Featured Photophile, our recurring segment showcasing talented amateur photographers, is back. Today we’re spotlighting a nice guy named Alex who’s managed to create some amazing photos in a surprisingly short period of time. I sold Alex his first film camera just over one year ago, and it’s been incredible to see the amazing shots he’s made with it.
His photography has a certain authenticity to it that I really love. He’s used his cameras to capture what life’s all about – that is, exploration, adventure, and discovery. It’s been a treat to look through his work, and I hope you all enjoy it too.
Hey there, Alex. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Alex Denault and I’m from Aurora, Ontario, Canada. I attended the University of Toronto and graduated with a degree in Kinesiology, but have always considered myself to be more oriented towards the arts. I play the guitar and piano, read and write poetry and short stories, and have recently introduced photography into my life. When I bought my first camera in June of 2015, I never expected to have my work featured anywhere. I just shot for fun, and I hope I always will.
What’s your favorite camera? What film do you use?
My girlfriend and I had secured supply-teaching positions in London, UK, and would be traveling around Europe on the 7 weeks of holiday time the kids have over there. I wanted to do justice to the incredible sights we would see, so I bought a Canon A-1 with a 50mm F/1.4 from F Stop Cameras. I loved everything about it right away. It combines 80s charm with the functionality of a modern DSLR, has nice weight to it, and gives that iconic sound when you press the shutter. It just feels classic.
I also stumbled upon a 1951 Rolleiflex Automat at Portobello Market in London and bought it in one of those “when will I get this chance again?” moments. It proved to be a great decision, as the images I make with the Rollei simply can’t be created with any other camera. The way those German optics render things through the waist-level finder is out of this world. It’s my only other camera and I can’t see myself needing any more than these.
The first roll of film I shot was Kodak Gold 400 and had been expired for 10 years. A few of the shots off that roll are still some of my favorites, but since then I’ve been drawn mostly to Kodak Portra 400. I love the versatility it brings. I can shoot it in all types of lighting conditions throughout the day and night, and it renders skin tones in such an understated and beautiful way.
What are your favorite subjects?
People. If I can get just one shot per roll of a genuine or unusual expression on someone’s face, then I’m satisfied. There’s something special about collecting moments like that. If you do it right, the photograph becomes more than just an ordinary moment in time. It becomes one in which somebody revealed something authentic. Whether it’s embarrassment, smugness, or a gut-busting laugh is irrelevant. Lots of people are guarded, especially around the camera, so to get a glimpse of authenticity in a photograph is the greatest feeling for me.
Why do you shoot film? Do you also shoot digital? What do you think about the argument between film and digital?
I shoot film because I enjoy how it looks, and was first exposed to it through the work of my two friends, Chris O’Sullivan and Youkun Zhou. Their images of scenes in their everyday lives had this ability to draw me into every detail of every frame. Chris described the process to me – how he only had 36 shots per roll, how he had to get them developed at a lab and then scanned to a disc, and the whole idea of it just clicked in my head. I’ve always been one to enjoy the process of something rather than the result, and film satisfies my creative desires in that regard. I also love how film allows me to be present in the moment. I chose to shoot film when traveling because I didn’t want to be staring at the back of my camera reviewing my shots when the real magic was all around me.
I don’t really understand why people feel the need to argue over which photographic medium is best. There are benefits to both, and I don’t think it’s wise for people to place themselves in either category. I personally prefer the look of film, but at times I wish I had the convenience of pumping my ISO to 10,000 so I could shoot a night scene. Even Steve McCurry, who took arguably one of the greatest photographs of all time on film (Afghan Girl), no longer uses film because of the convenience digital offers him. Use what makes you happy!
What is unique about your work?
Although double exposure is hardly a unique technique anymore, I think I’ve done well using them the way I’d hoped to before going to Europe. I wanted to capture both my girlfriend Britt and something of the setting in which we found ourselves. For example, one of my favorites is a shot I got of her eyes layered with the waves on the Adriatic Sea. That shot acts as a much more vivid memory of Croatia for us than any single shot of a building or boat.
How do you achieve your results?
I don’t edit my photos. I like to let the film do the work. Lots of shots I see (especially adventure photographers shooting landscapes digitally) tend to be edited far too much for my taste. I gain a lot of satisfaction from clicking the shutter once and having my final product, rather than clicking the shutter and spending an hour or so toying with the infinite possibilities in which I can modify the photograph. If I want a black-and-white image, I’ll load a roll of black-and-white film. If I want landscapes in bright light? Ektar. People? Portra. If I let the film do what it’s supposed to do, then I have the best chance of creating the authentic images I strive for.
Where do you hope your photography goes from here?
More than any website I might create or prints I might sell in the future, I hope to continue inspiring people to just get out there and shoot. Since I picked up my Canon last year and have shared my work with family and friends, my sister has dusted off her Canon Rebel and started to use it again. My brother has found use for an old, thrift shop Pentax. My girlfriend picked up an Olympus OM-10 at Camden Market in London. An old friend of mine has decided that film might be the best medium to document a canoe trip he and his friend are taking this fall. People getting excited like this is the biggest reward for me, and I hope readers know that if they’re thinking about trying out photography, it doesn’t matter what camera they have. Just get something with a lens and a few buttons on the top, read Casual Photophile, and you’ll be more than on your way to making memories you’ll cherish for a long time.
Do you have any advice for new photographers?
Alfred Eisenstaedt summed it up beautifully. “It’s more important to click with people than to click the shutter.”
If you make a connection with a person, whether it’s a stranger or a friend, they will be much more likely to show themselves to you in an authentic sense than if you’re just a bystander with a camera held in front of your face. Be present with them. Ask questions. Dig deeper. Then, steal your moment.
To see more of Alex’s photography, check out his Flickr page and follow him on Instagram.
[All images used with permission]
Many thanks to Alex for sharing his work here. If you’d like to have your photos featured on Casual Photophile, tag your photos with #featuredphotophile on any social media post, or send a message to Contact@FStopCameras.com.
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Really enjoying this series so far, great to see the work of other people being featured on the site.