Story 137: David Amirault

What is your backstory?

I was born in Bogota, Colombia, and grew up in Andover, Massachusetts; a town about thirty minutes north of Boston, and just fifteen minutes south of Salem, New Hampshire. My formative years were spent roaming this area's nooks and crannies with some of my dearest friends. I came to appreciate wandering aimlessly, embracing the slow days that came naturally with time spent in the woods. Photography came to me in high school, during a darkroom class which I enjoyed but did not take too seriously. The idea of picking up a camera would come years later (2017) when I was living in Boston; skateboarding around the city, falling in love with the people and moments around the periphery of a session.

A year after figuring out how to use the camera, my soon to be wife and I were evicted from our apartment due to a case of nepotism. Thanks to a close friend we found ourselves relocated to Lexington, MA, with our three dogs, and now 2 month old son. Being just 20 minutes from the city, life is slower and making pictures has brought me back to embracing the calm moments I find between people and the landscape.

What camera gear/editing setup do you use?

I’ve been using three cameras. A Leica M4 with either a 28mm or 35mm lens, a fuji gw690ii with the 90mm lens, and also a Mamiya 7ii with an 80mm lens. For me each of these cameras entails a different process in shooting and a different speed with which I move physically. I only shoot with Kodak Trix and I process the film at home. I scan negatives with an epson v700 and make adjustments in lightroom. The end goal is to make contact sheets and work prints in my home darkroom/studio.

How do you achieve the look of your photographs and could you take us through the process?

My photographic process has a seasonal quality. I work in Horticulture so I spend the spring, summer and fall months making pictures a couple miles outside of where I live or where I happen to be, and I spend my time off in the winter printing and archiving in the darkroom. Natural light is important and it changes so much throughout the seasons in New England. Once a backlog of films has been compiled, I mix up d76 in the evening and spend the following morning developing with a 1-1 mix, and a bit of a pull because I usually rate my film 100-250.

I'm interested in how people affect the landscape and how we occupy our time and space. I really like to photograph all the aspects that make up a place: seasons, people, animals, the natural and the cultivated landscape. Moving to medium format means slowing down, and living in a town with a slower pace means approaching strangers for portraits, something I’ve been working on.

Could you tell us the backstory of some of your photographs?

One of the neighborhood trails I walk often is behind a row of ten houses, each one with a different fence, all lined with enormous pine trees. Over the years these pines have gradually been removed as they are notorious for older weak branches, and split leaders, making specficic ones a hazard to the homes they loom over. I noticed two cut down with their large stumps sitting a foot off the ground, and a ladder thoughtfully placed in between them against the chainlink; the row of rooftops, the pine needles on the roof of a shed and the oak leaves gathered below. It reminded me of cleaning the gutters with my dad in the fall as a kid and leaving a ladder in a similar fashion off the back of the house when we finished. Sometimes that's all it takes to make a photograph. This one pulls me in, there are places to go, continue down the trail, or walk through the gate on the far right. What becomes really interesting is printing your work and seeing how pictures relate to each other and how their meanings might change in different arrangements. The nostalgic feeling is why I took the picture, but the place the picture takes me from there is what I'm really interested in.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

Keep making photographs and keep doing the work. You need to put yourself in the position to take photographs, go out of your way to walk the extra mile, go to the fair down the street, ask the person you found interesting for a portrait. You only get better with experience from putting yourself out there. I've also found it's better to get lost in the moment of shooting and reflect back at the work later to find what it is you're truly getting after. Separation from making the work leads to objectivity. Always return to your contact sheets, or however you review your pictures; I often cut medium format contact sheets up and bring interesting frames with me to contemplate while I'm sitting around in the car, or on a bench outside. If you can, pick up and study photobooks. There is nothing like having a tangible body of work you can return to, from a photographer you admire.


David Amirault


Story 138: Roger Richardson


Story 136: Austin Quintana