Name: André Terras Alexandre
Location: Currently living in Porto, Portugal
Genre: Landscape, Travel, Documentary
Camera count: 4 that I use often (more in the shelf)
Film stock of choice: Probably Kodak Portra 400
Tell us about your path to becoming a photographer and what first drew you to shooting film.
Documentation has pretty much always been my main draw to photography. Looking back through old family albums and remembering the insane fun made me want to always collect memories so I could continue to have some physical way to remember the past and the people that I go through life with. Why film? The film look is pretty much impossible to recreate on digital, like it has some form of dimension that can only be captured that way. Life is not perfect and film can, therefore, make an image look more like real life because of its beautiful flaws.
What do you primarily shoot with and why is it your weapon of choice?
Currently my weapon of choice is the Pentax 67. It’s just the best camera I can imagine. For the quick snapshot, I love my Yashica T5, you can just put it in your pocket and go on a hike or to a party, nothing beats that. And the quality is insane for a point and shoot. I recently picked up a Contax G1 with the famous 45mm Zeiss, but I only shot a couple of rolls with it. But, so far, the results are blowing me away. Then I have my Mamiya C220 with the 80mm, but I use it only in specific situations. It’s a slower process, you need an external meter, and I don’t always want to slow down that much. Still, it’s an amazing camera with a very sharp lens.Your entire portfolio online is 35mm or 120 film; when was the last time you picked up a digital camera?
Three years ago I bought a Fuji X-T10. Although I was already shooting film then, I didn’t own a digital camera at the time and I thought I would like to use it in some situations. I was wrong. I started to put the digital lens aside and picked up an adaptor to shoot with the manual focus lenses I owned and I shot with that set for a while. But I never fully enjoyed the process. There is something about digital images that makes them look a little too perfect for me and the final result heavily depends on time spent in post-processing, which is something I hate doing. It was a great camera, don’t get me wrong. Fuji is currently killing the mirrorless market with its amazing products. But I can’t get over film. I ended up selling the camera. I currently don’t own a digital camera and I don’t think I will in the near future.Your feed is full of epic landscapes, what draws you to this genre and have you experimented elsewhere?
I like living in the city, but it’s not the kind of place that makes me want to shoot the most, I find it too difficult and confuse to capture the city scenes in its whole essence. That doesn’t mean I don’t shoot some street stuff, especially at night, but I usually keep it to myself. On the other hand, I am a bit shy to ask for strangers to pose for my photos, so I also don’t do much portrait work. I sometimes use people as a scale unit for some of my landscape shots, but in a way that the loneliness feeling of the landscape still stands out as the main element of the image. Landscapes give my time to absorb and enjoy the moment and still be able to capture the image. There’s nothing better than hiking some beautiful trail in the mountain or driving on an endless road and stop to capture stills of the scenery you’re immersed in. I think the symbiosis between the place and the photographer really shows in the photos.You’ve travelled to some incredible countries including the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland. Where has been your most favourite place to photograph to-date?
It’s impossible to explain how much I loved each one of those trips. But I think my favourite place to shoot to date was the Ilulissat Icefjord, in Greenland. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. The fjord, about 80 kilometres long, connects Greenland’s massive Ice Sheet to the Ilulissat Bay, and it is the largest producer of icebergs in the Northern Hemisphere. Traveling by boat among thousands of icebergs under the midnight sun, alongside dozens of whales, is definitely the experience of a lifetime. You recently explored the US – how was this different to the other countries you’ve travelled/photographed?
Growing up in Europe, the United States is a constant presence in any person’s life. I always felt very connected to the American lifestyle, and even though I am attracted to the big city life, it was the rural and wild side of the country that forced me the most to do this trip, the “Paris, Texas” feel and the vastness of the territory. Portugal is a small country, and the endless roads and overwhelming mountains of the States can be intimidating for a person like me, but I always felt very close to them. That is why I named that series of images “Familiar Wind”. That trip was different in many ways. In 15 days we crossed deserts, explored some huge cities, we’ve been up to the mountains and down to the shore. It was a much more complete journey. It’s amazing to be in a place where you can experience the unfathomable depth and complexity of the Grand Canyon and, one hour later, being able to sit down and have tacos for lunch. There are just so many different pieces of the world in one country. I can see you’ve shot some rolls of infrared. Do you have any tips for someone that’s wanting to experiment with it themselves?
I got curious about IR photography after discovering the work of Richard Mosse documenting the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I used my trusty Canon AE-1 to shoot the Azores islands on IR using a roll I bought from Film Photography Project (I think they’re sold out by now, they’re pretty rare). My main tip is that it’s important to know exactly what you’re doing beforehand; otherwise the results will not be that great and it’s going to be a pretty expensive experiment. Aside from the specific characteristics of the film, it is a slide film, so you want to be very careful with your exposures. I used a yellow filter and tried to shoot in bright sunlight to get the best results, although that was not always possible in the Azores. IR needs lots of sunlight; ideally a hot summer day with no clouds is prefect. And last, but definitely not least, it’s important to know a lab that develops this kind of film. I still have another roll in my fridge waiting for the right time to come out.If you don’t have a camera in your hand, what would we find you doing?
Probably holding a stethoscope, since I’m a junior doctor specializing in pulmonology. Aside from my job and photography, I try to keep up with movies, music and literature, and I’m always searching for my next travel destination. I also try to surf a little when I have the chance. Other than that, I’m pretty much an average guy.
Show us your favourite piece of work.
This is a tough one. I think I’ll select a photo I took December 2015 in Reynisfjara beach, in south Iceland. I like the image a lot, but what made me choose it as my favourite was the fact that it was taken during the most perfect day I can imagine. In winter, the sun in Iceland never rises much above the horizon, so the days are pretty short, but the whole day feels like the most amazing sunset. That day was extremely cold, but the light was the warmest I had ever experienced. Later, at night, I saw the northern lights for the first time in my life. That image reminds me of it all. Iceland is a pretty special place.You can only shoot with one camera, one lens and one film stock for the rest of your life. Which do you choose?
Probably the Pentax 67 with the 105mm 2.4 lens. It’s currently the only lens I own for the Pentax, but I can’t think of any other lens that I would love more. As for the film stock, probably Portra 400. It’s a more versatile film than Portra 160 and it gives me that bit of extra speed, which is important when using the Pentax handheld, as I do, since the mirror slap can be a bit hard, especially at shutter speeds under 1/60.
What does 2019 hold in the adventures of Andre?
2019 is going to be a hard year for me in terms of my job, since it’s the last year of my residency. But I have some trips planned that will probably make me pull my cameras out. Later this March I will return to one of my favourite countries, Italy, to explore Emilia-Romagna and then go up to the Dolomites. I will probably return to Prague too, which is always an amazing thing to do. And later this year I will probably get to road trip the Canadian rockies. But all these plans may change, so there’s really no telling what’s going to happen.
Maybe the fact that I’m planning to start selling some limited edition prints this year. I’m still trying to select the photos I’ll print, so I’m open for suggestions.
Besides that, thank you for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts about film photography and to answer your lovely questions.
Mac or PC? Mac
Kodak or Fuji? Kodak
Colour or B/W? Colour
Frontier or Noritsu? Frontier
Self-Develop or Lab? Lab. I’d like to start self-developing some of my work, but I currently don’t have the time for it.
Portrait or Landscape? Landscape
Lightroom or Darkroom? Lightroom, for now
35mm or Medium Format? Medium format for the obvious better quality. But 35mm has and will always have its place.
External or In-Built Light Meter? Built in (except when I’m shooting with the Mamiya).