Our 56th In Focus interview is with Brazilian experimental photographer Breno Barros. Nominated by Clara Araujo, Breno shoot underwater portraits on film searching for experiential processes that defy traditional photography boundaries.
Section 1 - Background
Share your favourite image / print shot on ILFORD film and tell us what it means to you
My favourite image using Ilford film is due to an experimental project I have worked a few years ago, “La boutique de l’âme”, which only Ilford film were used. This particular image, “Adelphopoiesis”, is amongst my favourites past then as it could represent every single concept I was working on - the usage and self-bargains using our soul as currency during personal struggles.
Technically speaking, HP5+ was probably the best choice for the project due to its nice contrast balance and great latitude, a combination that would allow me to apply multiple exposures on film without much information losses.
Just in case anyone doesn’t know who you are or what you do can you give us the overview?
I am Breno Barros, I live in the Brazilian Amazon, where I work in portrait and experimental photography using film. Although I prefer to work with people as subjects, I usually combine the subjects with nature as background for the most of my creations.
How and why did you get started shooting film?
I am a marine biologist, and during my graduate studies, digital cameras were way more expensive then film cameras. As I needed to register the subject of my research, I had chosen an underwater film camera for that task. Once digital cameras became affordable, I replaced my analogue system for digital, and my camera - a Nikonos V with standard 35mm lens - was put aside for many years. As I became working with underwater portraiture, I took back the old Nikonos from the shelf and immediately have begun to work on film again.
Who has been your biggest photographic inspiration to date?
To date I am most inspired In the experimental works of Charlotte Skurzak (@cskurzak in IG) and Marie Lagabbe (@36poses.eu in IG), both from France. I had the pleasure to create together with both of them, and their skills, techniques and creativity are certainly in a higher level!
What is the best piece of photography tip or advice you have ever received?
To overexpose a bit whenever there is a chance to, (in colour photography), and to explore the mid-tones rather than contrast (in B&W photography). Yet, I don’t do that a lot!!! Other important advice I got from a fellow photographer was recognizing the “time to stop”, the “ending time”… For me, as a portrait photographer, such words were really important for understanding the boundaries between any limits and freedom of creativity. I guess I could learn to listen to the models much more, aware that without him or her I would never be able to create anything. It is a mix process all the time, and the skills are often shared amongst all involved.
What film photography related projects are you currently working on?
I am actually working on alternative printing processes, particularly chlorophyll printing. For this particular project, all images shall be original, and they also need to be first presented to the public in their final format, in the leaves. All original images are underwater portraits that I take on film.
What / where is your next shoot and how do you decide what film / kit you will use?
I am planning to explore some double-exposures combining studio portraits (1st exp) and nature (2nd exp) using a panoramic camera. I've tried before, but I am not 100% happy with the results, so I must improve planning next time. I will certainly imply HP5+ for that.
What are your photographic goals going forward? (Can be business or personal).
I intend to release a book about my chlorophyll prints project, probably due to 2023 or 2024. Before that, I will probably release a lot of zines for the many side projects I have worked or may work during that time!
Section 2 - Shout outs
We all need a bit of inspiration and love so this is your chance to tell the community about yours – from the film photographers whose work inspires you, the labs you trust with your film, your ‘go to’ film photography stockists, your favourite community darkrooms or just anyone in the community who you feel deserves a special mention.
Give a shout out to your 3 favourite film photographers (not photography hubs) currently active on IG or Twitter and briefly tell us why others should follow them.
Marie Lagabbe (@36poses.eu, IG) is probably one of the most creative photographers I do follow, and her experimental work has caught me deeply, in an inspiring way. Through her account, I got to Charlotte Skurzak (@cskurzak, IG) work, and when the latter has visited me in Brazil, we could manage to work on a film swap to create among the three of us!!!
- Ana Harff (@anaharff, IG)is a very versatile artist, who works both traditionally and experimentally using film, and definitely is amongst my greatest inspirations to date.
- Mariana Monastério (@monastxrio, IG) creates absurdly great double exposures on black and white film, and she also works on mixed processes, which inspires me for further projects!
Give a shout out to your favourite photography YouTube channels (apart from the @ilfordphoto one).
Give a shout out to your favourite photographic retailers (name, location and website).
- O cara dos filmes - São Paulo, Brazil (https://www.meucatalogodigital.app/ocaradosfilmes/)
- Lab Gruta - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (https://www.labgruta.com)
Give a shout out to your favourite lab service, if you have one, (name, location, website).
Section 3 - Favourite kit
What film cameras do you own and which is your favourite?
I still use my underwater setups for most of my work, but I also use a Leica M3, a Mamiya C33 for 6x6 and a Polaroid 600SE, which I use with adaptors for 6x7 and 6x9 formats, beside it’s originally designed peel-apart film (which my personal stock has also been decreasing with time!). I have also started to experiment the large format world, using a Lapin camera.
Aside from your camera, lenses and film what accessories make it into your camera bag?
Definitely my lightmeter! I use a Sekonic model L758 model, that is constantly hanging from my neck during the sets!
What is the best piece of photography kit you have found or been gifted?
I am a searcher, so whenever I think I may need a gear for a given project, I study and check if that gear is affordable, considering the pros and cons involved, and how such kit would improve my work anyhow…. So acquiring gear is never something I get proud of.
I'm always thankful to the fellow artists who usually exchange their works with me. I used to exchange prints with Ana Harff a lot, especially before the pandemics. I guess the greatest experience I had by doing so was exchanging photos with Liz O’Brien, from Australia (@goddamnit_liz), who has sent me a massive collection of landscape photos she has taken in Japan, all these printed in traditional Japanese paper (washi). Having lived in Japan for many years, that gift was really meaningful for me…. Some of these prints are framed and nicely displayed in my living room, beside other artists works who I admire the most, as Clara Araújo (Brazil), Ana Harff (Argentina) and Chantal (Switzerland). I often look at that landscape for finding peace, whenever I miss that special country.
As this is an ILFORD interview it would be remiss of us not to ask about your favourite LFORD products. Tell us you favourite ILFORD film, paper or chems and why?
I am a huge fan of HP5+ for the latitude, which allows me to explore the experimentation processes I usually work with, often using multiple exposures. But I also work with Delta series a lot, from Delta 100 to Delta 3200.
Nominate one other person you think should fill in this form and we will reach out to them
Definitely Mariana Monastério!!! (@monastxrio, ) from Brazil!!!