1. What does photography mean to you?
Photography means life to me. True speaking. Among all my senses, the view is the most developped of all and I’ve always been looking at things in a photographic eye, just like through a permanent lens. I share the same interest for photography and painting in a sense that painting for centuries was they only way to illustrate stories and photography took the concept further. I started to shoot 40 years ago because i felt i needed a fertile ground for my creativity and my vivid imagination. Not through the subjects I would select back then, mostly landscapes actually, but in an way to answer a simple question : in the open world, what part could I feature in a 24X36 frame meaningful enough to speak for itself and speak for me ? That echoed somehow to an intriguing reading about Van Gogh’s ability to paint down a field on a canvas while turning his back to it. The painting was his own view of the field, being there was enough to feel it. Photographers have changed the canvas to a film.
2. What makes the good pixture standout from the average?
I would then definitely point out that a good picture to my eye can be pretty different from the viewers’ angle. A model, for instance, will nearly always focus on every single details about her while I care more the big picture. The model is a part of the picture, not a whole, even in a portrait picture. To me, most pictures must have a meaning. It’s an intercourse between a model and me thru a lens. A photographer is a somehow a storyteller in a frame, an alchimist stiring various items than become greater when put all together. And sometimes it can be bigger than you.
I look a lot of pictures from other photographers worldwide, sometimes it inspires me on a specific topic. Koreans modelling photographers are my favorite because the way they shoot models seems very close to mine.
3. One of today’s main discussion points amongest photographers is about the true of digital cameras?
That’s a very interesting question. But the next question is : what is the truth ? Did anyone wonder if Emile Adget’s photographics works in the XIXth century were that real ? The exposure time was so long that all his street pictures of Paris seem empty ! Not to mention that in some countries back then some people were very sceptical about photos talking about « soul robbers ». This is a new technology, the evolution of a revolution. For sure, I don’t consider smartphones the same as reflex cameras. To the present day, it’s nothing to compare, the settings have nothing in common but the purpose is not the same. When I was younger. You were thrilled to discover your picture, it was long awaited (sometimes even disappointing) and you would eventually keep the best ones them in thick and heavy albums. Nowadays, it’s the Instagram era of the digital natives : pictures are like the rest, right here, right now and next ! Those pictures are not here to last and most often, we don’t even print them anymore.
To bounce back on the concept of truth, the french governement has put regulations about editing because the imagery of women has been altered in advertising and covers of magazines. Neverending legs and supernatural bodies were taken to such a extend that it’s said to give complex to women about who they really are. Complex that take some of them into anorexy and similar disorders. But on the other end, lots of models are pretty aware of what can be done to enhance their style, especially when it comes to skin imperfection. They hardly can imagine to be printed out in their down to earth and day to day. Even their smartphones has got filters, haven’t they ? I conceal that it might not be their real self at the end of the process, but what’s the point ? If it brings them satisfaction and joy, that’s fine for me.
4. What is the influence of digital technology on your photography;do you use digital photography;do you use digital camera?
I have a digital camera, Canon 5D Mark III and I do a lot of editing to meet most of my customers’ expectations. Eventhough I started in the 80’s with a argentic camera, I much prefer to know the immediate results of my settings on the LCD screen. Its also a opportunity to share with my models step by step. On the other hand we often do more pictures that we need. Consequently, i really try to trigger only when I feel it’s the right time. Which means that sometimes you need to anticipate.
I use 5 differents software to upgrade my pictures, each of them having a dedicated post production use. Raw extraction, light balance, color effects, modifications.
5. How important is it for a photographer to connect with his subjects to bring out their true self?
I shoot lots of different people. Children, pregnant women, teens, adults, families but in every circonstances, it is essential to me to learn to know a little from models before starting. Who they are, why did they call on me, what are the expecting. I talk with them before and during the shooting, to get to know more about them such as their occupation, who they are, how did they meet as friends for instance, etc.. Entering a studio is often exciting as long as you stand up in front of the camera. Models can be pretty quickly disturbed but all eyes turning on them. I need to create conditions for the models to feel confident, not confused. Consequently, if required, I may suggest the friends or relatives who came along to stay out of sight for most of the shooting time. The connection with the models is the key to me and I really want them to have a good time, laughing and smiling for real. Shooting must be a experience.
6. Can you walk us through the actual process that you use to setup a portrait?
For more than a decade, my motto has been a quotation from Modigliani : «The time I will know your soul, I will painted down your eyes ». Eyes can’t lie. If a model is unsafe or not fully dedicated to the shooting, I feel it in the eye. Always. I’m really used to shoot newcomers and people who are far from being aware of the importance of this connection between the eye and the lens. To get their full attention and capture their emotion, I need to put them in the center of a bubble in which I direct their movements, making suggestions. I’m pretty demanding but experience proved that it really helps and comfort many models to see that I know where I want to guide them to.
7. Location & weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspects to a successful picture, how do you handle these unpredictable factors?
When it comes to locations, I try as often I can to visit the spot prior starting the shooting to get my marks. I do many shootings in Paris all year round For instance, so I’m pretty aware of where to stand and when according to the seasons. Many times I’m asked to shoot a model with the Eiffel Tower in the background so it’s important to be there at the right time of the day. Once, before going to Australia, I had to check out on Google Earth the sunlight on a beach to be sure I would be there on time ! If it’s a local such as a ballroom or a hotel story, there is always a problem with a lack of light so I do several tests before starting. Sometimes I can be puzzled by a setting or the furniture or the color of a carpet which doesn’t fit but most of the time I can handle it.
Weather conditions are tougher to cope with. I check out forcasts 3 days in advance and depending on what was scheduled, we confirm or postpone. To me, rain in the worst. I know some partly sheltered locations on the open air but rain comes often along with the wind and it’s a bad situation for hair, shoes and outfits, no mentionning the umbrellas that you can’t hold while shooting§. I’m more at ease with high temperatures but it’s really demanding for the make up and the skin shines sometimes badly. So once again, the key word is adaptation. I remember a shooting last summer where it was 40 degrees at 4PM and we turned the lifestyle shooting scheduled to a shooting in the very middle of a wide parisian fountain !
8. Color vs black&white. Why one over the other & is the photographic process different?
When I was younger, with filmstrips, I would have to figure out in advance what kind of pictures I would like to do. Nowadays, I I always take pictures in colors and I edit them in black in white if I feel it necessary. Actually, when you scroll all your pictures one by one, sometimes it’s just crystal clear that a b/w conversion is compulsory, because there’s something in the picture that demands to do so. It can be the eye, the light, I cannot say in advance. But suddenly that’s the one. I think that it comes from the fact that the strenght , the emotion or the meaning of the picture speak by themselves. By clearing the colors, we get to the core. Of course, it also happen that I turn a color picture in b/w on purpose, rock live venue backstage pictures for instance or expressive portraits.
Text: Saif Rahman Sozib