David Shiffman – Local Photographers Series Ep.3

David Shiffman, known on instagram as @shootfilm_cpt , is a name which any film shooter in Cape Town should have heard by now. David works at Cape Film Supply and he is well known for his skill in repairing and servicing film camera’s. He is also a well known member of the skateboarding community down here in Cape Town – this has a big influence on his photographs. He shoots a whole array of cameras, he also sells and buys gear regularly. Some of my favourite works by David lie in the negatives from his Olympus Mju-II or Nikon F – series cameras’. He also recently had a photograph shared by Ilford on their official IG page. We finally got the chance to send some questions to David and feature him in this rad little series. So, below is what you are here for.

Questions by @outgettingribs, Storm Simpson. Write up by @kinohogan

How did your photographic journey begin? 

I started shooting years ago when I was around 7 or 8 years old. Mostly on a 2MP digital point and shoot and some film from time to time. Would just document my surroundings and who I was around back then.

 

Why analogue?

Analogue slows the whole photography process down. In an age where everyone has a camera in their pocket I find it over-saturated. If you go out with a digital camera you will find yourself overshooting. WIll have hundreds of photos firstly you won’t ever look at and never delete.

What is your favourite film stock? 

Color would definitely be Portra 400. Black and White Tri-x 400.

What camera do you use?

The real question would be what cameras don’t I use. Been loving my Nikon F5 lately and Pentax 6×7.

What are some of your favourite lenses? Why?

SUMMICRON-M 50mm f/2 E39 : Pin sharp.
SMC Takumar 6×7/Super Takumar 105mm F2.4 :MY personal favourite for portraiture. Zeiss Planar T✻ 80mm f/2.8 C : insanely sharp.
16mm f/2.8 Fisheye-NIKKOR AF-D : pure gold.

Which photo lab is your favourite? Why?

Cape Film Supply. And I’m not biased because I work there, it has been my favourite lab for years.

What inspires you? E.g. personal experiences, other artists, your environment?

I get inspired through a lot of the older photographers, Most are the pioneers of street photography. Lately I’ve been into Robert Mapplethorpe’s Work and wanting to do some Studio work.

Walk us through your typical shoot day.

I pretty much have a camera with me at all times. But if I’m going to go out and shoot I’m most likely going to shoot some skateboarding. So just cruise around the city and surroundings and shoot my friends. If I’m going camping or outside the city will be shooting some landscapes in medium format.

When did you start your Instagram page and what do you think are the reasons for its success?

I started my Instagram page to post the extra photos I wasn’t going to use for my project I’ve been working on. Since there are no more physical skateboard publications within South Africa. I have been working on a book showcasing the skateboarding scene in Cape Town the way I see it.

Are there any particular experiences (good or bad) while shooting that you remember?

Whilst out shooting in sea point a while back an old man stopped me and said he noticed I was shooting an old camera ( Nikon F3 ). He pursued to tell me he had his old camera at home and that if I would wait for him he would go and get it for me. A Half hour later he arrives with a Mint Nikon F. He hands it to me and says, “enjoy”.

All mediums have their ups and downs, what are the most rewarding and challenging things about working with film for you?

The most rewarding feeling is seeing negatives as they have been developed. And obviously not knowing how your film is going to turn out, but that’s what I like about it. It’s challenging. If something is too easy it’s not worth doing.

How do you select your subject matter?

Mostly whatever I find interesting, a lot of my friends and the people I surround myself with and also to document my life and those around me.

Where is your favourite place to take photographs?

Anywhere grimy, dirty, Civic Centre as an example. Small towns, Wilderness.

When is the best time to take photographs?

When your light meter is accurate.

Do you shoot consistently or only when inspiration hits?

I don’t shoot just because my camera is loaded. I go shoot if I know that there’s going to be some great moments to be documented. Or if I want to just walk around and get some fresh air I will always bring a camera along.

How many rolls do you go through in a month?

I would say around 10 rolls of 35mm and a handful of 120

What is your post-development process?

I work In a lab so it’s a bit different. I actually tend to shoot a few rolls before developing them these days. Compared to before when as soon as I was done one would go straight to Cape Film Supply.

If you could shoot any place, at any time in the past or future, where and when would it be?

NYC in the 70s and 80s the street photography from that era is something you simply can’t recreate.

How has your work changed from when you started shooting?

I have a better understanding with the different mediums. And have been experimenting with different subject matter.I have a better understanding with the different mediums. And have been experimenting with different subject matter.

In your opinion, what makes a photograph good? 

Composition and lighting. Also something that will set yourself apart from everyone else. A form of originality is quite difficult these days.

Who are the photographers you admire?

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, Joel Meyerowitz, Ansel adams, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Frank, Bruce Gilden, Diane Arbus,Larry Burrows, Robert Capa, Ken Oosterbroek, Don McCullin, Grant Brittain, Joe Brook, Lance Dawes, Ed Templeton, Atiba Jefferson, Mike Blabac, Arto Saari, Rick Kosick.

What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give someone about to shoot their first roll?

Don’t worry what camera you use, your camera is just a light tight box all that matters is your lens and the person behind the camera. Rather invest in a decent lens for your camera instead of saving for a Leica.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew before you shot your first roll?

How addictive it will become and also how one day I will be working with film and great photographers on a daily basis.

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