographer like you have also an ethical role? How much environmental problems concern you?
Of course, we nature photographer have an ethical role. We are the ones why people all over the world see this amazing places. And that’s a reason why they also want to travel and explore them. This works so fast and big with the internet. So what we can do is not photography these places, but it is our passion, so it’s hard. Or we can post them without saying and showing where it is. It makes it a bit harder to find them. I do this with the special places here. They are sometimes hidden deeply in the forest and nobody should get there. Or better said not the mass tourism. I hope that people which walk these paths for seeing the beauty of it will always leave the place like they found it. Don’t dump it or destroy it. Show you real love for it, not just for the picture you want to get.
Q: What keeps you inspired?
All day is a good day. A place never stays the same. It always looks a little bit different and there is always a reason to go out and enjoy it. I am inspired by all kind of weathers. No matter if it’s day or night. If I can take a picture or not. I am inspired by our little child. It shows that there is always something interesting to look for. And of course, I am inspired by my wife. There is a reason to work for and be creative for.
Q: If you could meet a great photographer, who will he or she be?
There are so many great photographers out there these days. It would be great to meet all these guys and see how they work and what they do. They are also a reason why I am inspired almost every day to go on tour. But the best for me would be to meet Ansel Adams out at shooting and also at his darkroom to see how he is working.
Q: Suggest Pellicola's readers a film or an album.
One big influence for me and my photography is "Into the wild“. I think this is no special answer but it is the truth. I love the fact that he did was I was dreaming about. Nobody knows how a story ends. There is often a sad ender. Another gorgeous movie is this one. It would be an awesome experience for sure. And I love this one for sure.
All images © Bastian Kalous