Say hello to Andrea Bianchi; Surfer, extreme sports photographer, photo editor and portraitist based in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
Andrea and I have been crossing paths for 18 months now and I’m glad to finally be able to bring his interview to you.
Settle in, this is going to be fun.
Over to you, Andrea!
Hi Andrea, What’s this picture, then?
In this image everything I am looking for is represented by a photo.
When this happens with a film shot, it represents the achievement of a total goal that includes professional satisfaction and fulfillment for the profession you are in. It also happens with digital photography, but it is not the same thing. This shot represents the end of a 3-year cycle chasing big perfect waves with a friend around our island.
We found a spot (surf spot) with really perfect waves and we were completely alone. He couldn’t hold back his enthusiasm and I got out of the car screaming and fidgeting. I came out on the opposite side, with my Canon FTb loaded with a Kodak T-MAX 100 expired in 1991.
I stopped that moment forever.
Ok, so who are you? The short version, please
My name is Andrea Bianchi, I am a professional photographer, I was born and live on the island of Sardinia, in Italy.
I have been involved in surf photography for the past 10 years, publishing the stories of Mediterranean surfers in European magazines. I worked in the publishing sector as a photo editor and I am still a contributor for some important networks. I also deal with commercial photography.
When did you start shooting film and what drives you to keep shooting today?
My meeting with film is the result of a inspiration from the past, which re-emerged thanks to knowledge with a photographer 10 years ago, more less.
I always thought that I would like to start taking pictures with film instead of just using the digital camera. But I thought I would have liked to do it but mastering the whole process, from shooting to development. Shooting reels and taking them to develop in a lab (many do) didn’t make any sense.
I met a good artist who also lives in Sardinia, his name is Gavino Canu. He did things with the film that impressed me a lot. He gave me the first notions to start shooting with films. Now, I develop black and white and colors films. I print in the darkroom and I almost always integrate the film in my work.
There is an eternal fascination in film photography, in the process that involves chemistry, creativity and manual skills. Even if you don’t have any photography background, you’d like to know more. I believe that all those who treat photography seriously have the thought of trying, but they don’t do it because the process is too complex compared to the “digital laziness” of the frame and shoot to which we are now used.
Who or what influenced your photography when you first started out and who continues to influence you today?
The influences of my photography have no particular mentors.
I take a lot of ideas and a lot of inspiration from the photographs I see on social media from excellent artists around the world.
Are you a mixed medium photographer? What drives your choice to use film or digital from one day to the next?
In my work, using digital to cut costs is necessary. It’s bad to make it a matter of money when it comes to art and creativity, but that’s the way it is.
What drives me to use more digital or more films in my work, is often the price of the client. However, I do not hide when I like a job and it stimulates me, I no longer pay attention to the economic question and the films take over. In other situations, I am obliged to use the digital camera.
In water photography, with huge conditions, using my Nikonos III is very complex and does not lead to satisfactory results. So, I have to use the digital camera.
However, I always try to give the film as much space as possible in my work, especially in portraits or lifestyle photos.
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?
My next challenge will be a fully filmed portrait book.
In the next 12 months, an interesting challenge would be shooting in large format, with the optical bench, developing and printing large format photos.
Do you have a subject matter or style you always find yourself being drawn to? Why?
Portraiture is a subject that has always fascinated me and that is totally outside my original context.
Each of us has different physical characteristics and a unique personality. We all, by nature, tend to hide behind masks and conventions, both to please others, and for the professions we do or the environments we frequent.
But each of us, with the right confidence and in the right context, can bring out what he really feels, what the fibers of his body are made of.
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My purpose in the portrait is this. Creating atmospheres and shots, where the subject brings out the best of his character and emotions, represented in his freest expressions.
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?
I would take my Canon FTb with the 50mm f/1.8, a Kodak T-MAX 400 and a Kodak T-MAX 100.
I would make this choice because with the Canon FTb I have such confidence that even with only the 50mm I would be able to manage in a large range of unpredictable situations.
The T-MAX 100 and 400 are the films I know best in the world, both in shooting, in development, and in print. The 400 has an exposure latitude that allows me to have a very wide range of possibilities in various light conditions, associated with the T-MAX 100 and the 50mm f/1.8, I think I’m safe for almost everything.
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?
Not knowing where I could shoot them becomes a difficult choice, I like a lot of films.
In a typical situation, I would get exiled to Fiji Island with an unlimited supply of film.
Then my stock would include Kodak T-MAX 100 and 400 at will, for the reasons mentioned in the previous question, and in addition, I would add Fuji Pro 400H, for the incredible color rendering and for the fact that in C41 I could develop them independently.
You can never use film again. What’s your last roll of film, where and how will you expose it and why?
Very hard question.
I am very much in love with 2 rolls, which allowed me to take beautiful photos. One is the Kodak T-MAX 100, the other (strange but true) ILFORD XP2 Super. The last reel I wish was one of these 2.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about film photography today and how would you set it straight?
Without a doubt, the biggest misconception / prejudice about film photography is to think that film photography is a legacy of the past.
This is a great handicap of our modern megapixel consumer society, confusing a stylistic choice with the use of an ancient technique.
To solve this, I would start teaching in photography schools that digital and film photography are two sides of the same coin and only imply different stylistic choices.
These two ways can coexist with each other and merge to create unique stories.
In your opinion, what’s the future of film photography?
It seems quite clear to me that film photography is a market that is gaining ground again every year.
After the setback due to the digital era of mass consumption, which more or less took place in the first decade of 2000, in 2020 film photography takes up a whole new market, made up of artists and people attentive to a certain kind of class choices.
Every year this market is booming, even among the very young artists.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone just getting started, or thinking about jumping into film photography?
To those who start taking film photos today, I would tell him not to approach his choice as a mass consumerist issue, a fashion that returns from the 80s, but to look for a stylistic choice in film photography, a way to stop and think and to create, rather than burst.
A way to hear the silence of a photo in a world full of unnecessary noise.
For such a long wait, you’d think I’d have a lot to say but truth be told, I don’t. I’ve long been a fan of Andrea’s work and I absolutely adore how he combines a a delicate eye towards small personal moments and our wider relationship with the sea. Granted, it’s only one aspect of humanity’s relationship but an important one, given water covers over 70% of our planet’s surface.
I love how you can feel Andrea’s connection to the people and places in his photographs. They are — and please excuse the hyperbole — filled with love. There’s care in every frame and no matter how hard I try, I can’t help but find a connection with each and every one.
Obviously, I can’t let you go with your giving Andrea a public thanks for allowing me to share his work and words here. Please do take a minute to see more of his photography and store over on his website and either of his two Instagram accounts (second one here).
I’ll be back with another film photographer interviews very soon. In the meantime, please stick around and take a look at what you missed.
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.