Roman Loranc: I print on Ilford paper. I used to print on Oriental graded paper and I miss it so much, but graded paper is a pain in the ass to work with. After switching to Ilford Multigrade IV, I was a little disappointed, but it’s a very consistent paper… its not the greatest and used to be very reasonably priced, but now its getting expensive. However, what I love the paper for, because I selenium and sepia tone, is that it responds very well to the toning. If I do not tone or do anything it, the paper has a horrible greenish tone. It used to be better, but now its getting thinner and it responds so quickly to exposure – its too fast for me now. Quality is diminishing, but I’m still glad they’re making it.
TPF: In terms of your printing process – and everyone is different here – I have always been amazed at printers who are incredibly methodical in the darkroom, who record everything and calculate everything. Are you a methodical printer, or a ‘seat of your pants’ intuitive printer?
Roman Loranc: [Its hard to know] because nobody has been in my darkroom [while I print], but when I worked with my friend, Kim Weston, and he used to work with Brett and Edward Weston in the darkroom, they all worked very methodically. They calculate everything and write everything down. [He was surprised] when he saw how I worked… and I never make any notes… I just read the light of the enlarger and do the dodging and burning intuitively. Every print is slightly different and I make a lot of mistakes, but some mistakes open up something in the print that I would never have discovered otherwise. Sometimes I deliberately push prints to maximum so I can see the possibility in the print and choose how to print it. I don’t make notes or anything. Its all through the music actually – its shocking for a lot of people. I’ve had to destroy a lot of prints, which is not so good…
I knew a very good photographer [name unclear], who is dead now, but he wanted some large prints and went to a commercial printer – an old German man – and he was the same as me. [The photographer] asked him ‘what do you need to do?’ and he just looked at the light and did the print. I am the same and can look at [the light on the baseboard/easel] and determine exposure to a few seconds. So I don’t have to waste paper doing tests. I just look at the light and my eyes can read what to do with the light, but sometimes when I don’t print for a long time, I lose that ability. After a couple of days I am back again. [Printing] is a beautiful thing; it has to be free, it’s not mechanical. It would kill me to have to do that.
TPF: Your work is largely defined by the landscapes and the architecture that you photograph. Are there other areas of photography that you are very interested in but perhaps don’t pursue yourself?
Roman Loranc: I have always been interested in portraits of people and I do a lot, but never release them. I just keep them for myself. I do nude figure studies, but just for myself. I don’t sell them [and find it] difficult to keep track of model releases [which means] I can’t release [the photographs]. I love to do these things, but I never limited myself to one subject, although it looks this way.
TPF: What photographers do you find inspirational or do you currently follow?
Roman Loranc: Most of the artists I was exposed to from childhood were painters, but there was a polish photographer, Bujak, who did a lot of architectural photos of old cities… beautiful large format photography. I often love the work of Roman Vishniac, who is a Polish/Lithuanian Jewish photographer (Poland and Lithuania used to be one country, so its difficult for a lot of people to establish who they are), who photographed children in the Warsaw ghetto before the war… very fascinating [work]. The biggest inspiration has been Edward Weston. My work is so different, but his commitment to the craft, to living a simple life, incredible commitment to art…. I love that.
TPF: Landscape photography is incredibly popular at the moment. Along with travel and street photography, these seem the genres that most amateur photographers pursue. One could argue that a lot of the work has become very similar – somewhat cookie cutter. What sort of advice would you give people looking to take their landscape photography to the next level… to break out of that pack and be a bit more distinctive and individual?
Roman Loranc: Stop looking at other people’s work, because it influences you. There is a point when you will want to know what has already been done in the history of photography, so you are not thinking to cover something that’s not new. Its nice to know the history of photography; [however, its important to] stop obsessively following [other people], because it will influence your work. The best idea is whatever you love, [so just] go ahead and do it. It does not matter what other people say and eventually it may transform into something [uniquely] yours, even if it seems similar to someone else’s. You can always put a personal touch into it. Always try to photograph where you live and this way you gain additional strength…. or follow your interests, but not just trying to be something different [for the sake of being different]… follow your heart, make photographs and eventually something from you will come out and that will be unique. If you are trying to find it won’t work. It has to come naturally.
TPF: Like falling in love?
Roman Loranc: Exactly, be open and follow your intuition. I am the same: I don’t plan photography. I’ll just be sitting working and the light changes, so off I go… [I make] no plans. People say ‘we will go and do photography at 10 am’. I don’t do that; it does not happen this way. It just has to happen [spontaneously]… it has to come from somewhere inside… inspired by lighting or events… something has to trigger it, rather than a schedule. Working and working and shooting and shooting, eventually you get better. Maybe find someone you can trust to give you a little opinion on your work – that’s helpful – that can help. They don’t have to be an expert, but someone you like who can give you a little bit of insight. It’s hard to be critical of your own work, or [perhaps] you are too critical [yourself], so its nice if someone can give you a little fresh perspective.