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The American West

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My name is Neels Castillon, I’m a 27-year-old French photographer and filmmaker based in Paris, France, and I started my photography journey more than ten years ago.

My work is deeply inspired by photographers on the boundary of art and documentary — photographers like Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld, and (more recently) Alec Soth. I share their passion for the painter Edward Hopper, who was himself influenced by cinema.

To make a long story, the pictures I am looking for always have, in a certain way, something to do with cinematography. They’re often made of portraits of people I find fascinating, about whom I wonder: “What’s their story?”

I’m looking also for landscapes, atmospheres and cities that have a great cinematic potential.

My recent “American West” series was created during a road trip on the US West Coast through California, Arizona and Nevada. Contrasts were fascinating there: gigantic cities are found alongside gigantic natural parks, and strippers share the Los Angeles pavement with preachers yelling their sermon into a megaphone. The US is a fabulous place to go through on a road trip because of this incredible diversity.

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I started shooting this series in medium format with a Mamiya 7ii, I love the way it influences my photos. It takes more time to compose: analog photography forces you to analyse the picture to imagine the result before.

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For portraits, it slows down the process, the people I ask to pose are often fascinated, since it seems more technical, they trust you more easily. They don’t think they are going to end up on social networks in the next ten minutes and, above all, they don’t ask to see the picture immediately.

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Grain, tones and contrasts of Kodak Porta and Ektar films are wonderful. I was not satisfied with the color rendering in digital photography, so I spent hours retouching my pictures in Lightroom. The using 120mm film is a delight for me. Apart from slight adjustments, I almost don’t retouch anymore.

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I intend to revisit the United States to complete the series, meet new people and visit other places — New Orleans in particular. When I‘ll have enough interesting pictures, I will make a book on this theme, contrasting these diverse identities in a poetic way.


About the author: Neels Castillon is a French photographer and director who’s based in Paris. You can find his still photography and motion picture work on his website.

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