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Film, Life and Nature - An Interview with Jesse Pafundi

Peter Davison

Tell us a little bit about yourself, your style and what draws you to the type of work you shoot

I'm a nature nut. I could go for a hike and be inspired by tree after tree after tree. I see the natural world as the purest form of beauty and honestly never tire of it. This resonated with me recently when I was out shooting and had this inner dialogue with myself about why and what I'm photographing. I came to the conclusion that I love nothing more than making portraits of nature. This probably all sounds like some crazy hippy talk but capturing these kinds of scenes is what draws me in time after time.  

Why film? What do you prefer more, the process or the result?

This is a really interesting question because over the years, the answer has changed. When I first started to dabble in film, it was purely for the look. I began shooting some super cheap, lo-fi cameras just to get my feet wet and also knowing that the finished product would be as far from digital as possible. Over the past year or so, the process has completely taken over for me and is the main reason I shoot film. I'm a full-time wedding photographer and shoot digitally for that, so film has become my artistic outlet.

I absolutely love the limitations of a set number of frames per roll and how it really forces me to be even more intentional with what and how I shoot. Because of that, each frame is thought out and I become more emotionally invested in the process. The shooting experience has become an almost therapeutic thing for me, so the enjoyment of making the pictures themselves is quite important.

Each camera I own shoots and behaves differently as well, which is inspiring to me in itself. The last added benefit, at least for me, is with rolls being 12, 24 or 36 exposures, I sometimes find myself coming up with mini-series or projects on the fly when I'm out. I definitely never get that inspiration with digital and SD cards that hold thousands of images.

It’s interesting that you shoot a lot of your landscape work in square format. What do you like about this compared to the more “traditional” landscape photography formats. 

The simplicity of it. There is no question of portrait orientation versus landscape orientation. Shooting square minimises and simplifies my compositions and truly makes my entire process a straightforward one. There's no doubt in my mind that I see scenes and compositions I never would if I were shooting 3x2 or 4x5 orientation. If you're looking to shake up your vision and simplify things, I highly recommend trying out a square format camera.

Is there one image you’ve taken that really stands out to you as “the one”? 

Yes, Horses of Iceland. The funny thing about this image is that I was in my very early days of shooting medium format. I wasn't great at manually focusing and I didn't truly understand how to expose for film. I was still very much learning but accidentally underexposing a bit only added to the mood of the image. It was one of those moments where I pressed the shutter at the perfect time. The look on the one horses face and the wind-swept manes is perfection to me. I also vividly remember this moment so it's a meaningful image to me.

What are your favourite films to shoot with?

Easiest question ever. Portra 400. I shoot probably 90% of my work with this film. As much as I love black and white, colors in the world inspire me. It's just as much a part of the scene as the subject for me and Portra 400 delivers the tones I'm after. Also, shooting a lot of landscapes, the flexibility in this film allows me to capture high dynamic range scenes. I truly love it.

What are you most excited about shooting next?

The answer is not so much subject matter as it is experimentation. Back to why film is so inspiring to me, there are so many film stocks out there. Winter just hit here in the States, so I plan on shooting much more black and white films looking to hone in on that like I have with knowing P400 is my go-to for color. I'd like to shoot some super mimimal winter scenes and may make that my winter project.

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Thanks to Jesse Pafundi for participating in this interview

Jesse Pafundi is a wedding and travel photographer based in New York. 

You can check out his work at or on Instagram