Marc Koegel is a man of many talents. Illustrious black-and-white fine art photographer primarily capturing architecture and nudes. Recipient of countless photography awards with numerous exhibitions to his name. Educator and counselor to photography students through his Vancouver (Canada) Photo Workshops. Prodigious blogger.
While Marc has had an intense love affair with black-and-white film photography since early childhood, he is turning increasingly to digital. He wants to create a workflow that combines the best elements of both traditional darkroom techniques and digital processes. Phase One backs have been helping him do so. His first exposure to Phase One was in 2006 when he saw a P25 used with a Hasselblad camera. “I didn’t know that a camera system like that even existed.”
It has continued with the P45+ and the IQ160 - both used on a recent Icelandic photo shoot. Marc fell in love with the IQ260 Achromatic when B3K loaned it to him for a two-day shoot; he said, “I just wanted to keep it.”
Passion and process control define Marc’s photography. His passion for black-and-white film photography was born growing up in Germany in a home whose walls were lined with poster-size photos of exotic locales taken and developed by his businessman and photographer-hobbyist father. The passion was fueled at age 12 when his father gave him a camera. Marc began taking portrait shots and photographing the performances of friends who played in local bands. As he “discovered the hidden secrets of the darkroom,” he learned what it meant to exercise control over the entire photographic process. “What excited me was that I could take shots, develop the film and make prints literally in the same day. It was all under my control.”
Why the great love for black-and-white photography?
It goes back to my childhood. You couldn’t set up a color darkroom by yourself then. All the shots were black-and-white, but it wasn’t limiting because it made me explore opportunities and I was happy to do the processing myself. I also realized that I didn’t want to portray reality. Black-and-white is in a sense one step of abstraction from reality. It doesn’t let you see the same images the way that we normally see the world. With black-and-white, you can turn an ordinary scene into something artistic. And in the darkroom, I found that I could print in different grades. As I got better, I’d print several negatives for one shot. It’s the whole idea of working with an image that’s really an artistic expression of who you are instead of just taking a more realistic color image. Black-and-white spoke to me and allowed me to concentrate on shapes, lines and simple tonal contrasts. I felt like it gave a creative edge to my photography.
Why does the IQ260 Achromatic appeal to you?
People will say that it’s your vision, not the equipment that matters. What I’m trying to do is absolutely maximize everything, so if you have the best vision and are in the best location and you have the opportunity to shoot an amazing picture, you want the best equipment too. I was so excited when I heard that Phase One was introducing a black-and-white-only back. This frees up my mind to make the best image possible. Because it doesn’t have a color filter array mounted on the sensor making interpolation unnecessary, I don’t have to shoot in color first and be distracted from my final vision before converting to black-and-white. It’s essentially like using black-and-white film where you can put on a red, yellow or green filter and see an immediate difference. This camera back gets you as close to getting it right in-camera as I’ve ever seen digital do. I do a lot of post-production, but if you’re already able to get a shot in the field looking very close to what you want your final outcome to be with minimal editing, that’s a huge advantage.
I’m excited about its infrared capability to go beyond the visible spectrum and record into the infrared and potentially even beyond with the IR/UV cut lens filters. Being able to do this in-camera and transcend the sensitivity of any other digital camera without modifications is a huge plus.
I’m blown away by its sharpness and crispness and quality of file that clearly goes beyond the 60 megapixels. The depth of image and exquisite definition and razor-sharp details that I’ve achieved in my four-to-six-foot range prints is amazing. With my Cambo camera and the IQ260 Achromatic, I can apply movements such as tilts and shifts and get great image quality.
While the IQ260 Achromatic is rated for two-minute exposures, I’ve shot for eight minutes with absolutely no loss of quality, which is why I’ll be using it on my next big long-exposure project.
Which is preferable, teaching photography or being a photographer?
I would say it’s 50-50. I really can’t teach and inspire my students if I’m not excited myself about what I’m photographing. I need to get out into the field and stretch myself with new ideas and keep the fire going to be a truly effective teacher. There’s also a danger of losing your passion if you’re mainly in the classroom and not taking pictures frequently. And you’re not being true to the students. I want them to know that I’m actively shooting. The more I teach, the more I’m discovering a desire to share with my students – not only the technical aspects – but some of my passion to inspire them. What makes my day every single time is when students come to me with images they’ve shot that excite them.
What advice does he have for aspiring photographers?
I think it was [portrait photographer] Gregory Heisler who once told me to "shoot what you can’t help but shoot." To be successful, you have to shoot subjects that draw you a lot. If you’re not at least partially working on what excites you, then you’re not going to sustain yourself. Be persistent. There will be several years of hard work ahead of you. But if you know that, you can make it. Get your work out there. Enter photography contests. It’s a reality check to have your work critiqued by experts. If you win a contest and/or have a successful portfolio review, you just might get a job or gallery exhibition. It’s happened to me. It also really helps to know how to talk about your photography. Just don’t share the images, but relate the stories behind them and how you came up with a certain shot. You also have to have the right equipment to complement your skill levels and show that you’re serious. That can also be a big part of differentiating yourself.
"This camera back gets you as close to getting it right in-camera as I’ve ever seen digital do."