Jerome, you're a French documentary / street photographer, tell us a little about you:
I was born in Nantes in 1971 and I currently live in Paris. 10 Months ago I was still living in the UK where I spent seven wonderful years. With a graphic design background I express myself with something between documentary and street photography. My work mostly focuses on long term projects because of the human aspect, but also to have better insight and understanding of a situation over time. Photography is a medium that allows me to explore the cultural and sociological aspects of life in order to understand the relationship between people, their traditions/habits/cultures and their environment.
I remember having my first camera at the age of 14. It was a Kodak Extralite 400 like. Then at the age of 18, I got my first film dslr, a Pentax one. I mostly used it to take pictures of friends and landscapes. In 1989, when I started my graphic design studies, I stopped taking photos. It is only in 2003 that I decided to undust my good old camera as I was about to take off for my first trip to Nepal. Unfortunately, I dropped it on a rock and broke it the day before I go to the Annapurna base camp, the highlight of the trip. Back In Paris, I bought my first digital camera and since then I haven't stopped shooting street scenes. Nowadays, my 5D MII is my best friend following me everywhere.
You spent some time here in the UK. Was it easy coming back to France and do you miss the UK?
It was my choice to come back to France. Not that I was unhappy in the UK but I felt that it was the time for me to come back to France and get closer to my family and friends.
It was easy to come back to France. However it is less easy to start a business all over again.
From a business point of view, the UK is probably one of the very best countries to create, make and grow a business in Europe and maybe the world. I certainly do miss that side of UK.
Fortunately, it is not the only aspect I miss. I hope that the British do realise how lucky they are to have the BBC. In seven years, I probably watched some of the finest TV programmes (most of them documentary ones) I have ever seen in my life. I also miss British beers. I am a fan of them and the value for the price is incredible. Here in Paris, you get an industrial pint of lager for a price that starts from 5€ up to 10€. Is that not a real rip off?
In summary, I miss the bbc, the beer, the general British atmosphere and culture (I actually feel closer to the British culture than the French one) and of course all the friends I made in UK.
Looking at your photography, it seems you're very focused on getting a full body of work before moving on to the next rather than the odd unrelated shot here and there. Is this correct and how important is it for you?
I always include my photographs into series. The very first one was a collection of random images expressing my wandering in the Parisian streets. Its title was in French “Déambulations parisiennes” (Parisian wandering).
I am probably more into series because I am more interested in the narrative aspect of photography. I am interested in the connection that some photographs can have once edited together and what they express about our everyday life and culture. In that sense I feel closer to the documentary genre rather than the street photography one.
How important is it for me? I don't know if it is important but I feel that you can go further into your subject by working on a series (could you express the life and the feel of one place through one single photograph?). Sometimes it pushes you to be more creative and to look deeper at things. Then when the time comes to edit your work, some of your photographs may reveal some unexpected aspects of that place … that illustrate a different side of it and that might be worth exploring.
"Better to die unknown and true to yourself than being fake and famous."
Social events seem to fuel your photography don't they?
A bit on that particular project. For 'From England with Love' I attended some events like agricultural shows and the Cheltenham Gold cup race because I was interested in exploring that side of the British culture. I hope to be at the next Cheltenham Gold Cup. This project is still an on-going one.
Could you describe in one word what's so unique about being British Vs being French?
One word!! That is really a tough question because at first sight, we may think that our European and Western life is the same. But when you start living there, you also start realise that there are an infinite number of daily details and behaviours that are revealing a very different culture.
So one word: Funny
Let me give you an example. You probably know Jon Snow, the channel 4 TV news presenter. I used to watch his news. I like him. He wears some beautiful suits but have you ever looked at his tie? He is able to have a very smart suit and at the same time wear a tie with a mickey mouse printed on it. Is that not funny? In some way, that detail tells you a bit and maybe a lot about Britishness. No way would you see a French TV news presenter doing some serious interviews with a mickey mouse printed on his tie.
What are you working on at the moment?
If I was still in the UK, I would keep working on From England with Love. Next year hopefully.
I may have started something here in France. I don't really know yet if it is a series but it is definitely the start of something. Right now it is like a a photo diary on my blog. It talks about myself, my new life in France and my exploration of the country. Its name is No Postcards Here.
You run a lot of workshops. How important / valuable do you think these (or workshops in general) are for people attending them?
Rather than focusing on some technical aspects, my workshops focus on the making of an image. I talk about aesthetics, content and all the aspects that make a photograph alive and tell a story. My aim is also to open the eye of my participants to the creativity of the street photography genre and the culture behind it. From that point of view, I am not so interested in teaching them how and what they should exactly take in their photograph but instead I am here to give them the elements that will help them to develop their own creativity and express their vision of the world through photography. During a workshop, photo reviews are very important in that process.
Finally, what's the most important piece of advice you wish you were given early in your photography or could give a beginner?
I wish I had started studying photo books earlier.
My piece of advice to a beginner would be to never stop learning. Learn from the masters, study photo books, read about photography. Then be creative, be yourself. Photography is about selfishness. Better to die unknown and true to yourself than being fake and famous.
Thanks very much Jerome!