Florian Pagano Believes in the Power of Film, Not Photoshop

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I am Florian Pagano. I am a French professional photographer based in Indonesia for 11 years. I started photography 20 years ago when I got an analog camera SLR and lenses from a retiring fashion photographer (Nikon F90x with 80-200mm and 50mm AF lenses). At that time, I wanted to exclusively use a process that didn’t involve a computer as I was spending most of my time on a computer as an architect.

I am now a professional event photographer. I shoot mostly weddings, events, and fashion photography in Bali, Indonesia. I use digital photography and a lot of photoshop when I shoot for my clients (Nikon d750 with 24-70mm and 80-200mm lens), but I still use film photography for my everyday life and personal projects, so it doesn’t involve any editing.

This process goes from shooting film, send it to the lab to be processed and directly printed and stored. Digital scans are only used as a backup. I always ask my lab to not process or enhance or crop the photos as I want to see the real results, which I think makes me progress as a photographer.

I only use cheap stock film like Kodiak Gold 200 or Fuji Industrial 400 as fancy films like Portra are expensive and difficult to find in Indonesia.

My creative vision is I want to document people and life on the island as true as possible, in their everyday life and also focusing on traditions (Bali is a small Hindu majority island in the largest Muslim country in the world).

Thousands of photographers and tourists come to Bali to shoot beautiful landscapes and pretty lifestyle photos for their Instagram, hiding the reality behind filters, and heavy photoshop edits, so I try to document a more realistic side of the island.

Why did you get into photography?

I got into photography when I started my studies as an architect. I had access at that time to a free lab that was entirely paid for by the university. So I started shooting architecture as part of my studies. It really got serious when I moved 11 years ago to Indonesia, and I started to shoot street life and portraits.

Which photographers are your biggest influences? How did they affect who you are and how you create?

The biggest influences are all the masters, of course (HCB, Salgado, Meyerowitz, Fan Ho & co.) but also Magnum photographers for their authentic storytelling.

How long have you been shooting? How do you feel you’ve evolved since you started?

I started with Analog as a tool as I was working as an architect, and since 2016 I am now a professional wedding and event photographer. I am now starting to have a small reputation that helps me sell prints. I started some documentary projects in Indonesia for two years, hoping to get better and get published. My only published story is at My Modern Met.

Tell us about your photographic identity. You, as a person, have an identity that fundamentally makes you who you are. Tell us about that person as a photographer.

As a photographer, I try to be honest; even in my professional work where I use lightroom and photoshop, I try to stay true to the events.

Also, I speak many languages that help me be more relaxed when approaching people in the street. When I started photography, I was shy, and I was mostly stealing portraits with my 80-200mm lens, and I realized that I couldn’t get good results like this. I am now more relaxed and can approach people easily to ask and get the picture that I want, and now I shoot mostly with a 50mm lens.

Tell us about the gear you’re using. Please give us a list of the gear and the reasons why you choose it. 

I use a Nikon F90x with a 50mm f1.8 and an 80-200mm. I didn’t choose them. I inherited them at an excellent price from a retiring photographer.

For digital, I use a d750 because it is compatible with all my analog lenses. I use my digital camera for B&W works that can be found on my Instagram.

Natural light or artificial light? Why?

Natural for a more realistic render of a scene. I only use artificial for professional work.

Why are photography and shooting so important to you?

Because it’s fun! And it also makes me go to places I would be lazy to go to and meet people.

Do you feel you’re more of a creator or a documenter? Why?

Documenter, 99% of my photos are not planned. I just always walk and drive around everywhere with my camera.

How does the gear help you do this?

I love digital for shooting B&W; I don’t shoot B&W with my film camera. I use a lot of photoshop for my B&W photos.

I love the color film process because the colors, grain, and contrast feel right from the start without any editing needed.

My Nikon F90x is a totally automated camera, and it helps me be faster and catch the action. I tried a manual camera and manual lens, but the process is too slow for street photography. I often miss my shots.

What’s typically going through your mind when you create images? Tell us about your processes, both mentally and mechanically? 

Technically I mostly think about my subject first, catch the right moment, face, or action, then framing in a second time. Most of my settings are automated. I only switch my aperture ring from time to time, but it usually stays at f4.

Please walk us through your processing techniques. Also, tell us about how you’re achieving your look without Photoshop if you’re comfortable with that.

No technique involved; it goes from the film to print directly, I ask the lab not to enhance or crop, only level if the horizon is not straight.

What made you want to get into your genre?

Indonesia’s people are very friendly, and they love to be taken in the picture, and the life and colors of Indonesia are very vivid. It just calls you for shooting it.

What motivates you to shoot?

It’s fun to do. It makes me meet more people and visit places I would never go to.

Explain why the readers want to see your work. or why your project is really cool.

It could be a motivation to get back to film, let go of the computer, and explore and connect places and people. The best photos we can make come from the things close to us like our family, friends and our city.

You can follow Florian on his website or Instagram.

Want to submit to our features on photographers who use little to no photoshop? Here are the details on how to submit.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.