In the 1990s, you shot a lot of portraits for the press, and then
started doing much more landscapes, including urban areas. What decided
you to take this new direction?
I was doing a lot of press
commissions, almost every day, mainly portraits, and I needed a change
of air. Les Inrocks magazine was doing a special issue about New York.
They sent four photographers, among which Depardon and me, to shoot
portraits of New York City’s cultural scene. I was staying in a very
fine hotel overlooking Central Park. I was instantly seized by a
dizzying sensation: I felt tiny in the great city. I immediately felt
compelled to express that feeling in photography, the difference of
scale between men and the city.
How has photography allowed you to reflect this?
have always worked with a large-format view camera. It consists of two
“standards”: one to the rear with the viewfinder, one to the front with
the shutter and lens, and between them, the bellows. If you tilt one of
the standards, you can reduce the depth of field and modify the image’s
sharpness. I used this technique in portrait photography to focus on the
eyes only, while the rest of the subject and its environment faded away
in a blur. This tilting effect immediately seemed perfect to me to
express the deep change in scale prevalent in today’s megacities.
Applied to an urban environment, tilting creates a miniature effect.A bit like the impression you are looking through a magnifying glass at a world full of aimless little beings?
It’s the same feeling that Sofia Coppola so aptly addressed in her film Lost in Translation
whether in New York, Tokyo or Sydney, things are always pretty much the
same; you are a tiny person lost in a big city. I actually visited the
hotel where the film was shot, stayed there for two weeks, and that’s
exactly it. This was at a time when I myself was traveling non-stop, and
I felt the same detachment, a sense of being in a beautiful place but
not being sensitive to it. It could have been anywhere, at any time.
As if time were expanding, just as the city expands and becomes anonymous?
my photography, I always try to give a face to the image of generic
cities. Big cities are all increasingly looking the same, and the
emotions we feel in each of them are also becoming more uniform.
Have you now given up the tilting effect?
still use it, but differently. At first, I would exaggerate it, to
express the loss of scale in a more straightforward manner; now, I try
to explore the idea in more subtle ways. I still use tilting: it’s less
noticeable, but the weirdness remains.
This photograph of Tampa for instance has a slight tilt: the strangeness is still perceptible.In
this, are you again exploring the difference of scale between two
extremes, the vastness of the ocean and the tiny elements in the
This photograph of Tampa is at the crossroads of my
work on urban areas and of a new series I am dedicating to the oceans,
specifically to capes - places where you are on the edge of the world,
of civilization, where something new begins; equally immense, but
without the artefacts and noise. In a sense, it’s a counterpart for the
work I have done so far. This image stands at the junction of these two
zones: in the background, on the horizon, it still has a thin strip of
land, with a few small buildings, which are actually huge skyscrapers.
They stand out clearly, while the rest of the image is the moving ocean,
slightly blurred because it’s a little choppy. It’s interesting to work
on an element in constant motion: with relatively long exposure times,
you can play with the material.
Does the Mulholland Drive photo also use motion blur?
I wanted to use my view camera without a tripod, hand-held, like Weegee
worked in the streets of New York in the 30s and 40s. When I took this
picture, I had just seen David Lynch’s film Mulholland Drive
wanted to experience the road by night, as it winds across the heights
of Beverly Hills, and recreate the aura of mystery this place emanates,
especially for those who have seen the film.
Limited edition, numbered and signed.