Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Feature Photographer: Chris France

Chris has been a serious photographer for the past twelve years. His journey in Fine Art photography has seen him fix his focus on the love of the sea and countryside and all things associated with or in the created landscape.

Chris has experimented with many formats of cameras and printing techniques and this has culminated with the use of three types of medium; the Holga, the Polaroid and the View Camera, each one creatively used to suit both style and mood to express the image perceived within the minds eye.

Without the use of modern digital camera technology, or relying on retouching or manipulation for effect or correction, Chris engages with his surroundings and releases the shutter at the decisive moment, when timing, light and composition wonderfully come together.

The use of film cameras and perceived old fashioned technology forces Chris to really see the image at the point of capture, a style and way he prefers. Chris believes and supports a philosophy that photographs realised within the camera and engaging ones mind, challenges a photographers skill and develops patience and character, building integrity for both the photographer and their work. Believing photography to be an art, Chris does not always believe in photographing for a literal representation of the landscape, but journeys into being creative, bringing together knowledge and the character of the films emulsion to perfect the previsualized image.


How did you get introduced to your first Holga and how long have you been shooting?

Lee Frosts book 'Toy Camera' was my first real look at the Holga and Jose Villa, a wedding photographer in the US . My brother was also playing around with one for portraiture. I saw no reason why I couldn't use it for my landscape work.

A Light in the Darkness

What is it about the Holga that draws you to it? Why do you shoot with it?

I love the soft quality to the images that the meniscus lens gives. Coupled with film you cannot beat it. I will always reach for the Holga when an image I see in my minds eye doesn't suit a landscape or subject that cries out for high resolution. I get a great sized positive to scan and can make good sized prints. Plus it's just so easy to use. There are no real functions which frees me to just concentrate on what I'm seeing, ready to just press the cable release.

Always Freedom

Please tell me a bit about your series in which you use a Holga

Currently for art that doesn't require large prints of 20" and over or high resolution, the Holga is my main camera. Yes I use a Polaroid too, but most of my work is suited to the Holga. My latest images using the Holga was in Crete. I wanted to shoot abroad no different to photographing in the UK, my vision is always the same. Subtle, soft and simple images. Most often I will try and photograph with intention, meaning I have something I want to say in my photography. Sometimes this doesn't arise and it is just the case of photographing a scene as technically perfect as I can as well as depicting a place as best as I can, without necessary thinking of a story or statement. Most often than not, the light and landscape speaks for itself. However, pretty much all the time my faith as a Christian and my relationship with Jesus Christ is want I'm wanting to share in my images with people, and thank God for his wonderful creation that is clearly seen out in nature.

Awaiting Tide

Enclothed in Peace

What are some of your biggest challenges shooting with a Holga and do you have any tips for over coming them?

Unlike using a modern camera, or any non rangefinder type, seeing the image you are taking seems a bit hit and miss sometimes (the image viewfinder suffers bad parallax plus you cannot see the complete frame). However, I've learned to compensate for this. Unlike many Holga users, I do not use print film, I use transparency film. This of course is very unforgiving of incorrect exposure. But I've used Velvia and Provia for almost 11 years now so I'm quite used to its character. Filters are a must using this type of emulsion and therefore so is the use of a filter holder and adapter ring. Exposure on the Holga is always done in Bulb mode because I can time the exposures accordingly. I never use the standard 125th shutter speed. Always use a cable release.

If I can give anyone any basic pointers I can say this:

Always test your camera first. Apertures are not exact on every camera despite what it may say on the box. So best to test with a light meter and a grey card and take bracketed images at various apertures, either at the 125th shutter or using the Bulb mode. I find using the Bulb mode more accurate. But you will need to be in light that can give you a 1 sec or more shutter speed or use an ND filter. Write every image down in order and the exposure details. If you do this, when you have your images back from the lab, go through them and pick out the best image. Exposure Indexing should be done with ANY new camera and film you use. Ive found I can now get accurate exposures all the time using the Holga because of the simple tests I did when I got the camera. Also as much as the Holga is both a fun and serious camera (I use it seriously) like any camera/lens configuration, it should be used to suit the type of image you are trying to make. There is never a one trick pony. This is why most photographers will use different types of camera formats, lenses and film.

Fisher of Men

Light in the Valley

What other cameras do you have in your arsenal?

I used to use a Pentax 67II and 5D MkII but now only a Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera, the Holga 120GN and a Walker Titan SF Large Format camera.

Living Waters
 Favourite photo film(s)?

Always Fuji Velvia 50 and Provia 100F, in both 120 and 4x5. But am looking at using the new Kodak Portra 400 too.

My Defense
What inspires you?

Being a landscape photographer nothing inspires me more than being out in creation. Whether my subject is the natural or man made, being outdoors to walk and wander is a real pleasure. Seeing the landscape I can only be inspired by the one who made it, Jesus Christ, and photography has given me an outlet to share the wonder of creation with people as well as to give God thanks for his gift of life, the earth and most importantly, himself.

Never Ending Protection
 Thank you Chris for taking the time to answer my questions, and for sharing your gorgeous Holga work with us.  I'm sure it's going to make many Holga users out there start experimenting more with the bulb mode!  For more about Chris, please visit his website!

Chris' Website:

Washed in Blood


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