Maxime has been in love with photography for a long period of time, but it was only when he turned 24, that as a young engineer, photography deeply rooted itself in him thanks to an old, second-hand Russian camera: the Lubitel. This love story with analog photography continued to instant photography, with its unpredictability and realness, against the ever growing digital and dematerialised world. Maxime finds that instant photography connects him with reality, enabling him to capture the ephemeral quality of daily life.
When did you start creating visual work? What was your original inspiration?
MF: I started photography about 5 years ago. I purchased my first instant camera shortly after being shown a Polaroid SX-70 by my best friend. I think the exhibition about Garry Winogrand’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York really pushed me into photography and keeps inspiring me today. Shooting street photography is a difficult exercise as you have to handle the spontaneity and the haste of the urban world to create something more: something meaningful that transcends the initial subject of the photograph. Well, I can say that M. Winogrand is a master on this field.
What originally drew you to photography as a medium?
MF: Photography is the only medium that allows me to seize an instant and to let enough room to imagination to tell a story. Besides, witnessing an instant picture being revealed, seeing colors and shapes appearing before your eyes… It’s just like magic to my eyes.
A few years ago, while in Paris, you were handed your first instant camera. What were your first photos like? What about instant film drew you to continue using this as a means of expression?
MF: Shooting instant film was a bit hard at first! I was already shooting 35mm black and white film back then, trying to get better at composing, developing and printing my own pictures but instant photography was something else. I was very cautious at taking pictures, and took excessively my time before pressing the shutter. But it was so rewarding in the end. Instant film delivers a unique and soft render, almost similar to painting when you look closer.
You maintain the Paula Tumblr site and post photos at a quick succession. How do you decide what photos to post and what factors do you use to curate through your exposures?
MF: I think that each photo I take should be like a short story: whatever the subject I choose, there should be some kind of implicit background story that speaks to you. What’s really interesting is that this story might differ from one person to another. Put all these short stories together and you create a set of windows to different alternative worlds, you create a patchwork of feelings. I think that’s what I want Paula to represent.
Your work captures a variety of environments, many of which encompass a sense of solitude in or with nature. What draws you to these environments and the people within them?
MF: It’s true, most of my photographs convey this feeling of loneliness. That’s something that speaks to me, I don’t have much explanation to give, except that it must echo with specific moments of my life during my childhood.
The loneliness is very much used in the myth of the hero, where he/she has to confront something on his/her own. I guess we’re all heroes in a certain way. These kinds of situation of loneliness can create powerful stories, that must be why I look for them.
You use strong lights and darks within some of your work. What tips do you have for instant films users on capturing a good exposure in scenes that have intense light and/or shade?
MF: Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to come up with strict rules for that. It’s more a matter of feeling. One crucial thing needs to be kept in mind: most instant cameras are automatic and base the exposure of each shot on an average reading covering the entire frame. Therefore, a mostly dark scene with a strong light present in the frame would be rendered as a globally underexposed picture. As a matter of fact, the camera will take into account in its reading both the dark part (low light) and the strong light giving an average exposure that doesn’t correspond to what you would expect. Before taking a shot, try to identify in the scene where you need the average exposure to be: what part of the scene do I want to be rendered as an average exposure on my shot? Then, adjust the exposure wheel (darken/lighten) accordingly based on the surroundings.
You shoot in both black and white and color. What do you feel each type of film brings to a work and when do you choose one versus the other?
MF: In black and white, you only focus on the lines, the shapes and the lighting contrast. I usually tend to prefer black and white films as it gives more room for imagination. That’s why I mainly shoot black and white in 35mm. As for my instant photography, I happen to shoot more color films than black and white films! Maybe because color instant photographs are more stable in time than the BW ones or just because the color render seduces me more than the BW render.
In your series, “Evolution of Consciousness” you capture a series of portraits, double exposed, over exposed, and incorporating other alternative methods that alter the final photo. What processes did you use to these create these? In your opinion, what do these alternative methods of photography bring to the series?
MF: In the “Evolution of Consciousness”, I wanted to illustrate the condition of a person who suffers from multiple personality disorder. Therefore, double exposure techniques came logically to help me illustrating this situation. To create this series of portraits, I’ve used a technique on my SX-70 type camera to create double exposures. It’s a bit tricky as you can get light leaks on your film but I didn’t want anything perfect. Otherwise, I would be shooting digital, wouldn’t I?
What tips do you have for those photographers working in instant film (either novice or experts)?
MF: I don’t think I am in the right position to give pieces of advice to instant photographers on how to shoot. Everybody’s different. Your experience, the people you’ve met, the places you’ve been, the choices you make… all of that defines who you are and photography tends only to reflect that personality. If I had to give one piece of advice to instant photographers, it would be: “shoot what makes you feel good, the rest will follow”.
Interview submitted to our magazine by Kimberly Potvin. Reach out to her on Twitter: @copyright101 or Instagram: @copyrightsloth