Updated: Oct 10, 2017
Arthur le Bail sincerely believes film photography can make you a better photographer.
Hello, Arthur! A quick intro of yourself and your journey into film photography, please.
Arthur: My name is Arthur le Bail. I’ve been interested in photography ever since I was a teenager. I used to shoot digital photography as it was the only kind of photography I knew. A few years back I got into film. I’ve been slowly quitting digital photography since. I started with a fixed lens, no finer, no meter camera. It was a great way to learn the basics of film photography through the many, many mistakes I made. It took me a very long time to get decent pictures.
What type of film do you use and what camera do you use it with? Why do you prefer these?
Arthur: I shoot Tri-X on a Leica M6 with a 28mm lens. I love everything about the Tri-X. It has dark and profound blacks and bright and shiny whites when you want it. It can also offer a mid-range, mellow, balanced black and white. You can push it to 1600 ISO and still get superb results. And finally it has a fine yet noticeable grain.
I use a 28mm because it’s the first lens that "fits" me. I’ve always found the 50mm to be too narrow for me, I feel like it’s only giving part of the story I want to share. I also really like that the 28mm gets you close to people. It’s so wide that if you stand just a few meters away from what you want to shoot, you’re already too far. In that sense, the 28mm really embodies my vision of photography—you don’t take pictures from the outside, far from what you shoot. The photographer should be close to what he wants to shoot, he should be in the middle of things, be part of the scene.
What do you think film has that digital doesn't have?
Arthur: To me, the main difference stands in your experience of taking pictures. Shooting film is a super slow process. You have to wait before you get the pictures you take; you have to wait before you start taking decent pictures; you have to wait before you understand the film that you’re using, etc. Everything is slow.
Do you print your own photographs or are you comfortable having them printed in a lab?
Arthur: I’d like to print them all myself but I rarely do. It’s mainly because I don’t have time to do it myself.
What motivates you to continue making photographs with film?
Arthur: The first thing is that I do not take the same pictures when I shoot film or digital. I prefer almost everything with the pictures I take on film. The second is that film makes you think about the photos you take. I feel it is a more conscious way of taking pictures than digital photography—you know you’ll have only 36 pictures on a roll; you have to know what kind of film you use; what kind of lens you should use and, what aperture, etc. You have to know all of that in advance if you want to be precise when you take your pictures on film. I think shooting film has improved the way I take pictures.
Are there any photographers that influenced your way of making pictures?
Arthur: So many. I’ll name two. The first one is Don Mc Cullin. He was always in the heart of the events he covered, and close to those he shot. Aside from that, his composition skills and aesthetics are superb.
Garry Winogrand, in his way of practicing photography. He was a stakhanovite, he shot rolls and rolls of film every day of his life. He is inspiring in his understanding that photography is repetition and repetition and repetition. Aside from that, his pictures are astounding, he shot the streets like no one else.
But there are so many more! Kertesz, Klein, Lartigue, Koudelka, Brassai, Franck, Evans.
Do you see any value or merit shooting with film?
Arthur: Yes, I believe it makes you a better photographer.
What do you think is the future of film photography?
Arthur: I think it will thrive in the future. Many of the people that grew up with digital photography will find great things in film.
What’s your dream photography project?
Arthur: A year. 365 days shooting the streets of Paris with my 28mm.
Would you like to offer some good words to those who want to try film photography for the first time? What must they learn before venturing into this format?
Arthur: You should truly learn how a camera works. If you are not using your digital camera in full manual mode, then it’s going to take you some time before you make decent pictures.
If you can't get enough of film and Arthur's work, look up @arthurlebail on Instagram, and swing by his website as well.
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Well now, if you are a passionate film photographer and would like to be interviewed? I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject, "Interview me", and share your story, thoughts, and work related to film photography. I’ll get back to you as soon as I receive your request for an interview.
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