Tell me a little about yourself and how you got into photography and your story since then.
When I was a child, I felt a bit of an outsider, more sensitive than average and with a different perception of the world around me, always trying to figure out who and what I wanted to be. Very soon, after graduating, I started to produce and direct my own short films. I admired the great film directors of the new wave who had brought a breath of fresh air to French film-making, and I dreamed of equaling them. But my first attempts truly lacked maturity and the rejections from the festivals were plentiful. At the time, I was so focused on the technical aspects and the codes set by the film industry, that I was forgetting the most important: the soul of the film and what story I really wanted to tell. After many setbacks and by questioning myself, I decided to spend more time on the script of my third short film Night and The Soul, now trying to share a strong message through a very personal vision of Paris by night. With Tristan Helias, the producer, we made 80,000 views in one week. And at last I could begin my career as a film director.
A few years later, photography came to me by accident. It had always inspired me a lot when I was preparing my films, but I never considered myself as a photographer at the time. A lot of friends photographer had tried to make films without succeeding, and conversely. I was young and I suppose I was afraid to take a step into the unknown and perhaps to disappoint people around me. So I left photography to others and stayed focused on my films. However, I finally decided to go for it during my last stay in Los Angeles a year ago. After the making of my last film Born Wild with my partner Victor Willems, which took a few months, I only had a few days left before my visa expired. I had invested all I had in Born Wild but succeeded in scraping just enough money for a few photographic films, so I decided to contact some models from my entourage and we improvised different shootings together. I really enjoyed taking pictures because for the first time, I didn’t have this huge pressure that I usually have when making films, where the slightest mistake can sometimes be dramatic and irreversible. Taking pictures is a more instinctive pleasure and mostly requires self-confidence. Unlike with film-making, you can get on alone and without any outside help or money. So against all odds, I discovered another way to create in complete freedom and independence. Thereafter, to my great surprise, magazines acknowledged my work. Thanks to this first experience, I understood that there are no boundaries when we want to create and that any means are good to express emotions. Photography has stayed with me ever since.
What are the contributions / influences that helped you develop your style?
I have always been fascinated by photographers who manage to transpose the emotion of a movie scene into a single picture. Great artists such as Juergen Teller or Olivier Zham, early pioneers of the global counterculture and believers in the realistic aesthetic called « anti-fashion » in reaction against the glamour of the 80’s, inspired me a lot. As for the young generation, some photographers come to my mind, as the French Théo Gosselin or the Australian Tim Swallow, who are very elegant in their way of directing and who do well in featuring their female models at their best.
When I write a script for a film, I also listen to a lot of classical music. It transports and takes me to an imaginary and dreamlike world in which I invite the spectator to join me through my films or my photos.
How is the relation between your photography and video work and visions? How they intervene on each other?
I have wondered about this ambiguous question all year round. Busy with my films, I hadn’t taken pictures for quite a while and once again I slowly started to doubt about being a photographer. So I tried to understand why I was so attracted by photography but also what was the reasons why it scared me so much.
Today, I am able to put things into perspective, taking time to define my style as a photographer and to better understand in which direction I truly wanted to go, at an age where everything is still possible but when it’s so difficult to make the right choices over the long run. I finally understood: it’s not the camera or the process which counts in either case, but the directing and what we want to share.
In my upcoming shootings, in order to get closer to the cinema, I would like to move away from the portraits and focus more on real life moments with one or several actors. Beauty, joy, sadness, passion, happiness: some unique and magical instants frozen in time which are to be remembered for life, alone or side by side.
This kind of photo shoot requires much more preparation than a classic one because it’s always complicated to replicate an action. It needs true acting. So now I take the time to write a script for my photo shoots, asking myself the right questions so as to be in harmony with my work. I think that emotions remain the same whether captured with a movie or a still camera.
How do you see the “nude element” in photography nowadays and as an artistic expression?
Most of the Parisian « nude » photographers want to make their models look sublime mainly by focusing on the curves and the beauty of their bodies. Like everyone, I started by doing that but soon realized that it wasn’t me, it wasn’t my preferred style. Then, after several trips to California those past years, I discovered the work of great photographers such as Larsen Sotelo or Brooke Olimpieri, and it was like a revelation to me. They « taught » me how to think differently, taking intimate and quirky pictures of women, at the same time dark and elegant.
In France, models are very careful and usually afraid to try something different. This provocative style is an approach still considered today as too risky in the fashion industry. Although mentalities have slightly evolved in recent years thanks to renowned photographers such as Terry Richardson or models Camille Rowe and Kate Moss, some people still consider my style borderline vulgar, especially in Europe. Indeed nowadays the Parisian fashion scene is extremely standardized and not ready for change and provocation.
Today, when I choose a model, first and above all I try to understand her personality so as to really focus on it. Of course the physical aspect is important, but it’s not the point. A strong personality or an atypical and marginal character will lead to a much more creative shooting and different to what we currently see in magazines. I am young and I still have a lot to learn, but I am very happy to be part of this artistic movement.
What is important to you to express when creating a portrait?
When I am making a film or shooting photos, I try to establish a real connection between my actor and myself. As the art director, photographer or filmmaker on a new project, my staging direction and my intentions remain the same : I am perpetually looking for strong feelings in order to capture a significant instant. For the portrait on a female model to come out well, I think that a relationship based on trust is key. By exposing their deepest feelings in front of the camera, they find themselves naked physically, but mostly psychologically, and It’s at this precise moment that the shooting portraits become very interesting to me.
Tell us about your ongoing projects and plans for the future.
I have just ended Lost In Carranza, a film that means a lot to me because I worked on it for almost 2 years. I am currently completing the color grading and I am planning to submit it to the Sundance Film Festival in September. It’s the story of Pablo Carranza, a young skater from San Francisco who could have been one of the greatest, but was arrested for theft and assault with a knife on a security guard, and put in jail. Slowly, he had taken the road to hell in the streets of San Francisco, unaware that he had lost his soul into drugs. Through this, I tell his story, his battle against his demons and old addictions. It’s a film about life, love and hope, which I am very proud of because it reflects my personality and part of my own weaknesses. The shooting was very complicated and some scenes are very hard to watch, but I am very proud of Pablo, because he went all the way despite my staging video methods which can sometimes be rather harsh. I blamed myself a lot after that and I couldn’t go near the editing for almost one year.
Today, I am also collaborating with Les Others Studio and Talisker on a beautiful whiskey commercial that was shot a few months ago on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I am now thinking of releasing a great « director’s cut », playing tribute to the brand and its know-how. This new video will probably be released this winter.
Finally, concerning photography, I am also preparing a photo exhibition in Paris about love and passion called « amour ». This project is very tough to set up, as complex as making films, because involving a lot of open-minded actors and improbable settings. It is particularly dear to my hear.
Do you have any advice to people who is starting to find their way in photography !?
For those just starting out, I would say to always create with the heart, to break the rules and follow their instinct. It’s not the camera which counts but the soul of the picture and the story we really want to tell. It’s not a free ride, but never give up and always fight to pursue your dreams. Everything is possible, the only limits are the ones we self-impose by being afraid of the unknown.