Let’s set the stage here, and first discuss the major series you shot
over the past fifteen years – from your first book about Russia to your
work in Los Angeles.
My series have wandered: I like to take my time. My first major project, a true “passage”, was Souvenirs du futur, Voyage en Russie
, 1995 in Yeltsin's Russia: it was both an end – I stopped using black and white - and a beginning - it was my first book.
After Russia, I moved to colour and for almost ten years, I worked on two parallel series: Fictions Intimes
and Les villes du cinéma
At the same time, I was increasingly asked to take pictures backstage
at the theatre, in very low light, and these conditions led me to
develop a specific technique, using film and a Leica – it’s the
technical mastery acquired in commission work that allowed me to explore
the night in my personal work.
Fictions Intimes is the snapshot of a
generation, capturing intimate moments, sharing with characters,
familiar or simply stumbled upon in a chance encounter.
I was working on a series devoted to film studios around the world. It
was a totally sentimental journey rather than a documentary, nothing
exhaustive. I chose the locations for the references: the myths they
reflect, my personal liking for the films that were shot there. The two
series were very complementary: empty studios inhabited by ghosts,
counterbalanced by Fictions Intimes
- as if I was frustrated by not having any characters in the studio and had invited them all into Fictions Intimes
And then, there was Merry Christmas
a series about Los Angeles homes decked in Christmas decorations. I
called it fantasy. And then the idea came that I was going to shoot
David Lynch. He had just finished Mulholland Drive
, and was
telling me about Hollywood and Beverly Hills: “in these houses, there
are all these people who have nightmares at night, and that’s what I
want to recreate in my films”. These Christmas homes I saw at night from
my car looked to me like decorations for these fantasies.This
series has a kind of thread running thought it: your relationship with
fiction, your desire for stories, and the night, which is when you
shoot. Is it because of the particular aesthetics it creates? For the
Yes - for me, it was always the night, for both reasons.
I found my style there. It’s my element. Once you master the technical
aspects, you can focus on what you’re looking for and stop trying to be
in control, really yield to instinct. I had to let go: of me, of the
city diving into the shadows, of people.
Things turn magical at
night: everything becomes more beautiful and free; everything takes on
an aura of mystery, stories have multiple endings. Nothing is fixed.
Colour too is exacerbated, stronger. And at night, I have more time, I
can escape, it’s a time when I can disappear – the night gives a
photographer the added freedom of becoming invisible.Letting go is also one of the angles from which you approach the narrative for your story: how is it constructed?
talk a lot about accident. That’s what I like. I’m really not into
concepts or a priori constructs. I want to catch things, I'm always
observing.And then there’s the texts that go with your books:
they’re not explanatory introductions to your images, but actual
stories. How much room do you leave for the author and his
I like to hand over the images to a writer, let
another author’s eyes lie upon my work, embrace it and build another
story that I myself had not read in my pictures. That’s how I worked
with Philippe Claudel for Fictions Intimes
and Selim Nassib for Faux-Frère
What do you think Faux-Frère is about as a story?
a very personal story. I’m married to a Uruguayan, who is from
Montevideo; over the years, we have ended up making the crossing from
Buenos Aires to Montevideo, as you usually never can reach Montevideo
directly. I wanted to express the idea of this journey, with the Rio de
la Plata which passes through and separates the two cities, one on
either bank, with their painful stories, face to face. It also tracks
the footsteps of history, but through my personal story.Your
environment is urban, populous, often agitated. Characters roam the
image, captured walking or running, sometimes for a car in which case
the image becomes blurred. Why is your photography in constant motion?
the occupation of places I’m interested in. Urban means human. Cars
travel, wander, they’re in motion. And if my pictures are always moving,
it’s perhaps because what I truly love is the cinema: my entire visual
culture comes from Fassbinder, Schlöndorff, Chantal Ackermann, the
Italians, the Americans too. This photograph of Montevideo could very
well be drawn from Carlos Saura’s Sur. To me, this image embodies South
America, nostalgia for Argentina.
I don’t film, but my yearning for
narration and fixed, yet moving images that I have developed technically
probably comes from that. I started with Kodachrome 25 film, which is
not very sensitive to light and forced me to work at night at very low
speeds, thus leaving the field open to motion within the image, to the
The image of Los Angeles is also totally
cinematographic: I shot it from a car Ben Harper was driving. My
assignment was to follow him around and make portraits, with very few
constraints. It was back in the days when some magazines would still
leave photographers free to choose their interpretation of the subject.
To me, this image has it all: motion, the night, the city and a story
Limited edition, numbered and signed.