Csilla Studio

Csilla Szabo's analogue photography

Photographer and professional printer Csilla Szabó generously invited us to visit her studio to talk about her very artistic approach to analogue photography. She shared with us the details of her manual revealing and printing processes, while giving us a rare insight into the detail-focused work that makes her photos a real unique treasure.

The process of analogue development:

Csilla’s artwork is the result of a long and meticulous manual process in which she is involved rigorously from start to finish.
Csilla starts by preparing the photo session with the assembly of a collection of different materials and objects, which she finds or borrows from different places all over Berlin. She portrays those objects and enlightens them to create a high contrast which, when captured by her camera, creates a whole new world filled with form and patterns. It feels like Csilla paints minimal objects with pure light to generate an emotional effect on the observer, who may navigate through this magnificent monochromatic world. Lighting is the key to her work, and it is through rays of light, that Csilla underlines liveliness or keeps darkness, where mystery needs to be kept.

After preparing the camera for the shoot and taking her carefully selected pictures, Csilla starts with a 2.5 hour long development process in the dark chamber of her second studio.

Csilla Studio

After the negative is revealed in a chemical bath and hung to dry, Csilla very carefully takes off any dust particles and specks to create a flawless result. Afterwards, the photo is enlarged through a projection of the negative on photosensitive paper. Light and shadows of the negative are inverted during the projection, creating the positive on the paper. Another chemical treatment is necessary now to avoid colour fading and to give the final piece archival or long lasting quality.

Due to the strong photosensitivity, every picture has a unique result, which Csilla enhances by manually adding dodging or burning effects. Once the final image is dry, Csilla spends hours correcting small imperfections with a thin paintbrush, leaving each piece a unique and lasting work of art.

Csilla Studio

All of her works at Artig Gallery are artisanal silver gelatine prints, printed on high quality Ilford Warmtone Glossy Fibre Paper. Limited editions of 7 prints per size, available in two sizes, signed and numbered by the artist.

Csilla Studio

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Why and how did you fell in love with photography?
When I was around 23-24 years old I felt I needed a change in my life. I wanted to do something different with a meaning for me. Therefore I decided to fly to Japan & South Korea to figure out what I wanted to do. The cultural scenery was so different; I couldn’t stop taking pictures with a small digital camera I bought there. I was so inspired, that when I arrived to Hungary I decided to enroll myself to a photo school. Later on, I had the chance to start working with Jeff Cowen who only worked with analogue, and it was then when my passion went to the surface.

What is the first picture you shot?
The first analogue picture I took was while I was still studying photography on a trip we did to a castle in Budapest where I took several close ups. I didn’t even know how to put the film into the camera, but I remember my excitement to take a picture I couldn’t directly see the results but had to wait to develop the negatives.

Why do you practice analogue photography in a completely digital world? What do you think is the difference between both worlds?
First of all, just want to clarify I’m not against digital photography. I believe this is necessary and makes sense for many areas as product photography, journalism, advertisement etc… Nevertheless, I understand artistic photography a bit as people could see a painting. I mean, if we look back, in times where photography didn´t exist, kings, nobles etc. asked for painted portraits to represent the reality. I believe analogue has the same artistic meaning, it´s just the next step of painting evolution. I personally love analogue photography because of the grain in the picture. It is this beautiful pattern that obsesses me, together of course with the whole manual process of the development with the several chemicals, the rubber gloves, in the dark, rolling the paper… - I would not want to change it to sitting in front of a computer screen! In analogue pictures, you really need to think before you shoot. There are not so many tries and I really take a lot of time to think what I want to have, how to crop it etc…because the process until the final art piece is done will be rather slow.

How was it working with a known artist like Jeff Cowen ? What did you learn from him?
He was a perfect coincidence, he appeared in my life at a I really needed it. With Jeff I was able to get deep in the analog photography, to understand his techniques and appreciate the freedom how he is able to use the tools. I could basically summarize my learning in two: Technical and Wisdom. With this I mean, not accepting anything that’s below perfect but always with a playful attitude and remaining inventive, how to treat technically the negatives and edit the upcoming work, how to never be lazy with the archaic of the chemicals, why it’s important to always listen to your intuition, how to balance your eye and inner-sense, and how to select my pictures ruthlessly, using only the few strongest shots instead of many mediocre ones. Jeff was my main mentor and with him I understood that in visual art, the art goes above the concept and how important it is to work hard, but also to be able to slow down and take some space back to be able to see the art with a different angle.

Why is your photographic work based on portraying inanimate objects? Would you encourage making a series of portraits?
Actually, this is a funny question. I got the camera as a present from Jeff and at that time I was a very shy person, actually too shy to go out and inspire myself. That’s why I preferred to shoot at the studio, where I could focus on the product and the camera. Through the years, it’s not the shyness anymore and I now I also enjoy shooting outside the studio but my interest remains in the abstract and that’s why I transform nature to inanimate products and scenes. I’m all about abstraction, let my subjects be objects or nature, so Portraits not for now, but later on, who knows! (smiles)

Who is the photographer who admire the most?
Lee Miller –for her amazing life as a photographer in an amazing time in (art) history.

What famous photo changed your life?
The Rayograms of Man Ray – I’m already working on exciting new ways of manipulating pictures on the analog way and I’m planning on doing even more in the future.


What did you have for breakfast today?
A coffee and a cigarette.

Do you have a hideaway in Berlin?
Some spots next to the canal

Who is your hero?
Jeff Cowen

What would surprise people to know about you?
I nearly didn’t pass my practical photography exam before graduating and now I could actually teach there!

What is your personal luxury?
Photography supply

Your favourite artistic movement?
Avanguard Czech movement

Your 3 favorite photographers?
Eugen Wiskovsky, Margaret Bourke-White, László Moholy-Nagy

When do you create your best work?
In the dark, in the night and with music

Who inspires you?
Can be anything. It’s very special things that I find on the way and I suddenly need to stop to take it to the studio or take a picture there.

Describe your artistic style in 3 words:
abstract, patterns, light

Which advice would you give someone who is just starting his or her artistic career?
Work hard, for yourself (in your little bubble without the outside voices). Nobody will spend so much time and attention as you on your work, so don’t be afraid and be your own judge.

Shop Csilla’s art now