Sunday, February 1, 2015

Roberto De Mitri - My Thoughts on Film Photography

Roberto De Mitri, an Italian fine-art photographer, is also a businessman based-in Lecce. He shoots mostly on film with his medium format cameras, and loves to do long exposure photography with black and white films.

Roberto who has been featured on Shooting Film was coming back with us to share his thoughts and experience about his work in our new project called My Thoughts on Film photography.


Photography has always given me a lot of passion and a lot of curiosity. But my experience with the camera is quite newer. And it starts when I start to have the economic means to buy my first camera. My first steps into the world of photography took place in a completely opposite direction to the direction that I have taken today. In fact, my first camera was a digital SLR. But my photos aimed exclusively on the exteriority of the image, as for example the brilliance of the colours. A kind of image "all special effects," which had nothing meaningful to communicate. Had nothing interesting to say. An artificial and flat image. Devoid of expression and content.

This first period was useful to acquire the basics of technique and experience (because I was completely devoid of both). But, to my view, it was clear that this kind of photography didn't give me any satisfaction. Satisfactions that yes, it's true, came later… when I started my experience in the field of analogue photography in black and white.



I was (and I am) totally impressed by black and white photography. By the aesthetics and the elegance of soft shades. The depth and fullness of the shadows. I was captivated by this chemical sense, by the atmosphere almost alchemical, never quite fully accessible and understandable, that emerged from this union of light and matter. a sensory experience and a feeling that cannot be rationalized. And of course, this pleasure is enhanced by the medium format.

Pleasure that involves multiple steps and horizons, pleasure that begins even before the moment of the photo shoot in itself, with the choice of the film, the choice of the frame, the choice of the type of photo you want, what kind of filter to use, the choice of the shutter speed and the aperture, and everything has to be planned. In this you need great method and there is no possibility of improvisation.



Indeed, in this, photography is something that combines a great ability of control to the possibility of creating something very imaginative and artistic and free from any scheme.
_ Acquire a good method is an important thing.
_ No matter which way you must go.
_ The important thing is to get to develop an effective method so you can always have the option to keep all the parameters under control. have the _ Parameters under control means focusing solely on the kind of photo that you want to achieve. means being able to anticipate in your head the final result. it means to be as ready as possible. avoiding to be unprepared in front of any scenario.
_ Method does not mean having to sacrifice the fancy for something trivial or obvious. but simply to be masters of your instruments. The importance of a method (of developing a personal method) is the logical conclusion which comes with experience.



And all my knowledge of the world of photography is based on experience. I was a “tabula rasa”. my initials knowledge were nil. I never followed any course or never made any specific study. But for everything, I had to start from the beginning. I knew only that I liked photography. As well as for the development of the film in black and white, I had no specific knowledge, I knew only that I wanted to develop my films in black and white by myself. So I am self-taught. And all that I know I have learned directly “on the field”.

This kind of training "on field" (if we want to say so) is also characterized by the absence of auxiliary tools. As the exposure meter, the Hasselblad, in fact, is a camera completely mechanical. And as being a mechanical camera, it is not provided with an internal light meter. Despite this, I have never used an exposure meter. Practically, I calculate the exposure times "for instinct". And when I do photography with shorter exposure times... and especially when I make long exposure photos.



Long exposure photos are what I prefer. They are the kind of photo, the means by which better than any other I can achieve meaningful result. The long exposure photography is important to the point that I always carry with me wherever I go, whatever I do travel, my tripod. A tripod very heavy, able to support well the weight of the camera. And neutral density filters always in the backpack.

The long exposure photography of landscapes and urban scenarios allows me to explore a dimension that belongs more to the experience of suggestion and the surreal. It allows a representation of the image, which is no longer merely descriptive, but it is an indefinable manifestation of a feeling. The actual and physical data disappears. Sensory experience becomes intangible item. Everything turns around a mood, everything is invaded by feelings that belong to the mood of the moment.



Seascapes are no longer only rock and water. But become, in the movement of the elements that fade, a feeling of melancholy and nostalgia for something distant and lost, something that can not go back, something that is no longer with us. So cityscapes, cities that are crossed and cut by the uninterrupted flow of its inhabitants, not more individuals and identity. But a true allegory of the passage of time. Portrait of a time that is elusive, of a life that does not go back, a daily life made of ephemera, a routine of things superfluous and devoid of substantial value. The long exposure photos that I make to the people are largely these, as our daily and ordinary life can be transformed into the reflection of something alien and alienating.



Photos to people on the move have elements of difficulty that normal long exposure photos made to landscapes do not have. It is never possible to predict the final outcome of the photo and at the end of the long exposure photos that will remain on film. Everything is very uncertain and there are few variables that can be controlled. The main risk is that on the film does not remain imprinted nothing, or shapes and halos very weak. Another risk is that on the film can remain imprinted some element of excessive noise (or not pleasing to the eye, such as baby carriages with children and people with shopping bags). Elements that disturb the flow of the scene and that compromise the overall aesthetics of the picture.

The ideal would be to identify the points in the city that are architecturally pleasing, able to offer a pleasant background scenery and which are constantly traversed by a large crowd, by many people. Another good alternative, however, is to identify a essentially static subject (for example a balloon salesman), an interesting subject which also provide a break point within the harmonious flow of people in motion. The idea of long exposure photos was born only recently. The first photos are just of two years ago. These photos are a bit of the fruit, not expected, of a change in my mood, a sudden change of perspective as a result of a period of depression and emotional crisis, which began two years ago and which has known periods gloomy and very dark.



Places and cities lose their friendly appearance and familiar look and turn into something of alien and alienating. And the streets are invaded by ghostly presences and entities without face. The long exposure photography had (and has) a second significant advantage, in this speech.
_ The time in which I make a picture is the moment in which I can remove from me my thoughts, I can pause for that moment all my thoughts. Every thought and vision of sadness, melancholy and malaise is for a moment put aside. If the time when I shot the photograph is the time in which I can keep me away from my thoughts of sadness, then the long exposure photos prolong this type of suspension, all my attention go to the photo, the photos I want to do, or I hope to get.
_ And increasing the time that I use materially to take a picture, I can keep my thoughts away from me for all that time.



This is a little story that lies behind the long exposure photos. These are my motivation and my moods behind my photos. To me, photography is a passion and vital and indispensable tool to give voice and expression to my tensions, the anxieties and the impulses of my soul. I can not give any advice, because I do not find myself in a position to give advice to anyone. But my hope, hope that I appeal to all those who love photography (and in particular analogue photography) is to consider photography as a tool to voice their emotions and their feelings. Use photography like a scream or a thunder, something impetuous or something infinitely sweet and delicate. The photograph is the tool to give voice of our personal visions, and so everyone should feel absolutely free to try independently and individually his own style and his own imprint. Photography is an art, and as such it does not tolerate mediocrity or lack of commitment. But like any art, requires honesty and passion to be cultivated.



See more of his work at his photostream on Flickr.

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