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A Snapshot of the Film Community- Karin Majoka

In today’s snapshot of the film community, I had a nice chat with the creative and talented Karin Majoka all the way from Germany. You may already know of her, but I discovered Karin when I was searching YouTube for other film photography channels to watch, and I was happy to find her work.

Karin mostly shoots street photography with her beloved Leica M6. I learned of the sentimental reasons behind the purchase of her Leica as well as a bit about her background in psychology while watching her videos. I couldn’t wait to properly sit down and talk about creativity and of course all things film. Let’s get to it.

Hey Karin! Thank you so much for agreeing to do this chat with me. I am a big fan of your channel and I’m excited to talk with you.

KM: Hey Aly, thanks a lot for having me, I appreciate it a lot!

Why don’t we start off with you telling my readers a little bit about yourself and your background outside of film.

KM: Well, my name is Karin, I am 27 years old and live in the West of Germany. As a profession, I work as a psychologist and I’m currently undergoing training to become a psychotherapist. Outside of film (which means there is not much left, since film takes up a looooot of time and space haha) I like to experiment with other forms of creativity, be it painting, drawing, acting, writing and so on.

Photo by Karin Majoka
Photo by Karin Majoka

So now the big question, how did you start shooting film?

KM: Uh, tough one! I don’t think there was a specific point where I started shooting film, but it was more of a process where I crossed paths with film photography several times until finally falling head over heals for it. I got my first film camera at a fleamarket when I was around 16 and shot a couple of rolls through it, was fascinated but never hooked. My big passion was alway painting and I never saw photography (be it digital or analog) as an artistic competitor to painting. At some point I picked up a camera more recently since I needed referencing photos for my painting. I think it really “clicked” rather late – when I went abroad, I decided I wanted to take photography a bit more serious and take pictures as memories, which is why I joined the local photo club.
There I found to be one of the few people using a digital camera and faster than I could ever imagine, I found myself standing in the darkroom, developing and enlarging my own photos, which is where I completely fell in love with the process and found a lot of parallels between painting and photography.

Photo by Karin Majoka
Photo by Karin Majoka

I was recently reading about Joel Sternfeld and how he approached his photography with the techniques of a painter. As someone who paints, would you say it influences your compositions in any way or your photography in general?

Photo by Karin Majoka
Photo by Karin Majoka

KM: Yes, absolutely! And that’s where I realised that my initial thought of “photography not being an artistic competitor to painting” was absolutely wrong! In painting I have my canvas, my brushes and my paints and I can construct my vision and carve out compositions with great care. In photography on the other hand you have the film, which for me is like a canvas, your camera which is like your brushes and the world around you which acts like paints. In painting it’s actually much easier to construct a composition by placing your paints in the exacts spots, while in photography you need to use the world around you to construct your composition. Especially with something like street photography a lot of thought (but also luck and timing) are necessary. I think a lot of the rules of painting also apply to photography: colours, contrasts, shapes, lines, juxtapositions and so on are very important for me in both. Oh and I also need to look Joel Sternfeld up, since he sounds like a wise man!

Yeah he’s great. He shot with an 8 x 10 camera.

KM: Wow, that’s awesome! Have you shot large format before?

I haven’t but, maybe one day.

In regards to your answer, that’s really interesting. I think most creative people tend to dip their toe in more than one medium.

KM: That’s true. And I am a firm believer that different medias are just like different languages – they are translatable and also somehow connected.

Photo by Karin Majoka
Photo by Karin Majoka

I often talk about how much film photography has helped my anxiety. As a psychologist, what do you think about film photography in particular as a form of therapy?

KM: That’s an interesting question. I think every form of self expression can be cathartic in a way and help you cope with your thoughts and emotions. I think film photography is a great way to get to know yourself better and also see what interests you and what makes you feel things. Of course it can also help “more practically” as for example learning to approach and talk to people when that is usually something that one might be anxious about – but I think this is just secondary, since expressing yourself and getting a feeling about who you are and what you can do (at least for me) is “therapy point” number one.
I would be interested though to hear your thoughts as well – how do you see it? How do you think film photography has helped your anxiety or generally can help people with anxiety?

Photo by Karin Majoka
Photo by Karin Majoka

That’s true. Any form of expression I guess is “therapeutic” because you’re getting feelings and emotions out. It’s that way for me anyway. I often get a sort of urge to take pictures all of a sudden when I am feeling something and I will hurry through a still life photo or something along those lines. I often feel better afterwards. The same for drawing. I think it happens when you can’t verbally express something you feel and it comes out in an art form if that makes sense.

Personally, it has helped me to connect to my father who passed away when I was young. It also helps to motivate me to go outside when I am sick or in pain. In regards to my anxiety, I bring the camera with me to doctors appointments which is a great source of anxiety for me and it helps a lot.

KM: Totally agree! I think (and that’s not necessarily my professional view but mostly my personal opinion) that us humans have different channels to comprehend things, the world and ourselves. And while talking is surely something that works a lot of times – if I would not believe in that I probably would have chosen the wrong job haha – I don’t think everything can be expressed verbally, so other forms of expressions such as by taking photos, painting, drawing or any other kind are sometimes necessary.

Exactly.

KM: I love how we straightly dived deep from cameras into the human psyche haha.

Of course, they go hand in hand haha.

Ok back on track, what drew you to shoot street photography in particular?

KM: I guess this also goes hand in hand with what we talked about before. I am just fascinated by humans, I love to “analyse” (quotation marks because I want to make clear I am not a creep and not a stalker hahaha) humans in hope to get a bit closer to understanding how people think, feel and behave. Even though it’s a public space and people might behave differently on the streets than they would do at home in a private space – it’s still a glimpse of what’s underneath. On the street everything is possible, nothing is predictable. Also there are dynamics happening, different people meeting different people, every second, every minute, everyday and every moment is different and there is no moment equal to the one before. This fascinates me and I think I mostly want to study and learn about those dynamics and those moments by trying to capture them with my camera.

Photo by Karin Majoka
Photo by Karin Majoka

When I first watched your videos, right away I was so impressed by your quick reflex with taking street photos. Zone focusing is something I would like to learn, but have an aversion to. Do you use zone focus and what tips would you give anyone who wants to get into street photography?

KM: That’s very kind of you, thanks a lot! However, I still think I am not “there” yet, there is still a lot to learn and reflexes to train. But yes, I do use zone focusing! Basically I think it takes a lot of practice, but everybody can learn it when putting enough time in. I think the key is to learn to measure distances by eye and being good at estimating how far something is away from you. It also helps if you know your tool aka camera well, whatever camera it is. I tried to learn to focus by feeling, so that I can feel which position of my focusing ring/tab resembles which distance. But honestly: all this technical fine tuning is helpful but not necessary to do street photography! My best advice therefore would be to go out, be present, analyse what is around you and be brave to take the shot (of course only if caution rules due to covid allow it).

And bravery is probably the most important thing of them all. If your intentions to take the photos are pure and honest there is nothing to be scared about.

Great advice. My biggest hurdle when I try it is having the guts to take the photo. People intimidate me in general so it is something I would like to try and get over. Yes, bravery definitely plays a part.

KM: I totally get that! 

Photo by Karin Majoka
Photo by Karin Majoka

Now that we are in a new year, I love setting new goals for myself particularly with my film photography. What goals do you have for your film photography for the new year if any?

KM: I read your article about what you learned in 2020 and what your goals for the next year are. Pretty cool “best of” by the way, really enjoyed the variety of your shots. Your still life photos in particular were my favourites! 

Well, my goals would surely be to shoot more and get more experimental. Even though street photography and urban landscapes are what I feel most comfortable with, I would love to experiment more with other genres. Especially portraits are something that interest me a lot, that I only managed to dip my toes in so far. By being more experimental I also mean that I would love to mix media a bit more, especially painting and photography, maybe get crazy in the darkroom. And of course my goal is also to keep my channel alive and share my journey and my experiences on there as well.

Thank you very much!

I definitely look forward to that.

Photo by Karin Majoka
Photo by Karin Majoka

Well, Karin thank you so much for talking to me. I have really enjoyed it. Before we go do you have any videos coming up that you want people to keep an eye out for?

KM: I can only give it back, thanks so much for the lovely chat, I enjoyed it! 
Well, there are some videos in the making that I cannot wait to get out there (but sadly I am slow when it comes to processing my film and editing the videos). Let’s put it this way, to not spoiler too much: my (probably) next video will be about my maaaany mistakes I made on a recent trip to the baltic sea and why not all mistakes are necessarily bad. 🙂
What about you, any upcoming videos or projects?

I’m the same way, it takes me a while to get my work up there. I am going to be working on a video about the films I have been push processing lately.

I look forward to that video and anything else to come from your work. You’re very talented.

You can find Karins videos on her YouTube channel and check out her photos on her instagram account and website.

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Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.

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