Growing up in a very international family, it's no wonder journalist and photographer Alexander Durie has such an affinity for traveling. Based in Paris, he's currently working on documentary films for the European channel ARTE with a side of freelance reporting, photography, and creative writing. After being confined for months and months like the rest of the planet in 2020, Alexander packed his bag, his friends, and some LomoChrome Purple 35 mm for a well-deserved escape in the South of France.
Hello Alexander! It's great to have you here at Lomography. First off, can you tell us what’s your artistic and photographic background?
I'm pretty much an autodidact in photography, although I grew up immersed in the visual arts since my parents work in the film industry. This meant that I approached photography from a more cinematic way, meaning I saw photography as being able to immortalize a moment. I started off and still mostly shoot on film to force myself to take time to really think about how and why I want to shoot what I shoot and how I can challenge myself both to see and to shoot differently. Plus the feeling you get when your film is developed and you're about to see your pictures for the first time is still one of the most thrilling feelings in the world.
What do you like to shoot with the most?
I'm a bit of a seasonal person, and I like to change around. Although I love color photography to capture light, I also adore the mood evoked by black and white photography. I have more admiration for a photographer that is very good at black and white photography rather than one that is very good at color. Like Elliott Erwitt said: "Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretive." So to answer the question, I shoot color in the summer (Kodak Ultra 400, Lomography Color Negative 400, Ektar 100) and usually black and white in winter (usually Ilford Delta 400).
Where do you draw inspiration from?
The urge to photograph depends on how willing we are to open our eyes to the things around us. The commonplace and the ordinary are often the most difficult things to photograph, but if one takes the time to see the same things with new eyes and with new ears, our camera follows suit. Inevitably I shoot more when I'm traveling because everything is new and exciting, but every day I am inspired by good light, small details, and idiosyncrasies (skin, clothes, objects that seem broken or out of place), and movement - calm or abrupt.
Can you tell us a bit about the photo series you sent us ?
The photo series I sent was shot mostly in the South of France, in an idyllic region known as the Côte d'Azur between mountains and sea. It was after two months of staying inside during the government-imposed quarantine and there was a true feeling of liberty once we were allowed to go out again. On small road trips with friends, I explored a region I used to live in as a teenager but never got the chance to really get to know until I was stuck there during a pandemic in unprecedented conditions. I felt extremely grateful to have lived there and to be able to still see it and shoot it with new eyes.
Why did you shoot in with the LomoChrome Purple?
LomoChrome Purple is a film I've always wanted to use to give a certain surreal effect to the everyday. I love the photos of Richard Mosse who used an infrared technique to shoot child soldiers in Africa, the method has the effect of merging art and documentary photography into one which I adore. I bought the LomoChrome Purple film in London at the Photographer's Gallery and decided to save it up for the summer when there's better light, and thought the natural landscapes of Southern France would be a great setting for it.
How did it feel to shoot in Covid Times? What precautions did you take?
As mentioned earlier, it was very strange to be in a beautiful place but during a terrible time for society. Taking these photos allowed me to detach myself from that reality and I hope that they can give a sense of escape to whoever sees them, because we all need a bit of escapism and dreaming, especially during these strange times.
I was mostly distant from people so I, fortunately, didn't have to take lots of precautions, and of course, I asked to consent from whoever I took a photo of up close (although there are few of those).
From the series you sent us do you have a favorite picture?
I'll pick two because I'm bad at making decisions, one is of the house in the middle of the garden on the mountain. It has a very postcard quality to it and reflects some of the beauty of the French Provence, the LomoChrome Purple works great on the green ranges too. The other is in Paris where I took a picture of the shadows of my friend and I after we went to an open-air cinema. The circles on the ground indicated the spots where we sat and were distant from others, but in the picture, I'm distant from my friend too. Though we're both reaching out to each other, we can't quite touch just yet. A fitting message for these times where we navigate between connectivity and distance.
What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out with LomoChrome Purple?
Look for striking colors (particularly green, red, and orange), and think about how you'll compose the frame. What is placed in the foreground is the most important and where the purple will strike the most. I personally prefer landscape/nature photos for LomoChrome Purple to give a dreamy and ethereal aspect to trees, water, or mountains, but there are some great LomoChrome Purple shots that can be taken in more urban areas too. Think wider and broader angles - like large crowds or movement - as if each photo is a painting.
To follow more of his work, head over to his Instagram.