10 Questions with Alain Paras

1. Can you please tell us a few words about yourself, where are you from.

My name is Alain! (Au-lahn for the French pronunciation) I was born and raised in San Diego, CA. Some would describe my personality as the perfect balance of chaotic and calm! I would say I’m an old soul in a young man’s body because I’m obsessed with all things old. Whether it’s vintage thrifted clothes, timeless antiques, or analog film cameras I love how items of the past have their own stories.

2. What is your photography story, how did you start? How did you get where you are now?

Speaking of my love for all things old and from the past, one day I saw someone selling a camera at a local estate sale. It lacked a small LCD screen on the back and it had a satisfying build quality to it. At the least I thought it would be a cool piece of decor for the meantime. It came with a lens, small watch batteries, strap, and some rolls of film. So naturally I did some research on something called the Nikon F3, loaded a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 and the rest is history! However it wouldn’t be until July 2020 when I felt a distinct change in how I perceived film and how important it was to me on an existential level.

3. What’s your favourite gear to use (camera, lens, film)?

 This is such a hard question! For medium format it is definitely the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, 110mm lens, with the eye level viewfinder and some Portra 800. For 35mm I would say the Leica M3, 50mm Summicron, and some Ilford Delta 3200!  

4. What do you enjoy shooting the most? And Why?

My favorite thing to shoot on film are moments and places that feel cinematic to me. I feel like my photos embody that, in such a way where they incite emotions, nostalgia, and memories for me. It really is documentation of places, people, and feelings on an existential and personal level. 

5. How do you educate yourself to take better photos?

I’ll set the scene for you, a cup of cold brew coffee, some music, and a tall stack of photo books from various photographers!

6. Have you ever doubted yourself? And what helped you to overcome that? 

Oh, every single day! I understand that there will be periods of life where I’m overly critical with myself, which can act as a double – edged sword. I have high standards for what I choose to photograph, but I understand that being too caught up in one mindset can be detrimental to my creativity as well. I’m always looking for new ways to shoot film, and to never stay in just one lane. It’s all about riding that wave through the creative ups and downs and sticking with it 🙂

7. What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer for you?

Being able to look at photos I have made – and instantly be transported to the exact moment I took that photo, along with how I felt at that moment is something priceless to me. I love the rush of memories, emotions, and feelings I get from taking photos. It’s amazing that a tactile, analog hobby like film photography can be so emotionally and artistically energizing!

8. Among your works, which one is your favourite? Tell us the story behind it (please send that as well)

I would say one of my favorite photographs is this shot during a summer monsoon in New Mexico. This took place during a roadtrip with my younger sister and cousin. As I drove with my sister in the front seat and my cousin fast asleep in the back seat, we drove through a monsoon that felt like it came out of nowhere. But this wasn’t like any old rain storm, this was an anxiety – inducing, 35 mph gusts pushing your car left and right, sideways bullets of rain, tumbleweeds tackling your car, zero visibility lightning storm. I remember how tightly I gripped the steering wheel as I carefully navigated through the harsh weather – finding temporary reprieve in a gap in the storm and exiting off the highway. I quickly set up my RZ67 on the tripod with the shutter release cable and held the shutter open for 2 minutes just hoping to catch some lightning in what looked like a purple hued mist. I didn’t know what to expect nor if I would catch anything at all. But that unpredictability is what is enticing about film in the first place! What makes me love this photograph the most is how my sister and I sang top Dance Gavin Dance at the top of our lungs to fight off the anxiety of getting through that storm.

9. What gives you inspiration?

So many things! But one of the most profound would have to be music. I feel like one of my favorite methods of shooting film on my own is with music playing. Every movie has a soundtrack, so why shouldn’t the photographs you make be paired with one just the same? By the same token, the type of music I listen to directly affects how and what I choose to photograph everyday.

10. Exactly what it is you want to say with your photographs?

Live your life like a movie, with you as the main character.

You can follow Alain on instagram @alain_matthew

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