Behind the lens
Exclusive Interview with Francois Ollivier
How long have you been a photographer ?
I am having a hard time calling myself a photographer, but let’s say that it’s been 2 years since I tried to give a meaning to what I do. Maybe that’s what being a photographer is, having a vision of what may become an entity, a serie. Or maybe it’s when your mom is not the only person anymore to encourage you.
Otherwise, I’ve been taking anaolg and digital pictures since 5 or 6 years.
Where does your passion for photography come from?
From nowhere in particular. I’ve always been amazed by the force/ impact images can have but I don’t have cool story of my Dad giving me my 1st camera when I was a kid. Photography is just an artistic way of expression that I can use quite easily, just like music or writing. I don’t draw so I guess it’s the only design tool I can handle is my camera.
Can you tell us the true basis of your inspiration?
Photojournalists, people who understand light and play with it (in any artistic field) because light is everything, people with a point of view to share.
I am not really into technicalities and I know nothing about the most recent cameras or gear … so I admire people who focus on doing their stuff rather than knowing wich gear is the best.
Amongst contemporary photographers, my hero is Benoit Paillé, obviously. I had a chance to attend a workshop with him. He really is one of the most gifted / free-spirited dude of our generation. His work’s a great source of inspiration to me.
And how would you describe your own work?
Right now, it’s a form of portraits, where the model is as important as the environment, I honestly spend more time scouting locations than shooting. By night, after work, I like that. It takes time, but I like quality more than quantity. Out of 10 interesting locations, I will pick only 2 or 3.
I like playing with natural set ups, that become interesting only if you want it. I like places that were not built to look good. I like doing stuff with a time constraint. For example, I am going to shoot a series this fall with a light you can only get 30 minutes a day, between semptember and october, here in Montreal. Because the same light would be different somewhere else.
What is the story behind your Cuba Series?
I went to Cuba with no particular idea of what I was going to shoot. After 2 or 3 days it was really clear: colours, symmetry and complete strangers.
What did you try to achieve ?
First, I focused on finding the right spots, the ones with a big visual interest.
Usually when I find a spot, I test it with a few shots to see how it goes and then I wait for the right person that would fit in; hoping that the person will agree to be shot too.
I guess I tried to achieve a mix of photojournalism and design, in very singular places.
Could you tell us a story that happened with one of these images ?
That’s probably one of the best shot in the series, but I was not even supposed to be in Cuba that day.
There was a little confusion with my lift back to the airport, and I waited for my bus the wrong day. Conclusion, I had to stay like 30 more hours in La Habana.So I went out for a quick walk, found that wall, waited a few minutes, and BOOM, the old lady just pops out of a little street nearby wearing the same colors as the wall.
She accepted to get shot, I was in the middle of the street, I shot in 25 seconds from close to far to get different angles, and got gently hit by a car because I had not seen the light passed to green…I was in a middle of the traffic. People don’t have much patience and apparently, it’s ok to poke people with your car in Cuba before actually using the horn.
And wich one is your favorite and why ?
The old lady with the umbrella I would say, for the cool story behind the image, and because yeah, I was not even supposed to be there. She was truly providencial.