Female Film Photographers You Should Know: Hanna Beltran
Hanna Beltran is a magnificent experimental photographer born and based in Germany. Her great passion is the manipulation of analogue films, the so-called film soups process in which she, through mixing different chemicals and powders, creates unique and unrepeatable master pieces.
♦ How would you introduce yourself to someone who just met you?
Hi, I’m Hanna. I love nature and being outside the most. I like to be out in the fresh air, preferably in cool temperatures. My biggest dream is to live in the far north of Scandinavia in a wooden house, spending pleasant summer months with 24 hours of brightness and dark winters with lots of snow and northern lights. I need time alone as I am an introvert and when my energy reserves are well charged, I also like to be with people close to me. You will rarely find me without one of my analogue cameras.
♦ What is the memory that you most fondly remember from your childhood?
I can’t name a single memory that I remember most fondly. Fortunately, I had a good childhood and was surrounded by lovely people with whom I was able to experience many beautiful things.
♦ Who were the most influential people during your teens and how did they influence you?
Certainly my parents and also my grandfather. My parents shaped me with their own creativity and manual skills, as well as with their own closeness to nature. My grandfather certainly fascinated me with his serenity and openness, and sometimes I wish today that I could incorporate a little more of his serenity into my own everyday life.
♦ How did you get in the world of analogue photography?
The passion for photography has accompanied me all my life. I grew up with analogue photography. Even as a child, I took pictures with analogue cameras from my parents’ cupboards and could hardly wait until the films were developed in the lab and I could finally look at the results.
I remember that even in my school days I was always one of those who took an analogue camera with me on school trips and documented everything with it. Even on holidays as a child with my parents, I often had my parents’ camera in my hand and took photos with it.
Gradually, digital photography made the analogue cameras in my parents’ cupboards fade into oblivion. I bought a digital SLR camera and a few small digital compact cameras. For a few years I photographed exclusively digitally.
In 2010, I stumbled across the Lomography website by chance. Thanks to purchasing an Holga 120CFN, I found my way back to analogue photography and have been fascinated by film photography ever since.
♦How would you describe the photography you do? What is your work focused on?
I would definitely call my photography experimental photography. I shoot exclusively with manipulated films, whether film soups, manually manipulated films or pre-exposed films. I like to create photographs that are different and stand out from other photographs because of the previous manipulations. It is important to me to conjure something exciting out of perhaps sometimes rather boring motifs by photographing such motifs with manipulated films. And of course it is nice when people look at my photographs for a longer time because, due to the manipulations, there is perhaps something more to discover than just an ordinary photograph of a flower.
♦ Are you working on any photographic project at the moment?
Yes, right now I’m working on another kind of film manipulation and I’m now in the process of finding and creating names and the design for the films. I am also in the process of exposing films for film swaps and find that quite exciting, swapping films with people from all over the world and exposing them together. In autumn 2021, I have a small exhibition in a museum and I am therefore already thinking about how I would like to present my photos and which photos I would like to show in the exhibition.
♦ Is there any photographic project that you would like to do but have not done yet?
I have been wanting to have prints made from my own photos in various sizes and materials for years. I honestly can’t put my finger on why I keep starting this one but never finish it. Furthermore, I have also thought about manipulating other film formats. So far I only manipulate 35mm film, but I can imagine that it would also be interesting to manipulate 120 film or 110 film.
♦ Which camera and which film do you use the most in your photography and why?
I shoot most of the time with a Canon EOS 300V and different lenses. I own two of these cameras and often have both cameras with me and loaded with different films. Since I prefer taking close-ups, a camera with a suitable lens is very important for me. If I want something lighter and more compact, I go for an Olympus Mju II. I usually take the much smaller Olympus with me when I’m on the road for a longer time, on a hike or on holiday. I usually vary my style a bit and often shoot landscapes rather than close-ups.
♦ Who are your biggest influences?
As I am also often inspired by nature, I am very fascinated by the work of Jonna Jinton. I love her videos and photos that she takes of nature in her home in northern Sweden. In general, I am very receptive to music and beautiful landscape photography. Something like that fascinates me extremely and inspires me for my own photography and experiments. There are some photographers who impress me with their work. Ragnar Axelsson is one of them, for example.
♦ What’s the best advice you would give yourself when you started in the world of film photography?
I would advise myself not to think so much about which camera and which film are the best and what else I would actually need to take good photos. In my opinion, it doesn’t take that much to enjoy photography and you gradually learn which settings make the most sense and what you need and don’t need. But you can also get a lot of help in the form of YouTube videos or even blogs that deal with analogue photography. Networking with other people who also shoot with film is a nice thing. Also, contacting photo labs to find out where you can get your exposed films developed is something I think is a useful thing to do when you start film photography. This is not only related to photography with film, but rather in general when you are creative: Getting inspiration from others is a great idea, but you should try not to emulate them, but trust that you will find your own style. But as mentioned at the beginning: Don’t think so much, just do it and dare.
Find more about Hanna Beltran’s Work👇