What are your earliest memories of photography?
I think it was
when I was twelve; my father worked for Air France and had taken us to
Hong Kong, where I was born in fact. My parents had bought me my first
camera, a second-hand Konica, and there I was for two weeks, taking
pictures. It’s funny, I recently found some of these photos and they
almost look like images I could be shooting today. I took pictures of
rickshaw pullers, but as I did not want them to see me and strike poses,
I hid behind a wooden fence and shot through a small crack. This made
the images all black, with in the middle a slit and a blurred figure. I
realise that back then, I had an instinctive sense of composition which I
have tended to lose at times by wanting to work on it too much.
Did you do more exteriors than intimate family scenes?
I think one of the very first pictures I took – not surprisingly, it’s
totally in character for me, my clownish and at the same time
ultra-sentimental side – was of my mother sitting in my father’s lap.
And then there was also nature: we lived in the suburbs, and I remember
photographing bits of branches, pieces of leaves, a few flowers. Then
came adolescence, and I pretty much stopped altogether, or at least
wasn’t photographing is a psychotic manner as before.
How did you come back to photography?
high school, I pretended I was studying for a while, all sorts of
stuff, and then I became copywriter for a PR company, did a bit of art
direction, and finally in the late 1980s, I decided to go into fashion
photography. I wanted to do fashion with ordinary people as models, I
firmly believed in that. I started to canvass agencies with a series I
had shot in my parents’ village, portraits of local people on a white
backdrop, a bit like Avedon. Luckily, it worked out relatively quickly.
Basically, I wasn’t really interested in fashion itself: I just wanted
to move in those circles and do what I liked - and I just did things my
way.So you had a career in advertising and fashion photography: when did you start working on personal projects?
I always took pictures between commissions, but I never thought of them as “personal projects”. When I did my book Libenter
a project about my parents’ house, it was really the first time I had
set myself rules and picked my tools: one camera, a Hasselblad, and very
little depth of field. It was my first self-assigned commission, and I
loved it. I thought of it almost as a technical exercise in style – for
instance, I tried to find a way to transcribe the smell of a flower, or
of the soil at a particular time of day.It was also an exercise in contemplation.
the contemplative type: I’m always the first to spot the beetle under a
leaf; I hear a little squeak and think hey, a shrew just broke a nail
on its third toe… I know the trees, the cries of birds. Hence the series
of rocks etc. I made. I enjoyed doing them, but in the current context,
which is so very conceptual, these things are unfortunately considered
too cutesy.You shoot a little every day and you gather objects more or less compulsively: are you a collector?
projects often reflect a form of “collectionitis”, which is an attitude
that makes me amass things pretty frantically. Sometimes, I look at
them and try to put them together. For example, Boisemania
project where I show all the envelopes people have sent me with my name
misspelt - is not a collection as such, it’s just stuff that I keep,
that I can’t throw away. I don’t throw anything away. The eBay
project was also an expression of my collectionitis: for a while, I
bought dozens and dozens of bits of metalwork, particularly tridents,
and I thought I had to photograph this moment of madness.
is similar in these images: these still lives were not necessarily
composed with objects I have collected, but rather that I can’t get rid
of. I have jay feathers, a small blue tit, pebbles etc. and when I look
at them in detail, it’s all just so pretty.
Limited edition, numbered and signed.