Film Folk: Sylvain Bouzat

Location: Villeurbanne, France
Genre: Travel, portraiture, street
Camera count:
Film stock of choice:
Kodak Portra

Tell us about your path to becoming a photographer.
When I was a kid, I occasionally shot my friends skateboarding with some black and white rolls and a Canon AE-1. It was more of just a hobby; something I turned to when I was too tired after hours of skating.

During my marketing and communication studies I took some history of photography lessons and loved seeing the work of, and learning about some incredible masters. After my studies, I worked in the 3D industry and found digital was the simplest way to shoot – I began shooting more and more; friends, sports, landscapes, travel – everything I saw. It started to become more than just a hobby and I found myself shooting professionally as a corporate and wedding photographer. 

I began following the work of an excellent Belgium photographer, Mickaël Ferire and found I loved the colours and the look of his film photos. I bought a Contax G2 and experimented with it during a trip to Nepal in 2016 – I shot only eight rolls, because I was really afraid to shoot more and the viewfinder was so tiny that I had trouble envisioning the final photos. I also shot digital on this trip as it was comfortable – I was used to it and could see the final result. Once I received my first rolls this changed. The results from my Contax weren’t so bad – it was exciting, I had some great shots and it was a new way of seeing and shooting. Fewer photos, but good photos; less is more. You have to wait to get your rolls back from the lab, uncovering new feelings and sensations. A new huge door opened in front of me…and from this moment, I have shot all my personal work on film. 

In 2017 I purchased a 645 and started shooting 120 rolls. It was cool! I went to Tuscany and Elba Island in Italy, I had some great shots. I shot more and more; trying, learning, discovering…I began having some troubles with my gear, I saw the amazing work of a talented photographer on Instagram, Jacob Brook, and fell in love with his travel film photography because I too love to travel, and this guy seemed to have a similar vision to me – shooting portraits and street photos. I contacted Jacob via email about my gear issues and he was really friendly and tried to help me. He explained that he was organising a travel film workshop in India – it was amazing because my plan was to go back to Nepal and shoot my entire trip on medium format. I combined the two trips and here I am. I met an incredible film photographer, an excellent human being and friend, and a crazy travelling guy.

“Fewer photos, but good photos; less is more. You have to wait to get your rolls back from the lab, uncovering new feelings and sensations.”

Really, I’m a new-comer and I’m just beginning my journey with film photography. One thing I’m very happy with is that my digital vision of colours isn’t far from the Kodak Portra look; when I began shooting film I felt like I was home – there were no surprises. Colourful, luminous, simple compositions – that’s my vision, that’s what I do best, from digital to analogue. What do you primarily shoot with and why is it your weapon of choice?
I only shoot with a Contax 645 (with the famous 80mm f/2) and a Contax G2 (28mm). These are my weapons of choice for the moment. I’m also trying portraiture with a Pentax 6×7, I need to practice more and more.

Are you a hybrid photographer? If so, what makes you choose one medium over the other day-to-day?
I now shoot all my personal work with film, and my pro work is digital. My aim is to go further into film photography with my professional clients.

Tell us about the most interesting person/place you’ve photographed or project you’ve worked on.
I love street photography, but what I prefer is to shoot portraits in different countries. Just to connect with someone in the street in an amazing country, and to shoot the best portrait I can of them. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we laugh, sometimes we just smile at one another, or sometimes we just eat fruit together! The most important thing is that I connect with their eyes. It’s so good to feel that we are only human – the same beings but with different lives. In this moment we are only two – or maybe only one – because we share one connection.I see you favour Kodak Portra, do you have any tips on getting the best out of the stock?
Overexpose it by one or two stops. This stock needs good light: early morning and late afternoon is the best for sure, or if the light is too harsh, head to the shadows!

Who is your preferred lab or do you self develop/scan? Why?
I work with Carmencita Film Lab, a great lab in Spain. I really don’t have the time to develop my own work and I know that they’ll do the job so much better than me! I work with Estela – she is familiar with my work and knows exactly what I’m looking for – thank you for your work, Estela!

Who are your three favourite photographers and why do they inspire you?
Ok, I’m not really good with this kind of question! Maybe I haven’t discovered my three favourite photographers yet? I think the personality is just as important as the work. A photographer could take incredible photos but not be a good guy. I feel like I need to meet the photographer to give you an answer. For the moment, Jacob Brook is my favourite photographer because of his way of life, his deep passion for film photography and his positive mind.If you don’t have a camera in your hand, what would we find you doing?
Maybe snowboarding, having a beer, travelling, wake-boarding or discovering a new country.

Show us your favourite photo from your portfolio and tell us why you can’t go past it.
Hm, I think it has to be this one from Tuscany.
Why? Because I was just testing my Contax 645 – medium format was new for me. I was having troubles with my camera in the dust (the back got stuck and the batteries suddenly decided not to work) so I had to run like a mad man to capture this moment. I feel like I have double satisfaction from this shot – I know many people would have had a grumpy mindset after the camera issues and would have just turned around to go home, as well as I love the countryside, the light was absolutely amazing, the cowboy is at the perfect spot in the composition. The reasons are endless! For sure, I can’t wait to see my next favourite photo! You can only shoot with one camera, one lens and one film stock for the rest of your life. Which do you choose?
This is an easy question because I don’t experiment with a lot of cameras; Contax 645 + 80mm f/2 + Portra 800

Mac or PC? Mac
Kodak or Fuji? Kodak
Colour or B/W? Colour
Frontier or Noritsu? Frontier
Self-Develop or Lab? Lab
Portrait or Landscape? Portrait
Lightroom or Darkroom? Lightroom
35mm or Medium Format? Medium Format
External or In-Built Light Meter? External

Check out more of Sylvain’s work on his website and follow him on Instagram.

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