No. 486

8 Exposures...with Philippe Bourgoin

Patrick Tobin, | Jul 2, 12:00 PM

Portrait of Phillip, © Frenchcockpit 2011

Welcome back to 8 Exposures, our popular instant film Q&A series. This week, we bring you French photographer and author Philippe Bourgoin

1) What kind of Polaroid camera(s) do you use?

The Polaroid cameras I most use are the SX-70 and the 600 SE.

In my usual rig, I also always carry a Hasselblad 503cx with a Pola back. My second best camera is a Holga with a Pola back, for specific projects, or to bring along at polameets at our usual waterhole in Paris.

2) Why do you like instant photography?

As a portraitist and a photographer of female nudes, I work on a one to one relationship with the models (no assistant, no MUA). Intimacy is a given.

When the first couple of test shots eject and develop, the idea of the picture I want to make becomes flesh, it can be touched, it’s alive: instant photography is all about sharing.

Trust rises: a “not so good” picture can be thrown right out the window, and I obviously can’t pretend that it’s going to look good when it comes back from the lab (and after two hours of Photoshop)…Flaws show right up…No lies, no disguise, we take it from there.

As a portraitist, intant photography is taking risks: the models know my work, obviously only the good pictures that I show, and they come to get the best out of me, in a short couple of hours. The challenge is of course on both sides, and most girls are willing to give their best.

And…Oh no! Once I rented a chic hotel room with gorgeous Ohana. We got in the room and I suddenly realized I forgot the bulbs of the spotlights at home…Or I’m on a good streaming shoot with lovely Elsa and I go get some fresh packs of PX 100 in the next room just to realize they have been roasting in the sun for the past hour…Or your darling Polaroid 600SE slowly dies on you just when you were going to get your best shot of the day…Or…Or…And you simply just go to come up with some good shots anyway…

There’s nothing like this thrill.

3) What is your earliest memory of instant film?

This would go back to my early teens, in the sixties. An uncle of mine had a Land Camera and I can remember the sunny day he took pictures of my mother and I, by the beach. I could swear I remember the smell of the peel-apart film…On a later occasion, I vividly remember the sound of an SX-70 ejecting a picture that developed under my very eyes. The pure magic of this. The colors…In my youth, I didn’t have many reasons to rejoice, the world was grey as the buildings of Paris before André Malraux decided to clean them.

4) What’s your favorite Impossible film type?

After Polaroid stopped to produce films, there were quite a few months of despair…Then The Impossible Project came along, and I made it a rule to buy every single new film they released. I can say I have tried them all! My fondest memories would go to the PX 100 First Flush, because it was the first one, the first sign of the the rebirth of instant films. I remember the thrill of participating to the “Exploring PX Silver Shade” project on in 2010…

5) What are your favorite subjects to photograph?

Women, women, women.

6) Tell us about a project you’re working on.

Strangely enough, after years concentrating on light reflecting on soft female skin, I have a project in the making that is all about shadows…

7) Who are your favorite photographers, instant or otherwise?

After I checked my bookshelves, I would say Avedon, Mapplethorpe, Araki, Molinier, Berquet, Bourdin, Newton, Witkin, Penn…I’m not being very original here, I’m afraid. Moreover I must confess that in terms of influences, I’m so old school that I’d rather talk of Italian classical paintings or Greek statues…

8) If you could take a photo of anyone or anything what would it be?

I would say my wife, again and again as I did for the past twenty years.

About Philippe

Philippe was born in Paris, France, and went to New York University Film School. He directed a few short films and wrote a feature film. He was a record producer and music publisher in France and wrote a few hit songs. He has written a handful of short stories (published), with a book in the making. But basically, as a retired song writer, all he does now is shoot instant film.

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  1. I love his way of photography. Delicate images and strong subjects melted with an elegant touch. Un style inimitable.

    said matteo capaia | 1546 days ago