More than just retro chic | David Pisani

Ahead of another edition of their film photography workshops, David Pisani of WORKSHOP F/1.4 speaks to us about how the intensive courses, organised along with fellow photographer Zvezdan Reljic, have attracted a variety of eclectic students who are dumping their digital cameras in favour of the ‘analogue’ approach

Silver gelatin print, 24x30cm • Photographed and hand printed by Adolf Formosa as part of the WORKSHOP F/1.4 sessions
Silver gelatin print, 24x30cm • Photographed and hand printed by Adolf Formosa as part of the WORKSHOP F/1.4 sessions

How long the workshops have been going for, exactly? What were its initial aims?

I honestly can’t remember when we started them but the WORKSHOP F/1.4 is a by-product of [boutique publishing house] EDE Books which has always been a project that Zvezdan and I wanted to do for many years, which is to show people the beauty of printing processes. It is obviously a reactionary move against everything that is online and digital – books on paper and prints on paper remain our ultimate fetish – so we wanted to share with others our love for film photography and darkroom printing and that’s why we started the workshops.

How have you organised yourselves and who did what with regards to the workshop?

When we wrote up the course outline for the workshop I used a model I had used several years ago in another series of workshops I had given, and we built on that so that I take care of the initial sessions, which are basically theoretical, then the participants of the workshop go hands-on and work in a darkroom, and that’s where Zvezdan takes over.

What kind of response did you get at the beginning, and how it changed over time?

When Zvezdan initially proposed that we do this workshop I was somewhat sceptical, thinking there would be little interest, so I am quite surprised we have gone on for so long. However it still remains a specialised field of photography and in Malta there aren’t that many people who want to learn darkroom printing, so it’s quite touch-and-go now. When we have enough interest, we open a workshop.

David Pisani during one of the WORKSHOP F/1.4 sessions
David Pisani during one of the WORKSHOP F/1.4 sessions

How do you deal with the different skill sets of students you get, and how would you describe their progress?

I think one of the reasons why the workshop works well is because it is designed to cater for both absolute beginners and serious amateurs. There is a lot to learn and it has to be remembered that Malta has never had a photography school, so everyone out there is grappling with disconnected bits of information.

I think the workshop is the only place in Malta where one can learn the fundamentals of fine art photography. I am always amazed, at the end of the workshop, when the participants show their work and how they produce surprising results that goes way beyond their own expectations.

Do you think there’s a chance for a real photography culture to develop in Malta in the near future?

To some extent it is already there, and it is growing at the same rate that it is growing in other countries. Film will never die, for the simple reason that it is unique. Digital was not designed to replace film, but to provide professionals with a very fast platform.

Many people and pro photographers who dumped their film cameras 15 years ago to switch to digital are coming back to film for certain work, because they are realising that the two are very different media and are meant to compliment each other, and not kill each other off.

Those interested in attending next workshop starting April 13, send an email to [email protected] for more information.

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