In this interview, we meet Vincent Bihler, another creative with many talents to join the PONF team. Vincent is an award winning industrial designer who’s brought many products to life, all the way from concept to execution and looks forward to applying the many principles on form and function he’s learned along the way to the PONF Camera. He is currently building the first proof of concept for the first analog back of the PONF system.
He brings to the project plenty to experience with cameras as he’s been an avid film photographer since he was introduced to the medium at age 16, just before leaving home to study Industrial Design. Since then, he’s honed these two crafts equally, developing especially an impressive eye for photographic scale and space. When asked to name his favorite film and format, he quickly named several classic, photophile’s dream setups, so we are confident he will deliver nothing but excellence in the creation of the PONF Camera, a new classic standard in analog and digital photography!
Where are you from, where did you grow up? Where are you living now?
I am from France and grew up in Elsass, very close to the German and Swiss borders. I then moved to the region of Bordeaux, where the famous wine is produced. I also lived in north of France, in Sweden, then back in Paris, and now Lyon… So many places have built the person I am.
What is your earliest memory with photography?
I was offered my first camera at age 16, it all started from there. A little bit later, I found a beautiful Canon AE1 in a flea market, early in the morning. I could not stop shooting with these nice cameras!
Describe your first encounter with digital photography.
Digital came later. I tried Fuji cameras at first to keep the film look, then I used Nikons for paid studio work. I think their versatility is king there.
What is your favorite film and camera or image making equipment/process?
Easy… Portra 400 and Rolleiflex 2.8F… Or Ilford Delta 100 and Leica M4 + Summicron 35 iv King of Bokeh… Or Trix and 21 Skopar f4 ? … Or Pentax 6×7 with whatever?!
What has your career been like? What are some of your favorite or most formative past projects or roles?
I’ve been mostly working as a product and industrial designer. For 4 years I worked at a French tech company called Parrot. I developed some of their latest products to date from scratch: first drawings, ergonomical and usage considerations, shape intentions to the industrialisation with many trips to Hong-Kong Shenzhen for quality controls on the production line. I now have joined a product and industrial design firm (entreautre.com) where I am leading the development of several innovative projects.
How did you decide to become an industrial designer? Can you say a little bit about what it’s like to follow all the steps in the process of creating a thing from idea to execution?
As long as I can remember, I’ve always been thinking of stuff I could build to fulfill my needs. I built a whole guitar at age 15, because I needed something versatile enough to play different kinds of music with a single instrument. That story actually is quite similar to PONF, right? During my studies (mechanical engineering) I had the opportunity to take several design courses which led me to a specialization in that field for my last year. I went to Sweden where I tried to catch this legendary Scandinavian influence… I was then hired at my first job as an industrial designer after the 2013 James Dyson Awards. I participated with a good friend and won the National 1st prize.
How did you get involved with PONF?
I contacted Raffaello after having seen that they were looking for people that would like to get involved in the development of the PONF Camera. It was great timing! 😊
Tell us about your role with the project, recent successes, in progress developments, etc.
I’m in charge of industrial and mechanical design. We’re currently building a first proof of concept, which is a very simple mechanism that allows us to prove how practical the product will be.
Are you working on analog or digital components or both?
Right now, I am working on analog “mechanical” components. But these will be useful for the digital back also.
Have you always wanted to design a camera or have you ever designed a camera before? Can you talk a bit about what you’re taking into consideration?
I’ve been thinking about something similar for a long time, but so far, the tech wasn’t ready. My considerations about this project: I don’t think we can fit everyone’s needs with a single object. This is a simple ergonomic rule. Designing a whole ecosystem that leads to strong products clearly different from one to another and that will fit a precise application is the key. I will make no compromise in that direction. We don’t want to see another Frankencamera that is too cumbersome for street photography, nor a Coolpix lacking flexibility for studio shooting…
What are you interested in besides photography?
Design! I love that. I have been playing guitar for a while now… Oh, and film photography rocks.
Let’s end with your advice to another photographer but with a twist: Ten words or less or a Haiku.
Less is more 😉
Thanks Vincent! To see more of Vincent’s work, visit his website or follow him on Instagram.