You started as a copywriter in an ad agency, and you’re now a
creative director. In the meantime, you became a photographer. How did
images come into your life?
I started late in photography. I
hadn’t studied graphic design: I started in an ad agency as a
copywriter. I didn’t really have a visual culture, but rubbed shoulders
with art directors, photographers, and understood that my main interest
was basically visual, even though I had no technical skills whatsoever.
As a copywriter, I was denied access to images; I started taking
pictures to compensate for the frustration. And in adworld, where things
always end up with a logo in the corner, photography allowed me to
create more freely. I was probably around 30 when I got started, and
soon realized I was really keen, almost obsessively in fact.Your practice of photography is very much linked to travelling…
much so: I need to go abroad. In France, the scenery looks all too
familiar, it doesn’t inspire me. I work almost exclusively in the United
States because it’s not that different from France: it’s a modern,
Western country – the ingredients are almost the same, but there’s
always an added hint of exoticism. I travel to the US once a year, on my
own, stay ten days and take pictures. Apart from then, I don’t walk
around with a camera.
The only pictures I took in Paris are still lives I shot at home in the very beginning.Why are you so attracted to the American West, to the great outdoors?
a form of streamlined simplicity in the landscape. I mostly visit
Southern and South-Western states, Texas or California, often in winter,
for the light and milder weather. I find it hard to work in urban
environments, in saturated places, probably because I'm a bit shy and
need a quiet comfort zone when photographing.
These bare expanses feel a bit like canvases on which you stage your scenes: is that how you see things?
do like purely contemplative images in which nothing happens, but I
leave that to others who are better at it. Perhaps it’s a professional
bias: I always prefer pictures where something’s going on, where there’s
an idea. In my work, I always try to tell a little story and keep it
simple. Which may be why I have chosen to use black and white to focus
on the idea, to be more concise. When I do colour, it feels scattered
When I place an object or a Batman figure in a
landscape - as I have often done – it serves as a kind of excuse for me
to stick my tripod in a beautiful landscape that would otherwise be
difficult to shoot just for itself.
Many of your images contain references – but from a very broad spectrum! From Courbet to Z-movies?
right: I would say they extend from Hopper to Snoopy. It probably comes
from my day job - being a sponge, absorbing everything around me.
I was a kid, I used to love Sempé; now, I love American cartoonists,
with their permanent witty nods to things, as much as Friedlander,
Boubat or Courbet.
Do you prepare your images in advance? How much you leave to chance?
I set off for the US, I usually have images in mind, things that come
to me all year long; I take notes. I often scribble a sketch, and once I
get there, I just wait for the right moment, the right location.
these two images, for instance, I had been looking for that puzzle for a
while: I ended up buying one on eBay, from a U.S. seller, and took it
back to the States. The book is also something I brought along in my
I leave home with ideas I want to bring to fruition:
sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t – if so, I try again the
following year. There’s a constant in my work, which I think can be felt
in these two images: they were taken ten years apart, but they could be
I have old habits too: I still work with film, using the
same camera and the same 50mm lens. I work in daylight or ambient
artificial light. I use no lighting, flash etc., I just have a tripod
allowing longer exposure times in low light. Like in this hotel room.
It’s very hand-crafted in a sense, it always leaves room for chance. For
, for instance, I had planned everything, and then
this car drove by with its headlights on, which was just perfect. There
are always happy little accidents that can make an image lively and
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