Of people and feelings: the Polish photographer’s analogue, contrast-rich and expressive series is born from chance encounters – and the portraits reveal a whole range of emotions that the photographer himself has internalised.

What is it about people that touches you?
I love people. We are one, and we can find similarities in ourselves, we can feel similar. We can think alike or we can be completely different from each other, but we all share a common denominator, and when I meet other people, I’m able to find myself in them as well. This is amazing.

How and where do you find your motifs?
These are random encounters – I don’t know my protagonists at all. I’m attracted to something and then I initiate a conversation. This is the time when we can trust each other; then we get to know each other, no matter how long our meeting lasts. Very often these are just moments. We don’t get to know each other literally, but for this moment we pass on such enormous layers of unity that magic happens.

The people you portray are in some way unusual, interesting, distinctive…
It’s probably just that I’m looking for similarities to myself. Most of us can feel emotions, and some of these emotions dominate in us in a given period of life. For example, fear, sadness, joy, shyness and others are in all of us. If you’ve ever experienced any of them, you can recognize them and if you can feel them in yourself, you can feel them in others. This is what confirms that we are internally similar. I look for my emotions in people; I look for similarities; I look for meetings and being together with a person I don’t know.

You focus entirely on the face in your series; the background seems to fade away and not matter.
It’s true that I like tight frames, I focus on the faces and often on the hands. I don’t think too much about it, but I come very close to people, as I want to feel their every emotion with my whole being. We are close to each other physically, but also spiritually. Each face is a piece of a story…and everyone has their own, so when you show it to someone through your emotions, it’s an act of the greatest trust for another person. I’m very grateful for the fact that someone allows me to enter into their world, into their home for a moment.

As a photographer, what influence do you have on the staging of your protagonists?
In that moment, I try to interfere as little as possible. I show some of my photos first and most of the people I meet feel it themselves. They know that I’m looking for intimacy, honesty and mutual trust, and it’s best when this is the case.

What exactly does your photographic process look like?
You know, this is a very good question; but actually it’s exactly like I described earlier, because the photographic process starts at the moment of meeting, and actually this is where the most important part of it takes place. I don’t like to talk about technicalities in photography, but, take my word for it, I know it all and, as a photographer, I have to be able to choose these parameters as well. Later, when I manually develop the film, I pay attention to how to visually achieve what I like in photography; but, if we talk about photography in an emotional way – and I can only talk about like that – these are not important issues.

What do you look for in the prints?
As for film development and printing, I carry out the whole process from start to finish. I love to look at black and white and I try to choose everything to match my aesthetics. I use Kodak Tri-X400 analogue film and I develop the film using Rodinal developer, which in particular allows me to obtain the contrast that suits me in the photographs. I print my work in A2 format, on Baryte paper, then frame them in wooden frames and glass. A few of the people I’ve photographed received such a complete picture from me.

You used the Leica M6. What is your experience with the camera – especially for portrait photography?
When it comes to Leica cameras, I actually started my adventure with a digital camera – a Leica Monochrom Classic. Later, I discovered film cameras and I want to stay with these for longer. I like this purist style in photography. If you shoot with these cameras, if you focus manually, you feel completely different in my opinion. There is the fact that the camera doesn’t matter, but, on the other hand, it is important. If you have a camera that you like, the whole process is more natural, and I like it that way. That’s why I like my Leica.

How did you get into photography yourself? And what does analogue photography mean for you?
Initially, I treated photography as another hobby. There was a lot of searching for myself. To be honest, I would like to see the world like a child all the time, get to know and admire every seemingly trivial thing. I’d like to be naive, not analytical, which is why I prefer an analogue camera. To me, less is more; however that may be a clichéd slogan for many people. I want to look calmly through the viewfinder and have as little choice as possible. I want to be as far away from the settings in the camera as I can, and as close to the human as possible. I want to talk with people, look them straight into the eye, and feel them if I can – this is the most important for me.

Roland Kilimanjaro was born in 1976 in Puck, a small Polish town. He studied at the Jędrzej Śniadecki Sportakademie in Gdańsk. His interest in people is reflected in his intimate portraits, which always capture a small part of himself as well. As a purist with a weakness for a natural style, he prefers to use analogue photography. He is the recipient of a number of awards, and one of his portraits was published in, among others, the book Portrait of Humanity in 2020. Find out more about his photography on his website and Instagram page.

Issue 8/2022 of LFI magazine is presenting an extensive Portfolio of Kilimanjaro’s work.