Meet young and upcoming French filmmaker Irwin Barbé as we serve him a dozen questions about analogue photography. Known for “being young and living at night,” he shares his latest series of photographs that, while shot in the company of sun, reflect his inclination towards somber, cinematic details.
NAME: Irwin Barbé
1. Hi, Irwin. Tell us about yourself.
I’m twenty years old, I live in Paris, I’m a student at ENSAD. I started shooting short films with my friends in junior high school and then when I was fifteen I got interested in photography.
2. Why do you still shoot analogue?
A few months after I started taking pictures, I switched to analog because I just don’t like the look of digital photographs. I feel there are too sharp, too precise. I was never satisfied with my digital pictures. I like the fact that you can’t “cheat” with analog : you can’t shoot as many photos as with a digital camera, and if your photo sucks you can’t do much about it. You have to think more and wait more before you take a picture. I also enjoy the feeling of discovering the photos after they are processed.
3. What photographic equipment (cameras, films, and accessories) do you usually have in your bag?
During daytime, I usually carry around just a Nikon F2 or a Bronica ETR-c with Kodak films. At night I use a Minolta point and shoot or disposable cameras. I hate having lots of accessories such as external flash lights. I never use those. I barely have a tripod.
4. Share a trick of yours that will always result to a great photo.
I try to keep my pictures as simple as possible so I tend to avoid using visual tricks. Sometimes I open my camera when the film is still loaded to get light leaks but that’s about it.
5. Which photographers influence your work?
I feel close to photographers from various art movements and times. I like landscapes by Alec Soth, Peter Henry Emerson and Thomas Struth, portraits by Juergen Teller and Alfred Stieglitz… I do my best not to get stuck in one single aesthetic or trend. Actually I try not looking at too many photos. I just want to have a minimum knowledge so I don’t shoot things that have been done too much before.
6. Who/what are your favorite subjects? When/where do you feel most inspired?
I thought about it a lot and I don’t think there are specific subjects that attract me. I like traveling. I like wandering in places I don’t know. Maybe I’m just trying to illustrate that feeling of discovery, even with things that seem really common or uninteresting.
7. Describe your first memory as if it were a still photograph.
I remember arriving by plane on the Island of Saint Marteen, in the West Indies. I was around three years old. I was looking through the window. It was as if the airplane was going to land on the beach. The sky was clear blue. There were hills in the background. Everything was so bright.
8. If you could hang as a camera around anyone’s neck, who would that someone be?
I would hang around the neck of a sailor working on a commercial ship that travels in cold south american seas, near Patagonia.
9. If you could no longer see, what’s one image you’d like burned in your mind?
I’d be happy if I could still see these shots from The Thin Red Line of people walking in the tall grass of Melanesian hills, with nothing but the sound of the wind.
10. What’s coming up on the horizon? New projects? What’s in the works and what’s on your mind?
I want to go to Morocco to shoot palm trees. I am also going to do a series about the use of MDMA in Paris nowadays. I have a plenty of video projects coming too. At the moment, mostly music videos for techno and deep house tracks, but I’m working on some more ambitious features, half way between short films and experimental videos.
11. The strangest, funniest, hands-down greatest, or most “unusual” photographic/Lomographic encounter that you have ever had.
Several times, when I was taking photos in places where it’s forbidden, people asked me to delete my pictures and they didn’t understand when I told them I was using film. Sometimes they were too young to know about analog photography, but I also met some older people who thought nobody used film anymore.
12. Got any tips for Lomographers?
Even though I don’t like this guy’s pictures a lot, I like this quote: “Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times… I just shoot at what interests me at that moment." – Elliott Erwitt
Visit irwinbarbe.com to see more of the artist’s work.