If you had to describe your overall photographic vision in 25 words or less, what words would you choose?
I like this quote by Leonardo da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” These words sum up my feelings about making pictures in the sense that, in my opinion, creating a simple image is often very difficult. On the contrary, for me, simplicity is definitely not synonymous with facility.
Why do you prefer black and white photography– and why are you so drawn to long exposure photography?
Through my photos, I’m not trying to show things as they are, but to share a personal and artistic vision of what surrounds us. I try to convey an emotion or even tell a story. Black and white intensifies the unreal and timeless side of the picture, immersing us in a particular universe. To me, the emotion is not the same in color as it is in black and white. It’s the same thing for long exposure. It yields unreal images … landscapes are transformed. It reveals things that we can’t see with the naked eye by capturing the passing of time.
Who are three of your favorite photographers, and, more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
There are many photographers I admire, all in different styles. I will first mention Nick Brandt. He is one of the photographers who has inspired me to do wildlife photography. His images are absolutely incredible. He succeeds in capturing some very intense moments and his work in black and white is just beautiful.
Michael Kenna is also a significant influence… he is a master of the genre. I admire the quality of his work. I can say that he’s one of the photographers who has inspired me to make black and white (and the square format). It’s a treat to look at his pictures, he has the power to make us travel through his images.
I would also mention Oleg Dou, a Russian artist. His works have nothing to do with mine, except for minimalism. But I’m an absolute fan … I love his universe; I’m totally amazed by his work. Is he a photographer or a graphic designer? I don’t know, but I don’t care … he is an artist!
What artistic influences, outside of photography, have had a significant influence on how you approach your photography (for example, painters, filmmakers, musicians, poets, etc.)?
I think everything that surrounded us more or less influences us. The music that we listen to, the movies we watch and the books we read … all of that influences us, sometimes unconsciously. It’s part of our culture and our artistic world and that can be reflected in the photography.
When I work on my photos in post production, for example, I always listen to music. Depending on the type of picture that I am working on, I listen to this or that style of music. This puts me in a mood or state of mind– and I think it affects the work on the photo. In any case, this is how I work.
What are your thoughts about trying to find the best gear possible versus working on making the best possible image with the gear you already have?
I’m really not someone who worries about the technical gear in photography. The material doesn’t matter to me. I’m definitely not the type to want absolutely the latest camera or have the best possible lenses. I have a camera that suits me perfectly (a Canon 5D MKII). It’s not the gear that makes the photographer. Buying a bigger camera will not necessarily make my photos better. I’ll keep my camera until it dies (which, hopefully, won’t be for a long time).
How would you define fine art? Is it just a label?
Yes, for me it’s just a label, but what does that label include (or not include)? I really don’t know … this is a vague term for me. From the moment that a photo has an artistic approach, and not informative or documentary approach, can it be considered as fine art ? And what’s the difference between art and fine art ? I can not really answer this question … Art is very subjective.
What are your thoughts about the benefits of online sharing? Are there any particular social media or image sharing sites you prefer or do not prefer? I am, once again, most interested in the why.
With the online sharing, we can have a very high visibility. This allows to show your work to a large number of people, and vice versa, discover many talents.
At one time, I posted on many specialized sites (DeviantArt, Flickr, Art Limited, Behance, Google+, Facebook, 500px …). I decided to stop posting my pictures everywhere because it’s difficult to manage. We can not respond to everyone, it takes too much time … now, I mostly post my work on my website and on my Facebook page.
I was very active on DeviantArt for a while, but I’m not going there anymore. The quality of the works posted is really worse to me, or, rather, do not match my tastes. However, if you’re a fan of little ponies, you’ll love this site! On the contrary, sites like Behance or Art Limited are full of really amazing artists. It’s a pleasure to browse these sites which are presenting quality works.
The Internet also has its limitations. We’re sometimes approached by people who are not always honest. Be careful. I got scammed several times … I begin to understand, and I’m increasingly distrustful.
What photographic cliché or common photography question, if any, irritates you the most?
Some people say that from the moment that a photo is edited, it is no longer photogaphy. This not my point of view. All my pictures are edited. I shoot in color and then I convert them to black and white, I reframe them into the square format and I work on the contrasts and levels (for almost all of my photos). Insofar as my approach is artistic and not informative, I don’t see “what is wrong” about reworking a picture. For me it’s the end result that counts, not the process. I don’t want to show things as they are, but to share an artistic vision of what surrounds us. Digital photography and new technologies are incredible tools … so why not use them?
If you were stranded on an island, and you could have one camera, one lens, one filter, one tripod, two books, and ten CDs, what would they be and why?
My Canon 5D MKII with a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8l and a B+W ND1000 filter. These are the tools I use the most. I love the focal that offers this lens (especially for landscapes) and the sharpness. The B+W ND1000 allows me to make long exposures even in broad daylight; it’s a very interesting, creative tool. For the tripod, it doesn’t really matter… as long as it stands up, and it’s robust enough to withstand seawater. I’ve got a Manfrotto 055XPROB with a 808rc4 head. This is good gear but a little weighty to transport (but that makes it fairly stable, especially when there is a lot of wind).
For the books: I’m not a big reader.
One thing is certain, I will take Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, to help me escape from reality. For the second book, I don’t know … maybe Robinson Crusoe … that might help !
It is very difficult to choose only 10 CDs. I listen to a lot of music (most of the day in fact). I will offer a rather eclectic choice of what to listen to depending on my mood:
- Massive Attack – Mezzanine
- Portishead – Dummy
- Ez3kiel – Naphtaline
- Amon Tobin – Bricolage
- Last Barons – Cheval de Troie
- Nirvana – Bleach
- Alice In Chains – Dirt
- Gojira – L’enfant Sauvage
- Mark Lanegan – I’ll Take Care of You
- Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire
Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
A few weeks ago, I opened a permanent exhibition. I’m not a professional photographer. I’m a freelance graphic designer and webmaster. I consider photography as a passion, not as my job. I don’t have specific goals regarding photography. I live day to day, without asking questions. Photography is, for me, a means of expression and escape, I want to practice without restrictions or obligations. This is why I do very little or no reports or ordered shootings. I want taking photos to remain a passion, and I want to practice it only when I want. This is also why I don’t make a lot of pictures … it’s sometimes hard to find the motivation when you have no constraints !
Is there any specific place that you would like to visit to take photos?
For the moment I don’t necessarily have the opportunity to travel, but there are many places I’d like to visit. I’d like, for example, to take a trip to Africa so that I could make a series of animal pictures in the same way as my “Dark Zoo” series but this time in the wild.
I would also love to go to Iceland for its beautiful and very diverse landscapes and its magnificent lights and colors. It’s a place that inspires me a lot.
North America also makes me dream– again for the diversity of landscapes and culture.
These are three of the top places I want to visit. Maybe two of them I will do next year. Nothing is certain yet, but I hope that I can! In the meantime, I stay in my area. But there is plenty to do here because the landscapes and lights are beautiful here as well!
If you had to come up with one very important lesson that you think every photographer needs to learn, what would it be?
To be honest, lessons and rules are not really in my vision of photography. I am self-taught in photography; I learned on the job. If I had one rule that would be: forget the rules … you must attempt, try new things and see what happens. I think that’s how you learn best. Each artist has his/her own artistic vision and own tastes … one should do as one pleases … just enjoy the photography!
Is there anything else you wish to add?
It’s very hard for me to talk about myself and my work. As I said, I do photography for fun and I don’t necessarily ask myself any questions … I work by feeling. However, if anyone has any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d be happy to answer them. And thank you to you, Nathan … it’s an honor to appear in this blog alongside other very talented photographers!
Explore more of Nicolas’s photography: Website | Facebook
Spotlight on Three Images
Image 1 – “In Love”: These images are part of a series named “Dark Zoo,” taken in 3 different zoos in France. I chose the zoos because of a lack of resources (material and financial) and by convenience. This allowed me to develop a concept around that. The imperfections of the precast or reconstituted environment that we find in zoos has led me to disregard the background and focus on the subject. In this way I got a minimalist and graphical series. The main work is done during the shooting. The goal is to obtain the darkest background possible. Usually I wait until the animal is front of dark foliage for example.
Then I work the picture in post-production, directly from the raw file in Adobe Camera Raw (Adobe Photoshop plugin), playing with contrasts and levels, until the dark background becomes black.
It’s been four years since I first started “Dark Zoo“; however, the series doesn’t contain a lot of pictures. During these four years I have taken nearly 2,000 photos and in the end, I have presented very few of them in my series. This is because it’s not always possible to have a black background in the photos. I also underexpose the photos (a little) during the shooting, which allows me to better manage contrasts during the editing (I prefer to work an underexposed image rather than an overexposed one!). I don’t control the lighting … It’s the natural light and I don’t use a flash. I have had no special privileges (such as being allowed to enter the enclosure) during my visits to these various zoos and I’ve never tried to have them. I was a visitor like everyone else there– which sometimes made the shot very difficult because of the cages and windows. It’s also difficult because I can’t position myself as I want. The animal decides where it will be, and I have to adapt to it, so it’s very difficult for me to predict a shot … I have to work with chance!
Concerning these photos in particular, I think I will never forget this moment. I was lucky to find be in the right place at the right time! This courtship was an impressive moment, violent and beautiful at the same time. See how they play with their necks. It was amazing to witness them playing with their necks and I had a lot of fun photographing them!
These 3 pictures form an original and beautiful triptych, one that tells a story.
Image 2 – “Heaven”: Absolute simplicity … just a few lines and curves … this is what I tend to look for in my photos … minimalism. Technically, nothing fancy … a large aperture (f/2.8) for maximum blur and a clean background. The light is natural (like all my photos), but I was lucky that a sunbeam illuminated the flower at the right time, which gives it an almost transparent look, like a glass flower.
Image 3 – “The Flood”: This is one of my first black and white photographs, and also one of my favorites from my series “Against Wind and Tide.” It is a place right next to my home, where I regularly go, but one that’s different every time I visit. The subject is very basic but I still remember this moment and this beautiful curtain of rain (one should not be afraid to get a little wet at times).
A Few More Images