Hello, my name is Karin Majoka and I am a 27-year-old autodidact artist based in Germany. I have a background in psychology and currently work as a psychotherapist in training – but art and photography have always been a big part of my life.
While my current focus lays on film photography, the artistic medium form me is just an extension of the mind regardless if it is by using a camera, a brush, a pencil, a computer or something else. I mostly shoot 35mm and medium format film, which I process in my own darkroom.
In 2020 I also started a YouTube channel since I felt like there was an underrepresentation of female film photographers and because
I wanted to document my journey and experiences all around analog photography.
What are the rules of your photographic work?
The only rules in photography are the rules of physics!
No, I am just joking, I think the most important rules I try to follow, are the rules of moral and humanity: Treating the people and the space around me when I photograph with deep respect.
Since street photography is one of my biggest interests, I try to make it a rule to reflect on myself and my intentions when taking photos.
My goals are to understand what is around me by taking photos of it – without harming or disrespecting anybody, which is why a constant feedback loop with myself when taking photos on the streets is important.
Some photographers might even go a step further by saying that a number one rule is not to interfere or ‘manipulate’ your photos in any way, be it on location or later in editing.
I am not one of those people because I don’t see myself as a neutral bystander or documentary photographer per se, but I see myself more as a creator.
Want to translate my imagination onto a canvas or onto my film, which is why I think it is even necessary sometimes to bring all the elements in line.
I don’t manipulate my images in post other than cleaning up some dust specs and straightening some lines, but I don’t hesitate to actively engage with my surroundings when shooting.
Is there a particular combination of techniques and tools that you think makes the difference?
I think tools are exactly what the name suggests: tools.
Cameras are tools and that’s how I like to see them.
Regarding technique I think there is no way around it than to simply learn the techniques that you might need for your type of photography.
For street photography it might be something like learning zone focusing or focusing by feel, while for portrait photography it might be something like lighting techniques.
Some combinations of tools and techniques might be more popular than others such as combining rangefinder cameras with zone focusing in street photography or combining longer lenses with advanced lightning techniques in portrait photography.
But I don’t think that is a necessity, but sometimes breaking with these combinations can make your images even more interesting.
Instead, what I really think makes a difference is to really know your tools and your techniques well, regardless of what tools and techniques that might be.
I would rather shoot with a camera that I know by heart than with a camera that might be technically better, but I have no experience in using.
Take the time to learn your tools and your techniques inside out and then you will be able to make conscious decisions to why it might also make sense to choose unusual combinations.
Tell us about an experience that definitely changed the way you work and made you grow.
I am only 1,60m tall, so growing stopped a long time ago for me. Jokes aside: a very formative experience for me was when I developed my own film for the very first time. I have shot a couple of rolls of film before and was fascinated by it but somehow never hooked.
The day I developed my first roll of black and white film and later enlarged my first image in the darkroom really blew my mind.
Suddenly this whole world of film photography opened up for me and I saw all those infinite new possibilities to shape my photographic vision.
Therefore, I would say learning about the analog process and falling head over heels for film photography on that winter day in 2017 surely lead me to where I am today.
Was there ever a difficult situation? How did you react? Tell us.
Luckily for me there has only been one really difficult situation so far, where a man on the street yelled at me for taking a photo of him.
It was during a photo walk where I met two other street photographers in Hamburg.
We walked over a flea market and I snapped a quick shot of two men that were talking to each other over one of the flea market’s tables, making hand gestures that I found quite interesting.
Out of nowhere he suddenly ran after me and quite aggressively forced me to delete the picture – which I obviously couldn’t because I shot it on film.
It was almost a comical situation, since right at that moment I was talking to those other two photographers about our experiences on the streets and while they have had several incidences where people confronted them on the street, I told them I did not have a single one – right in the second this happened.
Now, in hindsight I think there might have been something else going on that I did not comprehend at that time, those men maybe doing something illegal and feeling threatened by me taking a photo of them.
The situation ended in the way that he followed us for some time, took a photo of me on his phone before finally walking away. Even though this was not a nice experience I still feel like I learned something from it:
Photography is a balancing act. Despite my intentions being good and me trying to be as respectful as possible, human boundaries are still subjective.
Sometimes my photographic vision will clash with other people’s personal space and comfort zone.
Photography therefore is a balancing act with a thin line in choosing whether stepping into somebodies’ personal space can be justified by following the human need of artistic stimulation.
Oh, and funnily enough this was only an average photo that I would have never posted anywhere anyway.
How do you relate to the environment and the subjects you portray?
It depends on what I want to achieve:
When I want to capture a specific moment just as it is, I try to stay in the background and take the shot without interacting or interfering with the situation.
If I want to create a new moment, I try to step into the situation, interact, maybe even talk to people to see how a prior moment shapes into a new one when I press the shutter.
However, I think photography is not one-sided, even in documentary photography or landscape photography where the photographer might try to appear absent, I don’t think this is fully achievable. Absence is impossible, because everything runs through a subjective filter of the person taking the photo.
I always feel some sort of connection and relatedness between the things I photograph and myself. It’s hard to describe but regardless of what I take a photo of it always and inevitably also contains a small part of myself.
I also ask you to share a bonus trick among your secret techniques.
I don’t think I have any bonus tricks or secret techniques.
But one little mind trick that helped me in those situations where I overthink or don’t take a shot because I might be too scared (especially on the street) is to just do it.
It might sound contradictive, but the second I catch myself hesitating to take a shot out of fear I tell myself to stop thinking and just take the shot.
You can only regret what you have not done.
Tell us about your equipment, what kind of cameras do you shoot with?
I almost exclusively shoot film, therefore only use film cameras.
I use different cameras for different situations, depending on what I need.
When doing street photography, I have to be fast which is why I mainly use my Leica M6 with a 35mm lens.
I know that camera inside out and can operate it almost blindly, which is why it serves the purpose for me to react without thinking.
When doing more slowed down work as for example when taking urban landscape or portrait shots I mostly use my Bronica ETRSi for that little extra bit of image quality and when I don’t have any intent to particularly go out and shoot, I carry a camera with me anyways just to be prepared at all times.
The Yashica T4 does that job for me, because it’s small and light enough to live in the pocket of my jacket at all times.
But as I said before, I also think it can be a good challenge to step outside of that comfort zone from time to time and break with those stereotypical camera-combinations for specific situations.
I have also used my Bronica for street photography, the Yashica T4 for portraits, the M6 for landscapes and it has always been a valuable experience.
How do you relate to your customers? Do you choose them or do you let chance bring them to you?
I don’t know if customers is the right term in my case, since I do not sell anything besides a handful of my prints.What could be a better suiting term is maybe ‘audience’ or ‘community’ instead of customers, since this is what I would connect to my social media presence on Instagram and YouTube.
In that case I do not try to lure anybody and I do not advertise myself in any way, since I don’t see myself as a brand but just a regular human being that shares some thoughts and images on the internet.
However, I am glad about everybody who shows interest and engages with my work or me and feel a deep sense of community.
Exchanging thoughts and supporting each other has been incredibly inspirational and I am thankful to have met so many creative people that share the same passion as me.
Do you think there is a perfect age to start being a photographer?
Apart from the fact that I don’t believe in anything ‘perfect’ in general, I also don’t think there is a perfect age for anything – also not for photography.
Of course, there is this saying, ‘practice makes perfect’ and then one could argue that it’s better to have more time to practice and therefore it would be advisable to start with photography early on.
I don’t think that’s necessarily the case though because you can practice your vision and how you see the world without ever holding a camera in your hand.
Observing, analyzing, dismantling the world around you is far more important than knowing all the technical aspects about how a camera works – at least at the start.
If, at one point in your life, you stumble upon photography and think that this is the right tool of expressing yourself: do it! It’s never too late to start.
What have been the consequences of COVID19 in your work?
One major part of what I enjoy doing has always been street photography:
Going out, seeking for those ‘decisive moments’, catching those emotional situations between people on the streets and getting a glimpse of the dynamic that happens out there.
Due to the pandemic self-evidently the possibilities to do street photography are limited and getting close to people is the one thing that should be avoided during times like these.
Therefore, for me having one of my biggest passions on hold was the most noticeable difference in my work since last year.
However, I also tried to see this as a chance and use the current restrictions to explore new paths of photography, experiment and test boundaries of how I can still express myself visually.
Last year my work therefore shifted from street photography to a type of photography where I concentrate more on shapes, contrasts, compositions and human emotions without necessarily portraying humans in my work.
Urban landscapes, more minimalist compositions and details I see in my environment have therefore been my main subject of interest ever since the pandemic started.
Are there any books you would recommend?
A book I really appreciate is ‘Magnum Contact Sheets’.
It shows contact sheets by film photographers that are and were members of the photographic cooperation Magnum such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Elliot Erwitt, Steve McCurry, Bruce Gilden, Alec Soth and many more.
You do not see an individual image by itself but get to see the whole contact sheet which means the whole film roll the photographer has taken.
I think this is a valuable source to learn about how talented photographers worked a scene and chose their final shots, besides the fact that you also get a crash course in historical events that were caught on film.
What stimulates your creativity, what inspires you?
I actually wrote my thesis at the end of my master’s degree in psychology about the topic of creativity – thus, this is a question that has been on my mind a lot ever since.
One of the definitions of creativity that stuck with me the most was by Robert Sternberg who said that creativity is the habit to do novel things over and over again, a way to routinely approach problems in a novel way.
That said, I also feel like things that are new stimulate my creativity: it could be something big like exploring a new city or getting to know new people, but it could also be something small like cooking a new dish I have never tried before, trying a film stock for the first time or paying attention to the small changes in my neighborhood.
Apart from that I also get a lot of inspiration by art in general (mostly painting but also movies), since stylistic elements are very similar to the ones used in photography, but still train my eye in a different way than looking at other photographs would.
I try to understand why certain pieces make me feel a certain way and try to grasp what it is that moves people so that I can maybe translate it into my own work as well.