I am Antonio Biagiotti and this is why I shoot film
Here we are with another interview for you all. This time we’re sitting down with the incredibly passionate Antonio Biagiotti. Hailing from Northern Italy, Antonio is a moslty medium format photographer working in 6×7 using his Pentax 67ii. Antonio is as enthusiastic about photography as he is passionate and has an immense body of work, which captures Italy’s beautiful countryside, as well as its urban sprawl.
Over to you, Antonio.
Hi Antonio, what’s this picture, then?
AB: I am very fond of this photograph! After seeing the image, many people ask me if I had intentionally caused the snow to fall with the help of an assistant, or some other tricks. Actually, the snow was melting and falling continuously in every direction around me. I was seeking a glimpse of history that would create in itself a beautiful composition and just held myself in place with my finger ready on the trigger cable.
In the end, I shot two rolls (20 frames). The image you see captured the moment exactly as I wanted but the other 19…unfortunately they were not so lucky!
Ok, so who are you? (The short version, please)
AB: Even as a child, photography was my passion. At the age of thirteen I bought my first real camera, a Pentax K1000, with which I entered a wonderful world of shutter speeds, framing and apertures.
Over the years, shifting between satisfaction and bitter disappointment, this passion has continued to evolve, and with it, my camera kit. For several years now I realize most of my photographs using a medium format Pentax 67II, two camera bodies and a large group of lenses, which allow me to deal with the various conditions I encounter.
When did you start shooting film?
AB: I’ve always been fascinated by cameras and the enormous creative capacity that the medium allows. I started to take photographs at around 13 years old and I’ve never stopped, even a little! After some time, I set up my own dark room, and for the past 20 years, I have personally developed and printed my films and images.
What about now? Why do you shoot film and what drives you to keep shooting?
AB: Naturally, I took to the digital format but I really just think of the images as having been taken with a smartphone. Despite realizing the significant advantages that could be gained from this technology, digital images never stole my heart; perhaps because it is too easy and fast; you can shoot and not think. Perhaps it’s because the photographs are so easy to manipulate and distort with photo editing tools, that you no longer know if they are true or simply invented by the computer…
I take photographs when something hits me deep in my soul and, having a deep understanding of the photographic process, I try to capture the best interpretation of what I see, combined with my state of mind.
For me, maintaining physical contact with the negative in the darkroom is fundamental to my process and it reminds me of the moment I captured the shot. You could say that the negative screams, “IT REALLY EXISTED!”
Over the years, I have used and experimented with many types and brands of film, paper and chemicals. This continuous experimentation sometimes confused me because I was not able to predict, or always fully master the various possible interpretations of the materials that I used. Occasionally, I would have an under-developed film because the chemicals I used were not as strong as I had imagined, or I would find that another type of film wasn’t be the most suitable for a specific subject.
This is all part of the experimentation process, however and over time, I began to understand and interpret the materials, so as to achieve the desired results consciously and consistently.
Any favorite subject matter?
AB: We are surrounded by potentially stunning images. Beauty is be all around us, even at times when we expect there to be none; we just have to see and interpret that beauty. Of course, to photograph the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum, one must necessarily go there, but there is no reason why a wonderful picture cannot be shot in the garden of your own home.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll?
AB: I love black and white photography because I feel that it is the most introspective and truly provides me with a very high degree of interpretation and control; how I feel it in my soul.
In recent years I have almost exclusively used Kodak T-Max 100 and 400 for my work. They are outstanding films with which I have now reached an almost perfect agreement. I know how I want to shoot them and they know how I want them to be shot!
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an assignment. One camera, one lens, two films and no idea of the subject matter. What do you you take with you and why?
AB: Two minutes is too short to decide! But I would take a 35mm autofocus body because I could use my versatile 28-300mm zoom lens. For the same reason, I’d take two rolls of Kodak T-Max 400!
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location. Where do you go?
AB: I would go into the woods, or forest, particularly the Tosco Emiliano, which is near my house. This is simply because of the myriad of scenes the light produces as the hours change. The environment stimulates so much creativity with each glimpse that the possibilities really are endless. Given the opportunity to use wide angle, telephoto, and even macro lenses…well then I really could shoot an infinite supply of film!
What do you think is people’s greatest misconception about film photography and how would you set it straight?
AB: The worst thing I’ve heard about film photography is that it’s thought to be over, obsolete and unable to carve out a niche in today’s and our future society.
I think instead that analog photography already has its own well defined space and now, in hindsight, it is considered by many (and I think rightly so!), the very essence of photography because of it’s inherent ability to be real and credible.
The greatest contemporary photographers continue to use film for their photography and Fine Art, and it is important that majority of the public is willing to shell out large sums of money for for these prints!
The liveliness of the sector is also highlighted by the innovation the major manufacturers are introducing in their products. Kodak Alaris said it would renew its pack film and chemicals in particular, as regards to the black & white industry. Ilford recently introduced a new type of printing paper and other news should be coming soon from them.
Many companies, smaller but with the highest quality products, are entering the market and bringing a renewed vitality and enthusiasm to the film photography space.
In short, the field of film photography can hardly boast numbers that it saw at the end of the last millennium but the sector still remains vital and has recently been regaining momentum and a new enthusiasm, LONG LIVE FILM!
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
AB: I hope and pray that film photography still has a bright future ahead. Amateur photographers who continue to shoot using film year after year prove to be far more than anyone can believe, and I am especially proud to be a supporter of this methodology.
We have also seen many former film fans return to film and what’s without counting the many professionals who have never really strayed from analog photography.
For me film photography is part of my way of seeing and understanding things and I can not even begin think of removing it from my life.
Life without film? I would no longer be me.
The stereotype of the passionate and emotional Italian is one which carries the world over and having had the chance to converse with Antonio over the course of several weeks, I’d like to say that it’s a well founded one.
Antonio has photography running through his veins and at the pit of his heart; it was a real pleasure to get to know understand and appreciate a man with such as strong connection with what he does.
I’d strongly recommend following Antonio on Twitter and giving his website a long, thoughtful read. If you’re ever Modena, or Bolonga, please drop him a line – I think he could be convinced to show you some of the beautiful scenery he has access to each and every day.
Thank you, Antonio.
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