All images and words by Stefan Immler. Used with permission.
I’m a photographer from Washington DC and I am excited to tell you about “100 Days of Protests”, a photo book about the protests during the first 100 days of the Trump inauguration.
From day 1 to day 100 after the inauguration of President Trump, I have documented all protests in my home town Washington, D.C., by taking thousands of photos on black & white film. The 100 best photos are included in the upcoming photo book “100 Days of Protests”, representing 100 days of protest. “100 Days of Protests” is very timely and will find very broad public interest, has a massive built-in audience, and has the potential to become a “classic” and important historic document similar to the photojournalism books of the Civil Rights and Vietnam ears.
I am currently having a Kickstarter campaign to finance the first print run of the book. Kickstarter elevated the campaign to “Projects we Love”
Why did you get into photography?
I started photography at the age of 16. I grew up on the country side, at a time without Internet and cell phone, so going to a local photo club on a Friday evening with my best friend seemed like a good thing to do. And the members of the photo club were just the locals in town, the farmers, the construction workers, the bank tellers. And I found it great that these seemingly ordinary people were trying to create art in their free time, with little money. I went to this photo club for years and we critiqued our photos, in a competitive but friendly environment, started sending them to photo salons, learn from our experience and grow together as photographers. Even 30 years later, I still benefit from that experience.
What photographers are your biggest influences?
I’ve always admired photographers that attacked social themes and I see myself in the footsteps of the great tradition of “American road trip photography” by master photographers such as Robert Frank, Dorothea Lange, Garry Winogrand, Justine Kurland, Edward Weston, or Walker Evans. Many of the “open road photographers” were immigrant photographers like me and explored their new home country during photography road trips to find their places in it.
How long have you been shooting?
I’ve been shooting over 30 years now. But life got in the way over the past 20 years and I have recently jumpstarted my passion again and focus all my energy on photography, which I never intended to let go again.
Why is photography and shooting so important to you?
Being a photographer means living a very conscious life, being aware of what’s going on around you and in society. You can’t sleepwalk through life as a photographer!
Do you feel that you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why?
Photography is both to me. I focus mainly on social themes but try to give my documentary style photos an artistic twist and give it my best shot at composition and arrangements. Plus, I chose to only use black & white film because the lack of colors lets me focus more on the subject and composition, with no colors that would otherwise distract the eye and dilute the message of the photos.
What’s typically going through your mind when you create images? Tell us about your processes both mentally and mechanically?
I have been walking through the streets for years, trying to get good shots, but I don’t do that anymore. Instead, I focus now on project with a well defined theme. For example, I have been working on a project to document the lives of coal miners families in West Virginia for over a year now. That involves months-long preparation, I study the subject, try to figure out the best way to get access to the story and prepare mentally for the project. Then I take weeks-long trips to the coal minion districts in the remote areas of West Virginia, drive thousands of miles back & forth where I live. I got my best results when I talk to the people first, sometimes for hours, learn about their lives, before I take a single shots, and I like to believe that you can see that intimacy in the photos.
Want to walk us through your processing techniques?
I shoot exclusively on FP4 b&w film because I love the look and I am intimately familiar with the results the film gives me, even before I press the shutter. I develop all films myself with time-tested developing techniques and then scan the negatives myself and responsibly edit them in photoshop. That gives me completely control over my artistic vision from the moment I press the shutter to the final version of the photos.
What made you want to get into your genre?
I love it when people get excited and emotionally involved, when they step out of their daily lives for a moment to create something special. That gets me excited and keeps me going, and I want to capture the spirit of the people, their excitement and involvement in my photos.
Tell us a bit about the gear that you use and how you feel it helps you achieve your creative vision.
I love simplicity. That’s why I shoot with two Leica M4 bodies with permanently mounted 21mm and 50mm Leica lenses so I don’t have to waste time changing lenses in the middle of the action. My setup is 100% mechanical, no batteries included, and I love that. I don’’t even take the exposure meter with me anymore because I learned to guesstimate the exposure. And to my surprise, of the tens of thousands of photos that I have taken this year alone, they were all perfectly exposed. Estimating the exposure is surprisingly easy and I love the fact that I have to look at the sky and the subject, and the location of the subject relative to the surrounding to chose the right exposure. To me, that is part of taking the photo because I need to be intimately familiar not only with the subject but also with the surrounding and the weather conditions to get my shots. That situational awareness is part of getting good shots.
What motivates you to shoot?
Photography is such a weird thing because you slow down time, freeze moments. And you can re-live that moment at any time you want, take as much time as you want, to examine and think about that moment. It goes almost against all laws of physics that in photography, time has lost its meaning. I find that amazing!