The places that I like to explore are rarely spectacular. Their names aren't mentioned on tourist guides. They are ordinary places like there is anywhere in the world. Most people would drive through without a second glance at the scene, perhaps just intrigued at what in the world could make a photographer stop there. However, for those who like to saunter at various hours of the day and throughout the course of the seasons, common places conceal treasures of beauty. The shades of green of the springtime, the bright or subdued fall colours, the graphical simplicity of the winter, the mystery of a day of mist, the immaculate aspect of a snow coat or the enchanting laces of hoarfrost — can turn what would otherwise be an ordinary sight into pure beauty.
Harsh daylight does not suit this style of landscape photography. In the prospect of having the best light, I often find myself climbing the mountain trails when hikers are already on their way back. Once the thermal winds have calmed, photography can go on until dark. The gentle light coming from nowhere reveals the smallest details and the most subtle tones. The way back is often with a flashlight, but the mind filled with expectations.
Predicting small scale weather conditions is not an exact science. To have good chances of witnessing something unusual, one needs to go out often and in various weather conditions. When eventually enough factors converge to produce a striking view, the photographer is overwhelmed by a sense of urgency. Fighting the inertia caused sometimes by an exhausting walk , or by the long wait, or simply by the desire to not miss anything from the scene, he rushes to the bag and pulls out a camera, puts it on the tripod, mounts a lens whilst mentally framing the picture. The reversed ground glass image needs to be focused precisely with a loupe, and then a sheet of film can be loaded. After metering the fleeting light, one or two slides can be exposed. I can't tell how many shots were missed for not being able to complete the whole process while the magic lasted, for waiting endlessly for the wind to calm, and also sometimes because of some technical failure that reveals when the sheets come back from the lab. But the large format photographer is pugnacious by definition. Chance always rewards perseverance, even if there more to it than mere chance. When eventually a fine image displays on the light box, previous failures and frustrations vanish almost instantaneously and you have but one thought : go out and strive to pick more of that delicate light!
All the photographs presented in these portfolios were made on Fujichrome Velvia and Astia transparency film, in medium format 6x7, 6x9, 6x12, 6x17, and in large format, mainly 10x12,5cm (4x5 "), and 13x18cm (5x7"). Digital has now virtually supplanted film. The price of some equipment capable of producing images competing with the medium format at the level of detail, make them very attractive. I now use Sony cameras, in combination with Pentax and Mamiya optics designed for the medium format. A sliding adapter allows body shifting in order to take multiple slices of an image. After seamless assembly in Adobe LightRoom or in Photoshop, the very high resolution images have nothing to want from the silver process. This approach, which requires the use of a tripod and pre-visualisation techniques, is comparable to the meditative shooting style of the past, whilst it is no longer necessary to buy and process films that are becoming increasingly rare and expensive, and to go through the digitization process. Would Ansel Adams have considered the transition to digital? I believe that, as a pragmatic technician, he would have welcomed this advance with enthusiasm. However, the silver print techniques that were developed and refined over decades will soon be a thing of the past, with the abandonment of materials and the disparition of those who have practiced this art. This is undoubtedly a normal observation in a world of technological advances, but is quite disturbing in regard to a life of experiences. My last Ilfochromes prints, for which I had to develop a whole process, are now relics of a bygone era whose practices will remain mysterious for the generations to come – I speak like a man of this world. Although inkjet printing is much more convenient, and also safer, I salute those who strive to keep one or the other of these ancient techniques alive, so that they do not get lost completely.
“Longing for wide open spaces of primeval nature in days of yore, I had wished that photography would allow me to travel the vast world. In reality, it's a nearby world, a world made up of fragments of beauty which have to be found, somehow as one catches the shine of the gems or the nuggets among the rubble of a river, a world nevertheless captivating and almost interior, which has yielded to my lens.”