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Up close and very personal

10/10/2011 “Some people think I’m crazy. They say a Hasselblad has never been used like this before”, Andreas Metzner.

Hanover-based commercial and portrait photographer Andreas Metzner likes to work differently. He thinks nothing of standing in wind and rain at a rock festival for ten hours at a time, armed with a Hasselblad H4D-40, a 28mm wide angle lens, a standard 80mm lens, a Hensel ringflash and reflector plus a backpack loaded with a Porty generator. "I guess I must be some sort of a pioneer with this way of shooting" Metzner (40) tells Hasselblad News. "It’s true that I have never seen any other photographer using this Hasselblad equipment outside of a studio setting. But there is meaning to my madness."


Metzner is obsessed with detail. "I love working very close to my portrait subjects" he says, "I have worked with DSLRs in the past on my ongoing ‘Festival’ project but the results of those shoots just don’t compare with the images I get from using the 40MP Hasselblad." And in order to achieve the quality he craves from events like the annual Hurricane Festival near Hamburg, Metzner has had to devise a whole new way of working.

"There are challenges," he admits. "And I suppose I am working at the extreme. I like to shoot close up with the 28mm lens but it’s so big it doesn’t fit completely within the ringflash attachment. However, a little thought and some improvisation and modification have paid off. Now I arrive on site with my generator on my back. I have a cable on the side, which goes through my belt and I have the H4D-40 camera with the ringflash and reflector in my hand. Of course if it is raining I can’t put anything on the ground. I can’t allow the equipment to get wet and slippery so I just work with gloves."


"And that, apart from the stunning image quality is another great thing about this exceptional camera. It’s an ergonomic masterpiece. All the controls and buttons can be operated with gloves."

Metzner served his photo-apprenticeship back in the mid-Nineties, toiling in a large Hanover studio that worked extensively in interior photography – often furniture product shoots. But following a trip to Nepal in 2000 and India a year later, he became fixated on street portraiture. "I just love working close up with ordinary people – not models – just real people that you see in the street. I just go and talk to them and see if they will agree to let me photograph them. And I do exactly the same thing at rock festivals. People dress up in costumes and I just shoot all day and all night. I’ve been doing it for five years now so many of the visitors know me and are keen to help me get what I want. I just get them to sign model releases and in return I send them picture files."


Metzner’s passion for detail began after working with large format film years ago. "I just want the best available quality" he confesses: "And for me today that is the H4D-40. It’s not just the camera itself but the overall workflow model. The Phocus software it comes with is sensational. Some shots I once took with a 35mm camera were over exposed, which meant the detail was just not recoverable. But similar images shot with the H4D-40 can be recovered using the Phocus tools for bright light. In one shot of a girl’s white skirt I thought I had overexposed and lost the shot but I was able to save it - and with incredible detail. The sharpness tool is terrific too. I can see how it works in real time on my fast computer."


Metzner is inspired by photo ‘greats’ like Ansel Adams, Martin Parr and Sebastian Salgado. He smiles: "I heard a story about Adams. Apparently he took a portrait of an old lady and then spent the rest of his life trying to get the print he wanted. But he was never satisfied with it. I think it all might have been different though if he had been able to shoot with an H4D-40."



For a video of Andreas explaining his equipment set-up (in German) - Please click here

For a video of Andreas shooting with Hasselblad equipment at festivals - Please click here