Pierre Cattoni is a young photographer from Paris, who has found his passion for analog photography and, more importantly, his unique style in capturing common scenes in the landscapes and streets of this world. He shares with us his recent series from a trip to Colombia, which left us stunned about its beautiful simplicity. In this interview, Pierre talks about his attempt to turn something uninteresting into a beautiful piece of art and his pictures leave no doubt about his success in doing so.
Hi Pierre, welcome to the Lomography Magazine. Can you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little bit about what you do?
I am 27, I live in Paris and I work as a project manager for an independent music label called tôt Ou tard.
When and how did you discover your passion for photography?
I’ve discovered photography a while ago. I bought my first DSLR when I was 19. Since then I’ve never stopped taking pictures, mostly when I was traveling. But analogue photography — and I bought my first analogue camera only 3 years ago — is what made me fall in love with the act of shooting. My camera has become a sort of best friend; it’s never been far from me since then. I guess my job has helped as well. Part of it is to look for photographers and directors that inspire me. And sometimes try to work with them on my projects. Image as a whole has become something very important for me.
What is it that you particularly like about analog photography?
Analogue photography has something really powerful for anyone like me, who has grown up without it. Taking a picture you don’t see, waiting for it to be developed and revealed is a funny feeling (between stress and excitement), and I’m quite addicted to it now.
I’ve also built myself a darkroom, where I often develop my favorite B&W pictures, what happens there is magical. Spending a day alone, in the dark with a small red light, listening to music and revealing photos on paper, has something very introspective.
The other thing with an analogue camera like mine, compared to digital cameras, is that you are technically limited. It’s more manual and you don’t get to have 10 chances to take THE perfect picture… You have to think, to build your frame. Constraints always make you more creative.
What inspires you?
I could say that, wherever I am—in Paris or travelling—everyday life and common places inspire me. It would be stupid to say I travel to see commonplaces, and I’m really happy to shoot incredible landscapes and cities but what I really dig is this: I love to spend a day going from bus to bus, bus station to bus station, in the middle of nowhere. This is where you see real things happening, this is real life. I find it very exciting. I’m also very happy when I manage to make something “uninteresting” beautiful. Photos can tell many different things about one and the same situation, depending on how you frame it. I like to misshape reality and I always aim to bring a bit of poetry into it. Trees inspire me as well. I don’t exactly know why. But there's a lot to them—their shape and their way to catch or filter light.
Are you always satisfied with your results? Or to put it another way: would you say you feel comfortable and content while shooting, as you know for sure that the picture you just took will turn out the way you want it to?
I’m not always satisfied with my results, but more and more often now I’m starting to be confident in the fact my pictures will turn out the way I wanted them to be. It’s just a matter of knowing your camera, and your films, and play with technique. But with analogue photography, the chances of (bad) surprises are, of course, higher. For instance, I lost 4 films this summer, because of a technical problem with my camera. The shutter was down and I didn't know it. The whole last part of my trip to Colombia will never exist. And of course, I have those lost those pictures in mind too—I was pretty sad.
What camera/film did you use for this series?
I used a Nikon FE with two fixed lenses (50mm and 85mm). Black and white were made with Ilford Delta 100 and Kodak tx 400, colors were made with Kodak Portra 400 and 160.
The series you shared with us came together on a trip to Colombia this summer. Street photography is difficult enough—always approaching strangers with your camera—how did you experience that in a foreign country? How did you go about it and did it feel different than at home?
To be honest, I feel more confident approaching strangers abroad than in Paris. Being in the position of a tourist can help. I mostly travel alone, and always take time to wander around in a place, in order to become a bit more invisible. If you show respect and ask them, people often accept you. You just need to keep cultural details in mind. For instance, when in Muslim countries, I almost never take pictures of women. Colombia was a pretty easy country for this, I had no particular difficulty to approach people.
Any memorable moment/experience on that trip you want to share with us?
My time spent in Choco, on the Pacific Coast. This place is definitely cut from the world, with no Internet and only a few roads … The only way to go from one place to another is by boat. I’m very happy with the pictures I made there, as I feel they pretty well translate the special atmosphere there: a different perception of time, right in between the jungle and the ocean.
Does your photographic style change in some way when you are shooting in a different country?
I hope it doesn’t change too much as I’d like to keep a personal touch. At least, I try. But of course, countries don’t offer the same landscapes, cities, cultures or faces. I guess my pictures in Colombia don’t have much in common with the ones I made in Iran. I just hope that my look remains similar.
What is important to you about taking a good picture? How do you choose your subjects?
It’s hard to tell. I guess I need to find what I observe inspiring in a way. It can come from people, landscapes, and architecture but also the light that brings a lot to the general atmosphere. I always try to take pictures that would transmit what I feel at the moment.
To choose my subjects, I try to trust my feelings. I could not take pictures for hours, even if I’m in a beautiful place. It’s just that I don’t find originality there. In the same way, I can use a whole film roll in only one street!
However, early mornings and evenings, just before the sun sets, are the best moments to shoot. Light is at its best.
Which one is your favorite picture from that series and why?
There is a very special atmosphere in that picture, and yet it’s a simple landscape. But it really tells a lot, I think, and it is poetic.
What advice do you have for other young photographers who may only now discover their passion?
I consider myself a young photographer! But I’d say: don’t pay too much attention to technique and trying to take “perfect” pictures. Shoot as much as you can to find out what you like and what you don't like. This way you’ll cultivate your own thing and give personality to your shots. Nobody cares about postcard pictures, I think.
What are your plans for the future, regarding photography?
I’m already thinking about my next trip. Besides that, I really want to take more pictures of Paris and its surroundings. I also want to collaborate more and more with musicians and artists I work with. I’d be so proud to have a picture used as an album artwork in the future.
To see more of Pierre's work, follow him on Instagram.