Stormchaser, landscape photographer and portraiture, today’s interviewee has a long and varied photographic history. Please give a warm welcome to Montrealean (-er? -an?), Gaetan Cormier!
Over to you, Gaetan.
Hi Gaetan, what’s this picture, then?
GC: I learned about these cute farm buildings and trees on a Facebook group about beautiful trees of Quebec. Location was vague so I used Google Maps to locate the area. I had a good previsualisation of what I wanted and found myself the perfect day and mostly, perfect weather forecast to get this shot…
Since I was shooting with a Bronica SQ-A, I really wanted puffy clouds in the sky to fill the shot. So, on that good day, I drove to the area (about an hour’s drive from Montreal) and set-up for the shot. Had to wait some time in order to have nice clouds above the scene. It’s a photo that I simply love.
Ok, so who are you? (the short version, please)
GC: Born and raised in Montreal, I’m a 1972 model. When I was a kid, I always intrigued by my parents cameras. Small Kodak Instamatics, cameras using 110 film and Polaroid cameras. In my teens, I developed a passion for astronomy. So I discovered a fascination for optics of all sorts.
In 1991, I found myself working in a telescope shop here in Montreal and I am still there today after 29 years! Well, I was laid off because of COVID-19 and I truly hope that the store will survive this so I can go back to work. Otherwise, I love going outdoors and finding new landscapes to photograph.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting?
GC: Back in my first year at work (1991), a customer of mine was selling his Pentax K1000, so I bought it from him and started shooting with it. To help me, I was buying photography magazines and asked help around until I saw an ad from the Seattle Filmworks Photography School. So I learned the basics of photography with the help of this home course.
Even, if I took this home course, I did not take photography as serious as today… I was shooting here and there, but the most important shoots I did was photos for the metal band of some friends.
I shot film up to about 2003, went digital and finally came back to film in 2013. I pretty much always have a camera with me now and there’s not one single day that I don’t do something that is photography related.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
GC: I didn’t really have influences when I started, but I was sure impressed by the works of Ansel Adams even if I wasn’t really doing great landscape work at the time. Since coming back to film in 2013, I mostly do portraits/nudes and landscape photography. For portraiture/nude work, my greatest inspiration is the Swiss photographer Christian Coigny and for landscapes I am an avid admirer of the work of Michael Kenna.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
GC: When I came back to film in 2013, I still had my Pentax K5 on hand, but I only used it for very few shoots when models asked to get color shots (on film, I shoot B&W 99.8% of the time) but I got rid of the Pentax and went 100% film in 2014
What’s your next challenge…your next step? How do you see yourself improving your technique? What aspect of your photography would you like to try and master in the next 12 months?
GC: With the COVID-19 pandemic, I found myself shooting some still life recently and I must say that I really appreciated it, so I might do some more of this in the coming weeks.
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Also, I would like to spend more time in the darkroom, I like to experiment with contrast filters, dodge & burning techniques to get the most out of my photos.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
GC: I would say feminine portraiture. When looking for models to collaborate with, the first thing that I look is their eyes. I love creating photographs that will vehiculate an emotion and/or sensuality, the eyes are amazing for that.
You have 2 minutes to prepare for an unknown assignment. You can take one camera, one lens, two films and you have no idea what you’ll be shooting. What do you take with you and why?
GC: OMG! I grab my Mamiya RB67 Pro S with the 127mm lens. I just love my RB67 and I find the 127mm just amazing! My two rolls of film are one ILFORD Ortho Plus 80 and one roll of Rollei Retro 400S. Just don’t assign me on a battlefield, the RB67 will slow me down if I need to move fast 😉
You have an unlimited supply of film to shoot in one location for the rest of your life. What do you take, where do you go and why?
GC: After searching the origins of my family name, I found out that it might have originated from Britanny, France, near Rennes. Since then, I have developed a passion for Britanny (went there two times for a total of 5 weeks). So, I would definitely go there for the rest of my life with my beloved Mamiya RB67.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
GC: The roll would probably be an expired roll of Kodak Tech Pan (my favorite film) and I would probably be making some beautiful portraits or landscapes in Iceland (always wanted to go there)
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
GC: Like many have said before me, the fact that people think that film photography is dead and they always find surprising that we can still buy film. They become even more flabbergasted when I tell them that I still do darkroom prints… They say: “with the red light and all?” cracks me up all the time.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
GC: I think that film photography has a good future, I seriously expect that film will be easily accessible for at least a few decades and hopefully more.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone just getting started, or thinking about jumping into film photography?
GC: What are you waiting for? Grab a basic SLR like a Pentax K1000 and shoot! Experiment! And get the feel for it. When you’ll get your prints or files from the lab that’s when the fun kicks in and if you want to be in awe, process your own film, the feeling you get when you take the reel out of the tank is just amazing to first see these little images on your still wet film.
Please do take a minute to check out more of Gaetan’s work (as well as his podcast over on YouTube, Instagram, at his website and over on Spotify. I’ll be back with a fresh face for you in a couple of weeks. Until then, please stick around and have a browse!
The community needs you. If you’d like to take part in this series of film photographer interviews, please drop us a line or get in touch in the comments. We’re featuring to photographers young and old; famous and obscure, so get in touch and let’s talk.