How did a nice young woman from Madison, Wisconsin wind up in Paris, where, she reports, “it’s cold and rainy?” Photography is the culprit. “I absolutely love it here,” says Cara Tobe. “It’s a great place to be a photographer. Everything is so beautiful and inspiring. Even the small things, like traveling in the Metro and the people you see there. Nowhere else in the world matches up.”
Currently she’s attending Spéos Paris Photographic Institute, a small international school centered around career photography. “Photography has opened so many doors for me,” she says. “It brought me to Paris and changed my life. I want my career to be in photography.” Tobe has also lived in Switzerland’s Alps and Milan.
In Wisconsin, Tobe was shooting film up until eighteen months ago. She now has an all-digital workflow. Currently working on a portrait project, Tobe is scouring the city with a black mask and asks strangers to be photographed while wearing it. At school she’s creating product photography for local glassware artisans.
Her free time is taken up with street photography and she’s very drawn to Fashion Week. “I’d like to get more involved with creative portraiture, something a little more creative than catalog shooting. I love being around everything happening with Fashion Week. There might be fifteen or twenty different venues, unlike Fashion Week in New York. They’re all around the city, and in each venue the lighting is completely different, the runways are different. One show might start at nine in the morning, and the second one is an hour later in a different arrondissement. You have to immediately figure out your position to the runway, what the light is, what your settings should be. It’s very fast and very exciting. You don’t have control over your lighting, like in a studio. A lot of times there’s a light show, or the lights may go out altogether. You have to take what you can get.”
To make sense of these rapidly changing conditions, Tobe relies on her Sekonic L-308s. “I absolutely love it,” she says. “It’s consistent, and not too big and clunky, so I can fit it in my backpack and it takes up no space. It works perfectly. I always have it on me. My camera’s in front of me and my light meter is always in my pocket.” Tobe shoots a Canon 5D with a variety of lenses. For runway work she’ll typically bring a 70-200mm and a 24-70mm.
“I don’t like the way a lot of people shoot these days with a huge amount of contrast. It looks too digital to me. I started out using film, and that’s the look I’m drawn to. I miss it. There’s nothing better than the feeling of holding your print from the darkroom or looking at your negative held up to the light. I hope film doesn’t die off. The look is less artificial, and that’s what I try for.” Tobe achieves this look in-camera, as opposed to post-processing in Lightroom or Photoshop.
Tobe’s plans are to stay in Paris “as long as the Parisians will have me,” she laughs. Watch for future runway shots with a film-look twist from the City of Light. Merci beaucoup, Cara.
Written by Ron Egatz