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Xpro blues and grain from the counter at Cafe Charbon

Photography and travel go hand in hand; there must be few photographers who are immune to the thrill of arriving in a new place and wanting to capture the atmosphere in their own unique way.

How do you do that with a place like Paris? It has been home to some of the world’s most famous and pioneering photographers, and become one of the world’s most photographed locations. You don’t have to have set foot in the city to picture its landmarks.

I was in Paris a few weeks ago to launch an exhibition. There was precious little time for sightseeing, but that wasn’t a problem; it’s not my first time in the city and I’m unlikely to take a better picture of the Eiffel Tower than the ones on the postcards. Instead of turning my camera on the city’s tourist landmarks, I turned it on my friends who’d come along for a weekend in Paris aswell.

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Au Chat Noir, one of Paris’s classic corner bars, on Agfa Optima 100

Last year I took a quick daytrip to Paris to catch the Henry Cartier-Bresson exhibition at the Pompidou Centre; a few hours in the afternoon were enough to rattle off a couple of films on an old Soviet Zenit E. The Zenit E was made in many millions between the 1960s and 80s and spawned a long line of descendents, some of which were in production well into the 2000s. One of the rolls I shot was the old Agfa CT100 Precisa, the consumer-grade slide film made by Agfa that became the Lomographer’s best friend. Out of all the slide films ever made, it’s probably the best one to cross process, and even when expired (Precisa was discontinued in the mid-2000s) it still keeps its eye-catching colours.

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Xpro film really needs strong light to make the most of its shifted colours: thankfully Paris was blessed with strong Spring sunshine. Our gang convened for breakfast in a beautiful old bar in the city’s Oberkampf district called Café Charbon; it features in many of the Paris guidebooks as one of the best cafes in the city, and you can see why. It’s like stepping back in time, a huge, high-ceilinged space fill of red banquettes, a gleaming bar and stacks of old spirit bottles, some no doubt older than I am. With the light streaming in through the windows, it was the perfect backdrop.

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Xpro might not be the usual film for portraits – the shifted colours can lead to some odd skin tones, especially when the reds are boosted – but the effect is too eye-catching to ignore.

I had time to put another roll of old Agfa film through the Zenit aswell; Agfa Optima 100. This isn’t slide film but a pro-level colour print film. I’ve used rolls that have been more than 15 years past their sell-by date and they’ve been perfectly useable. It’s another long-lost film that’s worth keeping an eye out for.

It’s not the Paris of Montmartre and the Champs Elysee, the Louvre or Eiffel Tower, but that’s OK. Sometimes you have to leave that to the crowds with the iPhones and selfie sticks.

See more of the pics below or on the Flickr set.

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Creepy dolls in a shop window, shot on Agfa Optima 100

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Tim
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Great work Stephen. I’m working my way through a batch of expired Kodak Gold that I received as a gift. I really wish it was Fujichrome or even Ektachrome but I don’t want to discourage anyone from thinking about me if they find grandpa’s old camera bag.

the6millionpman
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Some cracking shots here.

Bob Dungan
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Bob Dungan

Well written blog and excellent photos. Do you cross process in C41 yourself?