Renowned Magnum photojournalist and Canon Ambassador Paolo Pellegrin talks about his experiences using the new EOS 5D Mark IV for the first time, and how it compares to previous DSLRs in the EOS 5D series.
When he shoots his unique brand of documentary photography, Paolo Pellegrin has a way of getting under the skin of his subjects to reveal the most intimate moments. His approach requires as much tact and diplomacy as it does skill with a camera. In fact, Paolo’s ability to build relationships with his subjects is crucial if they are to trust him, and let him into their lives.
For one of his latest ventures, Paolo took a pre-production model of the EOS 5D Mark IV to Rome, Italy, where he spent time with a gypsy family living in the city, documenting their everyday lives and culture. The project is a perfect example of why Paolo has had such a long and fruitful relationship with the EOS 5D series – the cameras’ combination of full-frame image quality, responsive performance and portability lets him capture everything from street portraits to low-light landscapes.
When we spoke to Paolo about his experiences with the new camera, he was already busy documenting events in Iraq, working in towns like Ramadi and Fallujah. Down a very crackly phone line he told us about his first impressions...
“I’ve used the EOS 5D from the beginning, and I’ve seen the evolution of the cameras as they have progressed through the years,” Paolo says. “Although I only had the EOS 5D Mark IV for a few days in Rome, it made a big impression on me, especially when I was using it in low light.”
Originally, I wasn’t a food photographer; I preferred to capture street and lifestyle stories. I wanted to shoot the urban side of London, and was particularly interested in capturing the essence of darkness in a building.
It wasn’t until I met my girlfriend that I started shooting food - she’s a massive foodie. She taught me everything I know about food. That’s when I started mixing street photography with food photography.
When growing up, I loved making things move. I used to make flipbooks, they wouldn’t make much sense but they’d have a small story – maybe someone flying a kite. For me, it was about creating motion. From then I wanted to create motion for a living, so now I’m a motion designer. It’s this background that’s been incorporated into my photography. I like to photograph things that are hard to capture, like freezing time.
My girlfriend and I will start by choosing somewhere to eat. Then we’ll go to the area and I’ll shoot the journey to the restaurant or food stall to get a feel for the atmosphere.
I also film regularly. I find recording inspires me - I notice motion that I could then try and capture as a static image. From there it’s quite spontaneous. It’s also emotional too, you have to follow your instincts a lot and feel when it’s the right time to shoot.
I shoot in manual because I feel as though I get maximum control over my stories. I can control the lighting, shutter-speed and aperture. I like to shoot in raw because then I can take my images to a Lightroom and edit them if I want. My stories tend to come out quite moody, which I think is a hangover from my street photography, abandoned building past.
When I’m aiming to freeze motion I shoot in manual and then f/1.0 when trying to focus on a specific element. In terms of shutter-speed and aperture, I tend to flick through until I find the one that I like.