1. Can you please introduce yourself, tell us where you're from, and how long you've shot on film?
Bonjour ! I'm J.M. (Jean-Mathieu) Saponaro. Born and raised in Provence, southern France, I am now living between Paris and New York thanks to my job. I'm software engineer, and photography is my way to free-up my mind out of lines of code outside of work.
I've been digging into photography for a few years now, pushed by a growing admiration for some renowned photographers, including one of my best friends. Seeing this passion becoming more and more serious, a few month ago, my step-father (who is like a father to me) searched for his old film camera so I could use it. I had been talking more and more about diving into film photography for a while. That is a great honor to be able to use his camera. He was working on commercial ships in the 70’s and 80’s and traveled the world with this camera. So it has stories to tell.
2. Why do you like to shoot on film?
I think two aspects attracted me in film photography. The first one is the quality and unique tones of it. Isn’t it funny that many people use the newest cutting-edge cameras and phones only to end up applying “old-school” filters on photos? For me one of the strength of digital photography is to develop a bit more the aesthetic or surreal facet of some photos, like I did in my Brick & Colors series. But for the search of the unique texture of film, well… that should be done with a film camera.
The second one is the whole experience that comes with it. Forcing you to get the perfect angle, framing, and exposure before triggering (just once. Films have a cost! You want to use them at best). The noise of the mirrors. Not knowing if that will be a good photo or not, and stop reviewing the captures of the day on a screen. Waiting to finish your roll before to bring them to the lab, then waiting for photos. Once you get the scans and prints, what a pleasure to (re)discover your work!
3. What’s your favorite gear to use (camera, lens, film)?
My camera is an old Canon AE-1, with a great 50mm - 1:1.8 lens, that has nothing to envy to the more basic lenses that come with most new cameras nowadays. Maybe I’ll explore other cameras in the future. But this one has a sentimental value for me (cf: question 1!) I use Kodak Portra films. I started with those because they are simply widely used by photographers I like. ISO 160 when I’m shooting in my dear sunny south of France, near Marseille. 400 otherwise. I want to try out the Ektar 100 and Gold 400 ones over the next few months. Colors are important to me, I want to see how they come out with those.
4. Can you tell us a bit more about your photography work?
I find passionating the power of photography to turn what’s around us into art. Simple things, simple scenes of daily life, simple objects. That’s why I'm constantly searching for aesthetics in common small fragments of life that most people wouldn't notice, with a particular attention to colors. I have very different series, some are more minimalistic, some are trying to reveal something about people sould (“Normal People”). I more recently tried to explore the palette of colors that is offered by a photographer surroundings…
5. Exactly what is it you want to say with your photographs?
I’m not sure I’m looking for delivering a specific message. Maybe it’s about saying “here’s what you could be noticing if you take the time to look, and not only see”? Anywhere, at any time. I’m still working on finding a real voice, a “brand”, and even figuring out if I actually want to have a specific voice or brand.
You can see more of Jean-Mathieu's photos here.
Give her a follow on instagram @jm.saponaro