Nina Kirsten Interview @stellenboschonfilm

If you shoot film, especially in Cape Town, the chances are pretty good of you knowing of Nina. The owner of @stellenboschonfilm, Nina is able to showcase a beautiful small town on the outskirts of Cape Town. Composed of beautiful vineyards and farmland, Stellenbosch is one of the destinations to visit as a visitor to the Cape. Stellenbosch is also a university town. The towns streets are lined with cafes, boutiques and art galleries. Dutch architecture visualises the presence of South Africa’s colonial history, as do the Village Museum’s period houses and gardens.

Questions by Storm Simpson, @outgettingribs

How did your photographic journey begin?

I have always loved photography and documenting my life with photos, collecting memories. However, initially I did not venture beyond my digital camera or iPhone. During lockdown in May 2020, I found a small film camera in a drawer at my parents’ house and thought I will give it a try. I then started an Instagram account that evening as a commitment device to continue with this journey. Another goal I had when starting this page was to document and showcase the beauty of Stellenbosch, especially during the hard months of lockdown, hence the name: stellenboschonfilm

What is your favourite film stock? Why?

This is a difficult question, as I feel every film stock has something special to it. But if I had to choose I will say Kodak ColorPlus 200, because of its price and versatility, or any expired film, because of its unpredictability. 

What camera do you use?

My current favourite SLR camera is the Minolta X-700 that I received as a gift from one of my followers (@walther_ziemerink). I also have a Pentax MZ-50, which is such a great beginner SLR! I have a few point and shoot cameras as well – I particularly love my Olympus AF-10 mini and Olympus Stylus Epic.

Which photo lab is your favourite? Why?

Cape Film Supply. Always. I have tested out other film labs, but the whole process, from start to end, at CFS is seamless. 

Do you think your identity is reflected in your work? If so, explain how.

Yes I think so. I am a curious observer and I see patterns and colours and life in everyday things. I believe that shines through in my photography.

Simonsberg. This was taken on my first roll of film through the Pentax MZ-50. I was quite pleased with the result. (Pentax MZ-50, Fujicolor c200, Stellenbosch, July 2020)

What motivates you to keep shooting?

The exhilarating feeling of getting my scans back from the lab, and the positive feedback I receive on my page. 

Walk us through your typical shoot day

Firstly I need to decide which camera(s) to take with me and then have to select the correct film stock for the day. I currently have some of expired or already exposed film at home, so it is definitely a challenge to decide which one to take with me as I am not really sure how these film stocks will react. I then either go on a photowalk by myself, or I meet up with fellow film photographers (that I all met on Instagram!).

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

The challenge is not knowing how your work will come out, but then again, that is also the most rewarding part of it. 

Where is your favourite place to take photographs?

I obviously love taking photos in Stellenbosch, however I am also quite fond of small towns such as Greyton, Napier and Riebeek West. There is still some nostalgia present these small towns. 

When is the best time to take photographs?

I love the light at sunset. Cliché I know.

I had to open up the back of my camera with film still inside, because the film was jammed. It was a very happy accident. (Minolta X-700, Kodak ColorPlus 200 expired, Stellenbosch, January 2021)

Do you shoot consistently or only when inspiration hits?

I almost always carry a camera (even just one of my point and shoots) with me. This has definitely aided in my process of getting nice shots. And of course I will always see something I want to photograph when I don’t have my camera with me!

How many rolls do you go through in a month?

Probably around 4 rolls.

You just got your roll back from the lab, what’s the first thing you do?

I immediately download my scans from WeTransfer onto my computer or my phone and go through it, reliving the moments. I am always pleasantly surprised with the results.

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

I would love to be able to shoot Stellenbosch in the mid-1900s for example. How things looked back then compared to now has always intrigued me. I have been collecting historical books on Stellenbosch and it always triggers something inside of me when I page through them. 

How has your work changed since you started shooting?

I wouldn’t say it has changed necessarily. I still find beauty in similar things, however I know better how my camera works and which film stock to select for a particular day. I do however still feel like I am learning something new every day. 

Milnerton Market (Minolta X-700, Fujicolor c200, Milnerton, January 2021)

What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give someone about to shoot their first roll?/What’s the one thing you wish you knew before you shot your first roll?

Don’t be too critical with yourself. Embrace the mistakes you make. Experiment with different film stocks and cameras (if your budget allows it) and see which results intrigue you the most. And have fun!

In your opinion, what makes a photograph good?

If it evokes a feeling within you when you look at it, then it’s a good photo. That is how I choose photos from other photographers for my Sunday Film Favourites series that I share on my stories. I have been doing this for 58 weeks now. 

Who are the photographers you admire?

It will be impossible to name them all but if I have to mention a few: Locally – @for_franks_sake, @youmeandmyfuji, @semjaja, @emrhyssstead and internationally – @bonniedoman, @softboifilms and @ioegreer

Where can we view your work?

Currently I only post on Instagram at @stellenboschonfilm. I had an exhibition at The Raptor Room in Cape Town a few weeks ago, together with @milky_fotos and @laurenthomas.film, which was a great experience. Seeing your work printed is a different feeling! 

Community aspect of shooting analogue. Photo walks, relationships you’ve built through photography.

I was surprised to discover that the film photography community is so supportive. I have met the most amazing people and have done several photo walks with new friends. There is an Instagram and Facebook group called ‘Analogue Cape Town’ (@analoguecapetown on Instagram), which has also introduced me to many fellow film photographers. I have joined them on two recent photowalks, one in Stellenbosch at the end of last year, and one in Salt River in February this year to walk through the wall murals from the International Public Arts Festival (IPAF). 

If you told me this time last year that my lockdown hobby would be so rewarding, I would not have believed you. 

I took this photo in Paris in 2007 on a school French trip. I never finished the roll and found the camera, with the unfinished roll inside, in my parents’ house last year and had it developed after I finished shooting it. I feel this was a very serendipitous moment. (Olympus Stylus Epic, Kodak Gold 200, June 2007 [and developed August 2020])

I took this photo to finish my roll of film before handing it in at Cape Film Supply in the Bo-Kaap, and it came out as one of my favourites. (Olympus AF-10 mini, Kodak Ultramax 400, Cape Town, November 2020)

Surprisingly this selfie was in my friend’s apartment in Sea Point and was shot on expired film. (Samsung Prime Color Film 100, Olympus Stylus Epic, Cape Town, December 2020)

Coffee at Clarke’s. The colours and patterns work really well together in this photo. (Olympus AF-10 mini, Kodak Ultramax 400, Cape Town, November 2020)

I love this photo of my boyfriend and my parents’ dog Bella. This was right after she had an operation and could barely walk. (Olympus AF-10 mini, Ilford XP2 Super, Stellenbosch, July 2020)

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