The portrait of Paris
Hello everyone! First of all, I want to thank the editorial staff of Fuji X Passion for welcoming me back to their pages.
For my birthday this year, my girlfriend gave me a 4-night trip to Paris with her, to be together and give me the chance to take some pictures.
I do not consider myself a street photographer, on the contrary, I have always been connected to documentary and portrait photography, and in my last personal non-commissioned projects, even in portraits, I am going through a phase in which I am almost more interested in the context and the narration of a concept or an emotion than the portrait of the subject himself.
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/3.2 . 1/400” . ISO 800
But the idea of going to Paris with the camera at my side and being able to experience the city by being out and about during the day and for clubs in the evening thrilled me.
Then, we are talking about Paris, an icon from all points of view and especially in the photographic world, so it was unthinkable to leave with the camera at your side and take pictures like this, just doing street or souvenir photos. For me, it was an opportunity to face and interpret the city graphically and try to represent it in my way, with my style, but without taking pictures of famous monuments or buildings for their own sake, or doing street as if you were in Milan or another city. I wanted this gift to be special, even in the way I would have photographed it.
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/1.4 . 1/50” . ISO 160
So, without even realizing it, I was already mentally facing it photographically as a portrait, the portrait of our trip… the portrait of Paris.
Paris, in my background, brings to mind the photos of the great masters who lived and interpreted it, such as Robert Doisneau, Vivian Maier, Henry Cartier Bresson, Elliot Erwitt, André Kertész, Brassaï… Their photos on the city’s sidewalks, their portraits of everyday life on the sides of the Seine, in Notre Dame, nightclubs, Bistrot, people and children in front of the shops… film images, black and white images.
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 Fuji XF23mmF1.4 F/2.0 . 1/50” . ISO 1250
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/2.0 . 1/250” . ISO 1600
Here, I will shoot only in black and white, and I will only use jpegs, no raw files, which I never do. I always shoot in raw, with jpegs in black and white even if I shoot in color, and save raw plus jpegs both when I shoot just for me and when it’s a work assignment. But not this time, this time I want the flavor of the images in my memory to also influence the shooting experience, no spray and pray, no freedom of post-production from raw files. I want the modus to be as close as possible to what I have used for many years with the good and now too expensive film.
After all, Fujifilm allows us to shoot jpegs with files of unique beauty, and allows us to set the shooting parameters, the lights, the shadows, the grain, the detail, the white balance, and to create fantastic film simulations. It is the perfect camera for this type of approach. So, I create my black and white film simulation starting from Acros. And playing with the tones and sharpness, I don’t add artificial grain, which I find a bit too fake, compared to the film. Acros already has in itself a grain that grows with the ISO, setting to -2 the noise reduction, I do some test prints until the white is bright as in film prints.
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/5.6 . 1/250” . ISO 200
Almost everyone cares about black and shadows, but in the black and white film, what immediately stands out in print is the white. Beautiful, bright, never burnt, alive, which creates a perfect contrast with the blacks, and Fuji with its jpeg and the possibilities of pre-production – as I call it, to get very close to those sensations of material black and white that, when printed, comes close to film.
I prepared my X-T3, and I chose the XF23mm F1.4 – only that, only one lens, no compromises. I chose it on purpose because I would have taken the XF35mm F1.4, as the 50mm full frame equivalent is my optics, I see in 50mm, for me, it is natural, but I don’t want the native focal length to influence me, or rather, to accommodate me too much. I also want the cut to be reasoned and studied and not obvious or too natural for me.
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/2.2 . 1/250” . ISO 200
I only use fixed focal lengths, I don’t have zooms. Well, I have one, the 18-55mm, but I almost never use it, just every now and then if I need the 18mm. For the rest of the time, it stays there in the bag, so I leave with an advantage, I don’t miss changing focal length while shooting. At most I carry two lenses with me, a 16mm and a 35mm, or the X100 and a 56 on the X-T3, but this time I want it to be so, minimalist.
I didn’t want to spend all the time taking pictures, with the camera always in my eyes, or staring left and right thinking about what to take at all times. I wanted it to be a holiday for both of us to enjoy together, so the approach to the shot was synthesis, capturing moments, representing places in the city through what was taking place around us at that time, but recognizable to those who know the city, without being explicit, suggest the location, portray a situation as a pretext to describe a place. Paris is unique, changeable and always iconic, with its monuments and its suburbs, the immense spaces, the crowds and the narrow streets full of bistros, everything screams photograph me. Choose what and how, taking inspiration from photographers of the past, without wanting to shoot likes, or follow fashions and styles so popular today on social media. Shooting for me, challenging me in something that is far from me, street photo, it was nice, choosing when to shoot and how, using only one lens, the 23mm F1.4, fantastic lens, fast at night and in low light situations, always sharp, with a beautiful microcontrast, and able to isolate the subject if you want it, with nice bokeh. It gave me the opportunity to study composition and solve situations where I would have preferred a 50mm.
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/2.0 . 1/8000” . ISO 200
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/3.2 . 1/80” . ISO 400
The photos, in total 187 shots in 4 days, with 3 batteries consumed on 6 back courses. Perhaps someone may think that they are too few, that it was an opportunity to take 2000 photos… but it was not a limit, on the contrary, to think, think about what to shoot, raise the camera to your eyes and not take the photo because you realize that doesn’t work, and maybe coming back there after shooting that situation from another point of view and having the shot was detoxifying and regenerating artistically speaking. Very different from reportage situations where you shoot to be sure to resume what you see at that moment, and you always struggle between the composition and the moment, or while taking portraits, where you shoot several times to get the final photo where the eye or the mouth are right, or the model makes more in that shot than in the one of a nanosecond before…
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/2.8 . 1/250” . ISO 200
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/4.0 . 1/2000” . ISO 400
On the return, the jpegs were imported to Lightroom, where I gave some clarity and haze removal and, when necessary, a little depth of black, a job of post that all in all is close to that of printing in film.
This is the selection of what has come out, my Paris told by an Italian who understands little about street photography but wanted to make a portrait of Paris, winking at the images of the masters who live in his memory, using contrasts and shadows that I love so much in portraying my subjects.
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/4.0 . 1/1000” . ISO 160
CENTRE: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/3.6 . 1/250” . ISO 160
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/16 . 1/250” . ISO 160
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/5.6 . 1/500” . ISO 160
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/4.0 . 1/60” . ISO 160
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/16 . 1/1000” . ISO 800
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/2.8 . 1/60” . ISO 1000
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/4.0 . 1/500” . ISO 160
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/3.2 . 1/500” . ISO 160
RIGHT: Fuji X-T3 . Fuji XF23mmF1.4 . F/1.4 . 1/550” . ISO 400
“My name is Paolo Di Clemente, “Paul Mart Dicle” is my stage name, I live in Milan, and I am a professional illustrator and comics artist. Drawing and photography have always been part of my life in some way, two forms of visual expression, distant in practice, but very close in the final concept… creating images.”