Nils Karlson

Hi Pinholista, please introduce yourself.

My name is Nils Karlson, and I live in one of the most populated areas in Germany, where I make a living as a social worker. My heart beats for my dogs, photography, music, travelling, coffee and cookies (and my wife, obviously!). Admin’s note, I almost felt the need to edit this, if only to save Nils some trouble if his wife reads this!

Tell us a little about the type of pinhole photography you enjoy.

Like all my photography at present times, I work with medium format negative colour film exclusively (apart from the occasional large format pinhole). It seems like colour is my realm – it just feels right.

Do you ever shoot anything a little more unusual?

Just some expired film stocks when I can find something cheap and interesting. But I have backed Galaxy Hyper Speed to create a direct positive photo paper. And I would really love to experiment with instant photography, but have not taken the time to find out what is still out there. The demise of instant film is a tragedy.

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Do you use off the shelf cameras, home-made or a mix?

All cameras were made by someone else – I once attempted to make a pinhole camera from an existing Polaroid back, but it never happened.

What’s your favourite camera to use and why?

These days it is the ZeroImage 6×6 and my 6×12 and 4×5 Reality So Subtle cameras. They never get in the way of a photo, and their optical aesthetics are pleasing to me – just the right mix of sharpness and unsharpness and fall-off. I had other cameras which probably had a nicer feel in the hands, but optically, these just did not give me the right mix. The 6×6 is all natural for me, while I still need to get used to the 6×12’s field of view.

How long have you shot pinhole?

I exposed the first roll of film in the ZeroImage in December 2014. Photography is quite new to me, having started around late 2012. Admin’s note, to me though (and I may be wrong) Nils’ photographs suggest there’s been an artist at work for some time before starting photography. Nils’ use of colour particularly suggests this.

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Why did you start shooting pinhole?

I think it came from the very urge to simplify my life, my photography and get away from a techy approach. It coincides with switching from slide film to colour negative emulsions, making everything less complicated. I do love the simplicity of the pinhole camera – it just does not need all this…stuff. Like a lens! I mean, how much more reduced can a camera be than a box with a tiny hole in it? No finder, no focus, no fuzz.

You’ve given us a few images to share, tell us about them.

I tried to share a mix of what I usually do – exploring seascapes –  and photos which emerged from a different mindset, like the house and the old cabinet. Roaming coastal landscapes is my safe place, where I can find peace and silence. The vast areas, the expanse of the ocean – you will not find this anywhere near my hometown. So it is not too astounding when I look for the most quiet and serene photos I can make.

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Have you ever exhibited your work?

I have an exhibition running at a local café, which is nice. But most of my works can be found online. While writing these words, I am waiting for the test print of my very first book entitled “Earth Stands Still” I plan to publish late 2016. It will also feature a chapter of pinhole photos, and I hope to bring it to life through a crowdfunding campaign starting late September or probably October. Admin’s note, please keep an eye out on this post as I will update with the link to the campaign when available.

Do you shoot individual images or do you work within themes or on projects?

Well…both, I guess. Most often an individual image might lead to a series, and I find a cohesiveness in a body of work essential. When I can sense a series, I try to dig deeper, and dive into it. Like the ever ongoing “Earth Stands Still” series, which is inspired by the concept of the Bardo and transcendence in The Tibetan Book of the Dead. But there are also some individual images which can stand alone, like the cabinet or the deceased bird.

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Do you shoot other styles of photography?

Besides my pinhole based works, you will also find me on the coastlines working with “standard” film cameras (the ones with a lens), creating minimalist long exposures of the ocean. This is also the way I work with the pinhole cameras, but at an even slower pace. Pinholes are known not to be “fast” cameras, but working with a “standard” camera and a ton of ND filters, the long exposures usually vary between 4 minutes and more than an hour. I also work a lot with Intentional Camera Movements, multiple exposures, and combinations of these two. When I am making photos of my dogs, I am much more spontaneous (I could not help it, but I just have to drop the “unleashed” pun. So here it is. You’re welcome.), crawling on my knees, with the camera on eye level of my dogs.

Assuming you do shoot other styles, do you prefer pinhole and if so, why?

It depends on the mood and my subject. When I want to make photos of my dogs, I leave the pinhole camera at home. But when I am in the landscape, at least one pinhole camera will have its place in my bag. Also, all cameras are used at the same time on some occasions – so when I have a 60+ minutes exposure running, there’s loads of time to grab a pinhole, and make some exposures. And while the pinhole exposure, there’s still time to grab another camera for some spontaneous shots. I wish I could say it is all calm, contemplate, and Zen when I start an exposure, but in reality it can become a bit of a frenzy. I have come to accept that. But there are also the very calm and silent moments, where I enjoy the simplicity and absolute quiteness of the pinhole camera. It does not even make “click”.

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Tell us about a great pinhole photographer.

Actually, there are three photographers I’d like to talk about. They all have in common that no matter what kind of camera they use, they always create such amazing and recognizable works! And they all are brilliant with the pinhole. First there’s Aimee Lower (USA), whom I gave my Ondu 6×6 camera after I realized its optic aesthetics do not resonate with me. Aimee has such a fresh approach to the scene, her works convey the colours of joy, without beeing “too loud”. When I look at her photos, I feel like a kid in a candy store.

Then there’s Lucy Wainwright (UK). She is one of the most free, bubbling and boundless spirits I have ever witnessed. Her photos are always pushing borders, messing with different cameras, messing with chemicals, messing with the mess and creating such a vivid perspective on the world. Her photos are like fairytales – not Disney-like, but more… European… Astrid Lindgren probably. They convey more depths, more layers, the sun, and the abyss, and everything in between.

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Last but not least there is Marie Westerbom (SWE). Her photos  are very mysterious, and carry wisdom beyond the known. They often give a sense of what could be, and the rest is open to your imagination. Plus, I had the chance for a collaboration through the Film Shooters Collective, and bouncing off ideas was delightful, eloquent and a wonderful learning experience for me. Admin’s note, one of things I love about Pinholista is the chance to both introduce new photographers, and have those photographers whose work I admire, and then have those photographers introduce even more artists for me to check out and admire (in this case Marie is a friend of Pinholista, but Aimee and Lucy are new to me). Thank you Nils.

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Finally, where can people see your work, do you have a website?

While a personal website is still under construction, you can see my photos on Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to share your work with

Thank YOU for giving me an opportunity to share my works and my thoughts. Photography has become a driving force in my life, and while I grew up being a musician, I found a means of communication which excels what I have been able to do before. It is a pleasure to see this validated by other people, who may share a similar vision.

Admin’s note, as always this work is the copyright of the Pinholista, in this case Nils Karlson. Please respect that or the Landscape Dog will give you a nuzzle.

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  1. […] can also read more about Nils at his EMULSIVE interview, his interview over at Pinholista, or over at On […]

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