Compact Photographers

35mm Compact Photographer #12 – Benn Murhaaya

First, a bit of background? As much or as little as you are comfortable sharing… Name, Where you are from, what you do, What else in life do you enjoy? that sort of thing?

Benn Murhaaya is my artistic/internet name. I’ve used for longer time that I did not so I go by this name. Many people in real life call me by this name even though they know my real name. I am from Prague, Czech Republic, 30ish, IT job. I play a jazz guitar, skateboard (still) and enjoy listening to some nice Bebop music (Charles Mingus kinda stuff)

How long have you been taking photos?

Since about 2000, but since 2007/2008 I started actually working on my photography, reading literature, understanding composition, understanding photography in general…

What sort of photography do you enjoy or partake in the most (street, landscape, etc)

Let the photos speak for themselves – murhaaya.com is the page where I share my photos. I started with infrared landscapes (cheap effect, I know), slowly moving towards event/concert photography all while enjoying some lofi plastic lens cameras. Today I mostly photograph fetish pictures. Latex, bondage, noir. I am still an in house event photographer of Prague based tattoo parlor and I am (or have been) a main photographer of few theater groups. But I do portraits as well. Everything from DIY pinholes to 4×5 large format (which I actually written a 3 part intro for Bellamy Hunt/Japan Camera Hunter)

How big a part of your photography life are 35mm compact or rangefinder cameras?

I take them with me every day. At least one but usually like three or four. I am still looking for the magic bullet, that will cut it for me. After a last year trip to Japan, I realized that film SLR is not a way to go for me, when on a vacation.

What about the experience of shooting with them appeals to you?

I’ve somehow grew lazy. When shooting digital, I don’t take out the 5D2 as much as opposed to the EOS M. When shooting film, Unless it’s a really like a photo session, I leave my SLRs at home. Or if I want to bring the large format, I want something pocket-able for those quick snapshots.

Do you feel they have effected your style? become part of it? or are the reason for it…?

They become part of my style. I am trying to move a bit out of my comfort zone with them as well.

Which is/are your favorite cameras? the one/s that go with you the most?

The top place is Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim. I know, plastic, one shutter speed, one aperture, but I have two of them, black and white and color the first one modified for taking filters. I love them so much. All other day to day cameras like P&Ss have all some sin that stains them (auto flash on, shutter lag, messy focus …)

What is it specifically about these cameras that appeal to you so much?

I love carrying many cameras. Three is normal, five is when I start to worry. I want to have a black and white option. I want to have color. I want something for the sun outside and something for the inside. So I don’t to lug around anything larger than a P&S.

What was the path to this shooting habit? How did you discover it appealed to you?

I am constantly experimenting. 75 percent of my pictures are maybe experiment. How will flash on this camera works, how the focusing works, can I focus through the window… so when I want to use them for something importat, I am ready. There is a constant flow of my cameras with Olympus OM-1 being basically the only constant.

Show us your favorite/best image/s taken with a compact or RF?

Definitely this one – (at the top)
Taken with Mju II, Kodak TriX 400 pushed to the 1600 in Rodinal (that’s how I roll, I love grain)

What films do you shoot with and why?

When shooting olympus OM-1. I shoot Trix 400 pushed in Rodinal 1+50 (20 mins) to 1600. I am in love with the grain and the harsh tonality but it’s easy to miss the exposure and then all hell breaks loose. When using point and shoots I was using slide film that I was cross processing. I loved the colors but I don’t do it any more. As slide film is hard to come by and I grew tired of this fad, I am using medium speed 400 drugstore print films that can deliver some nice results while being fairly cheap. Also I am now trying some Fomapans 400 in 135 for my compacts (I gotta support the local brand :))

How, where, why do you process and or print your photos?

I process black and white film at home. Everything from 35 mil to 4×5 in. I print my own photos at a Durst Laborator L1200 to 50×60 cm. I usually have around two exhibitions a year (however small they may be). I also process my 4×5 slide film at home because it’s more economic that way. I leave the C-41 processing for the lab. Recently I acquired a nikon LS5000 scanner so I scan everything I hi-res. Before that I used flat bed.

What other cameras/type of camera do you regularly shoot with and why – what situations require something else/more if any?

I’ve already mentioned some. Linhof Technika 4×5 field camera is one of those more interesting. I like it for the portraits and I experimented with architecture photos. I find it difficult to precisely level that beast, having been around 60 years old and some stops being missing getting all the planes parallel is a bit hard. I’ve shot around 100 films with my Mamiya RB67. Lovely piece of equipment but a bit cumbersome and I kept it only for the polaroid back. I put it up for sale just this weekend in the wake of my “leaving medium format for good” period. I’ve build few ultra wide pinholes as well. I found them fun but with the kind of photography they just gather dust. So I gave them away for good as well. I am conteplating buying a dedicated polaroid 190 camera as the Fuji Instant film is just a lovely material to shoot. But I’d like to cease the constant flow of cameras in favor of the One (I feel that Contax T3 or Minolta TC-1 might be the One but I am willing to shell out a buck or two for a fixed lens P&S before investing quite a bit of money into these titans (pun intented :))

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