"It’s the aesthetics for me, the colours that you get with film can’t be replicated with a digital camera. To me, film makes photos come alive, which ultimately translates into better storytelling"
We sent some film to our friend, Alex Costa, to document his recent adventure across La Cerdaña, a stunning mountain region stretching across the Spanish/French border. Alex is a film enthusiast, marketing expert and a self-professed adventurer, choosing motorbikes as his mode of transport for incredible journeys across South America, Vietnam and the Middle-Eastern Pamir Mountains. We absolutely loved the shots from this trip, including horse-back travel, motocross and Land Rovers in the snow. We even caught up with Alex to ask him some questions on his love of film, his experiences travelling and his approach to creating authentic content.
Read our interview below to find out more or head over to Alex's gallery to see all the shots from La Cerdaña Valley!
Don't want to read the full interview? Just want to see the awesome shots from La Cerdaña? Head over to Alex's photo gallery here!
Hey Alex, thank you for taking the time to speak with us! For our readers that are just getting to know you, could you please introduce yourself and your work so far?
Yes absolutely, I was born in Barcelona and I’m currently living here, but I’ve lived in different places, such as the UK, France, Germany and Japan. I like to think of myself as an active person, sports are my thing and you’ll never find me sitting down on a sofa. As far as my work goes, to be honest I feel like a very amateur photographer but with it just so happens that with my active lifestyle and sometimes an eye for detail I occasionally end up getting a good photo or two.
What is your first memory of photography? Do you remember the camera, the photos, where you were?
It probably began with videography actually, as kids my Dad always used to have the video recorder on. My brothers and I used to love filming each other doing stupid “stunts”, one time we lit a skateboard on fire and began skating in our backyard, eventually a tree caught fire… But with photography, my earliest memories were in my primary school filed trips getting the disposable film camera out, I loved the ones with rugged waterproof cases, whoever had one of those was the cool kid in class.
For anyone that has seen your resumé, website and socials, there is a strong theme of travel & content creation – both personally and professionally. What do you think inspires and drives you to document your life and adventures, and to keep creating?
I love travelling, my parents travelled a lot when they were younger and it caught on in the family. What really inspires me is the sense of accomplishment I feel when I do these big adventures, buying a motorcycle somewhere remote and just travelling around like a local. These trips can be quite challenging, sometimes it’s the weather or altitude, other times it’s paperwork, bureaucracy and corruption… Documenting all these trips is my way of telling my stories, I’m not a great writer so I let my photos tell my stories.
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Motorsport is a big subject focus in your photography. Would you say it’s your favourite subject to shoot or do you have a secret love for landscapes, portraits, or something else?
Motorsports and skiing, my two favourite sports. I also enjoy shooting portraits, but I never like to plan my shots, I prefer photos that are taken at the right place in the right time, no prep work.
We know that many of your trips have been done on motorbikes – through Vietnam, South America & The Silk Road. Why is this your favourite way to travel? Do you think this gives you different opportunities to create content than the traditional travel routes, using buses, coaches and trains etc.
The content I capture along these trips can be seen by some as more “authentic” because travelling with your own vehicle you end up seeing the real version of these countries, it’s a way of leaving the tourist traps. To me there’s not a better lunch than arriving at some remote village and having lunch at someone’s house while we have a chat about what its like living there, what they enjoy and what they’d like to achieve someday. There’s also no timetable when you travel by motorcycle, you don’t need to hurry to catch a bus, you can take all the time that you want, for example waiting for the perfect light.
It seems that you have a great group of friends and family that you go on adventures with. Do you think this has an influence on your shooting style and how much you do create?
Yes, 100%. I’m very lucky, I have a group of friends who love doing what I do, we enjoy the same types of sports and trips. We’re all into film photography too, so we learn from each other, share tips, new films we might try, help each other buy new cameras and sharing film!
When you’re packing for a trip and you’ve got all your kit out in front of you, what is your approach? Are you throwing everything in your bag that you might need, or packing light and taking the absolute essentials?
I’m more of the latter, pack essentials only. Since I travel a lot by motorcycle, I need to travel very light, there’s not much room for things in a motorbike and you also need to carry spares and tools. So for sure packing essentials only. My go-to method is laying everything out and then forcing myself to only take half of what’s in front of me.
From your Instagram feed, it looks like you have photos and videos from all mediums of photography – analogue & digital cameras, smartphones and GoPros. Focusing on film, how often do you find yourself reaching for your analogue camera over the other options?
Over the past two years, it’s pretty much always film whenever I’m on a trip. Day to day I use my iPhone, but not so much for creative photos. I used to shoot only on GoPros, back when I used to work there. But since I hopped on the film train, I never really looked back.
Leading on from the previous question – what is it that you love about film and where does it fit in for you? Is it more recreational or do you use film for work/business as well? As an added thought, do you see film having a more central role in content and marketing strategy for businesses in the future?
It’s the aesthetics for me, the colours that you get in film can’t be replicated with a digital camera. To me, film makes photos come alive, which ultimately translates into better storytelling, this goes back to the authenticity I was talking about earlier. There’s also another benefit, you become a much better photographer – having only 36 photos really makes you think twice before taking a photo. On the business side, I think film should be used whenever it’s relevant. For highly consumer-focused brands, usually in fashion, I believe film can really make content stand out from the crowd for the reasons I mentioned earlier, authentic storytelling. We used a lot of film in Petro Camp, our community loved it.
Perhaps similar to a previous question, you worked for GoPro and Petro Camp, both adventure and motorsport related brands. Do you have any standout memories or projects from your time spent working with these companies? or is there a standout moment in general that you’d like to share from your adventures?
At GoPro I had a blast, one really good memory was producing a mountain bike video in Andorra, we even rented a heli to take the riders to a remote peak. We dropped them there and off they went in unreal terrain. Petro Camp was a different ball game, it was, well and still is, a community my cousin, my brother and I built. I’m not going to point out a single memory, but I loved all building a brand that really resonated with motorsport athletes and enthusiasts – from apparel design to negotiating with manufacturers and retailers and of course shooting content (mostly on film) with amazing athletes and crazy locations.
And to finish off with some quick-fire questions…
What is your favourite film camera?
What is your favourite film stock to shoot?
Kodak Gold 200
Have you got a favourite photo that you have taken?
Yes, my cousin standing with his motorcycle underneath the Ak Baital Pass, at 4.655m of altitude in the Pamirs (Tajikistan).
What has been your favourite travel trip or memory?
Raja Ampat, most beautiful place I’ve ever been.
Where is your favourite location to shoot?
From the seat of my motorcycle.
If you could own any camera, what would it be?
Pentax 6 x 7 or a Contax G2