Please welcome week 28 artist Rodolphe Simeon, aka Tous les noms sont déjà pris... pfff.., as curated by kelco. Thanks are due to both to both Kelly & Rodolphe for this week's tremendous interview and exhibit. You can find more of Rodolphe's photos in his stream or at his website. Kelco's introduction and his interview with Rodolphe follow below.
As he is for many that have seen his photographs, Rodolphe Simeon is one of my very favorite photographers. The fact that he has only been taking pictures for about 3 years kinda pisses me off - but he is so full of talent and such a nice guy that I have no choice but to forgive him.
His images hang framed above my computer monitor and next to my front door, providing inspiration while I work and every time I leave the house. They remind me that the art of photography in this digital age is very much alive and worthwhile.
1) Why do you make photographs?
Taking photos is a way to produce what I've had in mind for a long time. I started in October 2005, after seeing the documentary "War Photographer" about James Nachtwey. This documentary was a revelation for me. I understood that photography was the way to make my vision come alive.
So after seeing the movie, I went to a store and bought my first camera. I started to shoot everything I could, again and again, and suddenly I took two pictures that changed everything. One was of a homeless guy and the other was of a friend of mine making faces. This was the real starting point, the basis of what I have done since then.
I do photography more as an art form, because it keeps me alive as a child. I feel very strongly connected to my childhood when doing art. The child I was is really the strong basis of myself now. As a kid, I was always creating my own things, exploring my feelings freely, trying to invent my own rules, trying to understand my environment and other people. When doing art, I'm still the kid I used to be. With no borders except the ones I want. Another thing is that, when doing art, I take everything under control in a way. I can decide about every detail. Everything is my choice. Good or bad. It's a real satisfaction and a struggle at the same time.
2) Until very recently, your Flickr stream was silent for nearly a year - why?
During the past year major changes have happened in my personal life, so I've had less time for photography. At first it was very hard not to have time to produce more photos, but after a while, I found it very cool to stop photographing for a while because I was thinking that I didn't have the quality I wanted with my photography. So I took time to think about it, and I finally had some ideas about how to improve myself as an artist. I'm not really talking about technical aspects, because I'm not really focused on technique. I'm talking mostly about the meaning of what I'm doing. During this time, a lot of magazines interviewed me, and answering all their questions helped me understand more of what I was doing and what I needed to do. I did three big photo shoots during the past year without showing the pictures to anybody. I will most definitely publish some soon. My archives count perhaps 50,000 photos :-) Now, I'm back!
3) You relocated from Paris to Vancouver last year. How has the move effected your photography?
It hasn't changed anything. I have taken pictures in the street in 12 countries. I can do it anywhere, and staged photography can also be done anywhere. The only thing that is different here is that people are more positive and happy to see others succeed. In Paris, everybody is selfish and worrying about themselves. And they are so competitive - most of the time for no reason. Vancouver is very laid back. It's easier for me to create in this type of environment. I do the same things I used to do in Paris but with a better context around me.
4) Do you have a preference between street and staged photography?
It's two faces of the same coin. When things seem to be opposite of each other, it's perhaps because they are very similar.
5) Do you have a method for eliciting particular expressions from your subjects?
I always repeat that I don't have any particular methods, and it's true! What I photograph is what people are. I don't invent them. Even with staged photography, in a way it's not really staged. I'm just there with my camera trying to catch a part of the essence of the model. It's a strange process. My role is to push models in different directions and to see how they react. I don't come with any particular ideas to the photo shoot. Each time I did come with a plan, I didn't respect it! People inspire me on the spot! I help them discover aspects of themselves they don't know or don't like - sometimes the model takes the session as a chance to show who he/she really is. Working with models is more like a mind game than a photography issue.
6) What camera/lenses/computer/software/workflow do you prefer and how much time do you spend processing your images?
I'm a Canon/Mac guy, like perhaps 80% of people in the business. Nothing spectacular. I have a Canon because all the people I know use Canon and it's more easy to exchange lenses or cameras. I have a 5D - it's an amazing camera. I can count on it all the time. My lenses are a 50mm f1.4 and a 17-40mm f4L. I have a Mac computer because Macs are 200% reliable. I use Lightroom to transform RAW files to PSD. I don't do any processing with Lightroom (not even the White balance). I do the entire post-processing in Photoshop.
I usually edit 300 pictures down to only like one photo. I spend, on average, 40 hours in post-processing on the one photo I really like. I'm pretty slow. Especially because I take a lot of time to think about what I'm doing. Technique is not really a problem. Sometimes I could probably do a better technical job, but meaning is more important. Meaning is everything, so I spend more time on research - looking through painting books, reading things, thinking, etc...
7) Which artists/photographers inspire you?
I'm really influenced by classical painting, from the Renaissance to the 19th century, and all of what I'm doing is connected to that. That's my real inspiration. My favorite painters are Da Vinci, Jacques-Louis David, Wermer, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, etc. In classical painting, the light is really the BIG thing, and I try to have that type of feel in my pictures.
I know how to draw in the classical style. And it's a great help when trying to understand light or manipulating it. I like the way classical paintings deal with reality. Most people think that classical paintings are "realistic" but that is definitely not true. Classical painting pretends to reproduce reality. Can we believe that the portrait of the French King Louis XIV (by Hyacinthe Rigaud) shows the King in his "reality"? No - it merely shows the idea of the King. The decorations, symbols, and personality depicted in the painting is a pretend game. As a conclusion, the "realistic" portrait is a major twist of reality - and I really do the same thing with photography. What I also like is that sometimes as people of the 21st century we cannot really understand all the true meanings of these paintings because the messages are connected to the culture of that time. But we still can feel the heaviness of the symbolism, and I love that mystery. I love to feel things while not really understanding them. OK... I'll stop here because otherwise I'll talk about it for hours! :-)
In photography almost all my favorite photographers are documentary photographers: Nachtwey, Salgado, Curtis, Burrows, etc. First, because they are really "painting with reality" - which means that they can go anywhere and know how to compose paintings with what they have in front of them. Second, because I like the idea of being an artist traveling all around the world, perhaps because I would love to do so.
8) Out of your photos selected here, which one means the most to you and why? (This shot was swapped for another in this weeks gallery per the Spotlight 7 rules, as it isn't a portrait...)
Out of your selection, I chose this photo because it's exactly what I'm doing with photography. When taking pictures of people, I undress them, take their picture, put their photos on hooks in my dark room, and after, I show that to everybody! One day I met a homeless guy who was a philosopher. He used to have Umberto Ecco as a teacher in Italy. He demonstrated to me during two hours why photography is "the art of death". I believe so. Photography is an art form that chooses subjects that are alive as models, but as soon as a photo is taken that subject is "dead". It is completely the opposite of Theater. Theater lets subjects live freely from beginning to end. This photo could be called "the art of photography".
9) Do you have any new projects in the works?
I have many on-going projects. One with black & white photography, but it's too soon to talk about it. Otherwise, I'm trying to give more uniqueness to what I'm doing, because in a way, I'm disappointed by photography. When I print my photos, I'm always sad. The quality of prints is never what I want because it's only a piece of paper and nothing more. I'm now trying to produce more unique pieces. Of course I understand that pictures can live on screens, but when printing my photos, I feel that I can do more than just print them. I think that my love for art pushes me in that direction more and more. Another thing I will do this year is to promote my art. I didn't have time this year to do so, but now, the time has come.
10) Show us your favorite photo on Flickr...
In fact, I have 2. They're not really pictures. They're 2 buddy icons.
The first is yours (kelco):
...because I never understood the relationship with your icon and what you're doing. It intrigues me a lot! I think about it each time I see it, I ask myself about it.
The second one is the one of Junku
...because he's one of my favorite photographers on Flickr too and because I love how he seems twisted in his icon. It's kind of strange. But It's so him for me, and again, each time I see it I try to understand something about it.
I love these 2 icons. I'm sure that the stories behind them are very simple. But I don't want to know. I prefer to stay with the mystery.