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Monday, June 11, 2007

Paulo Filgueiras - Fresh Fashions

For Paulo Filgueiras, the journey from surf photographer in Rio de Janeiro to highly demanded fashion shooter in New York has been more challenging and circuitous than his path to digital technology

The fundamentals of photography don't change whether you're working in film or silicon. Filgueiras was used to controlling as much of his film-based workflow as possible. He toiled in the darkroom, mastering the peculiarities of film, paper and chemistry combinations. He processed his own film whenever it was possible and practical. He learned to think in terms of how he could control aspects of the image through manipulation of the film and printing.

Learning those fundamentals made the transition to digital tools much easier in the long run. Although the digital equipment was intimidating at the outset, Filgueiras saw that he could call upon his darkroom experience to get him past many of the challenges.

“I took my experiences of shooting film and my darkroom techniques and began to see how these things translated into the digital equipment,” says Filgueiras. “I quickly realized that the kind of control I was after in the darkroom was much more possible working with the digital tools. With the darkroom, I worked hard to have a measure of control, but now with digital, I feel like I have complete control. I can bring my vision right to the print hanging on the wall.”

For someone like Filgueiras who's apt to shoot hundreds and hundreds of frames in a day's work, film has always been a dicey medium. There are simply too many chances for someone to make a mistake. There can be a light leak in the camera, an assistant might open the back before the film is rewound, the lab could expose rolls to light, the chemistry could be off—the list is endless. Says Filgueiras, “Now I never have to rely on a lab to take care of my film anymore. All those hands used to make me very nervous. I would think I had a great shot and I was very uncomfortable thinking about everyone who was going to handle the film before I got it back.”

The thinking process changes with digital as well. Camera features like instant review on the LCD give Filgueiras the confidence of knowing that he's getting the image he's envisioning in his head.

“Since I've been all digital, I've never had to do a reshoot of a project,” he says. “With film, sometimes that would happen. Also, because everyone is there on the set, we can discuss the photographs as we go. The client can ask for minor adjustments when it's still easy to make them.”

These days, Filgueiras uses an Olympus E-1 camera and the accompanying Zuiko lenses. “I love the camera,” says Filgueiras. “It's easy to work with and it gives me the control I need. The new lenses are excellent. There aren't so many different lenses available right now, but they cover my needs.”

Filgueiras uses the 50mm ƒ/2.0 for a lot of his work, and the 14-54mm zoom is useful for generating a unique wide-angle look. “The unusual attracts me,” he says. “Anything that alters reality keeps me from being bored. The unusual attracts the viewer and then the content of the photograph takes over. Concept and content are very important to me. We're inundated with images all the time. We need something to overcome all of that noise. That's what the combination of attention-grabbing and good concept and content does. It makes the image rise to the top.”

The strange route Filgueiras has taken to bring him to the top of New York fashion photography seemingly couldn't have happened any other way and still brought the same level of success. The stunning photographs are a product of the experience. Digital cameras and image-processing software didn't create the photographs, but the control that the equipment provides makes it possible for Filgueiras to achieve his singular vision.

To see more of Paulo Filgueiras' photography, visit www.paulofilgueiras.com.



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