“I am not interested in art as a mass production, which is why I only color one print of each character I create.”
Marie Carladous (born 1991 in Nice, France) is a contemporary photographer currently based in Nice, (France).
She’s recently completed her studies of photography at College of Charleston and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Arts.
Film photographer, focused on portraiture and hand-coloring.
Interview with Marie Carladous
Marie, you have been developing a quite unique project that involves portraiture and hand-coloring. How did you come up with that and what is the exact process you use?
I discovered the technique of hand-coloring during my second photography class at the College of Charleston. The last to final project was to experiment with new techniques, such as superposition and composition of negatives, Holga-type cameras, studio lighting, and hand-coloring.
I have always been a pro black-and-white photography, however I found myself having a lot of fun transforming my pictures after the printing process. Indeed, the pictures would be visually finite in black-and-white, but adding some colors takes them to another level of communication, it allows for a bigger visual impact.
As I said earlier, I started this series of portraits after the discovery of Cindy Sherman’s work. But not only: I have always had a preference for taking pictures of people rather than buildings or objects. Not that I find these last two unnecessary or uninteresting; I use them in my portraiture as well. However, the behavior, and its evolution, of people having a camera pointed to them is a unique experience, different each time.
Buildings and objects cannot provide this interaction, which also shapes the final aspect of my photographs.
“I mainly use two mediums to apply the color: either oil paint and q-tips or oil color pencils for details.”
The process of hand-coloring is quite simple. It requires all photographs to be printed on matte Fiber paper (not glossy or RC) in order for the emulsion to be appropriate and the colors to stick to the paper. Once dried and flattened (fiber paper curls up when drying), the photograph has to be coated with a Pre-Treatment Solution in order for the adherence of the color to be maximal. I mainly use two mediums to apply the color: either oil paint and q-tips (usually for large areas) or oil color pencils for details, or if I want hand-craftsmanship to be more visible.
Do you use analog or digital equipment?
I use analog equipment only. All my photographs have been taken with an Olympus-OM1 and 35mm films of different ISO (in between 100 and 400). I provide and dilute my own chemicals, that I then use to develop my own negatives and photographs.
Once my film is dry, I make a contact sheet in order to decide what picture is best to be printed. This is an important part of the printing process, for film photography is a consuming activity, both in terms of time and money. I then make a test print of the selected picture in order to determine exposure times and contrast levels.
Knowing that fiber paper tends to darken while drying, I make a few final prints with different exposure times to ensure that I will have the right amount of lights and darks in at least one of the prints.
I am not interested in art as a mass production, which is why I only color one print of each character I create. Once dry, the print is flattened in a heat-press, which the College of Charleston generously allows me to use during their open hours. My print is now ready to be coated and colored.
What does a single photograph or a body of work need in your opinion in order to stand out and get noticed? Especially keeping in mind the abundance of photographic imagery in today’s society where everything already has been photographed?
“A photograph could stand out by picturing in a new light something that has been photographed a billion times before.”
I believe a photograph (or series) needs, before all, to be visually compelling: in order for viewers to give more thoughts to a picture, they have to be stroked by the first look so that they stop and actually reflect about it. In my opinion, it also needs to be somehow mysterious. If the message is “too clear”, there is not enough room for interpretation for the photograph to speak to a larger audience.
Perhaps, it also has to be technically different: there is so much access to cameras nowadays that anybody can call themselves a photographer. However, if the camera remains a medium for the artist, and not the opposite, then the photographs taken gain more value.
Finally, a photograph could stand out by picturing in a new light something that has been photographed a billion times before. Indeed, it requires a certain talent to be able to make interesting again something that lost interest because of its profusion.
Do you think that priorities have shifted a little bit over the last couple of years to where self-marketing skills are becoming more and more important in relation to the actual skills as a photographer?
Absolutely. Some incredibly talented artists are still unknown because they are amateurs in terms of selling themselves, as well as the opposite is true. My own roommate told me that if I wanted to make a living off of art I needed to stop piling up my artwork in my own bedroom, which I think says a lot about my own marketing skills…
What do you think are the essential steps to successfully build a professional portfolio?
“A coherent series of prints makes way more sense than random prints put together.”
The most important thing is probably to develop a line of thought, a “project” or “series” around one technique or concept to be further explored. Indeed, a coherent series of prints makes way more sense than random prints put together, especially to an audience who is only going to see a few photographs and has to base its judgement on a first impression.
Besides, the quality of prints should be of adequate value, as well as the presentation. Finally, I believe a professional portfolio should be made of several of these “projects”, in order to show consistency of work and capacity of adaptation to different ideas.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenges photography is faced with? And what are the most important changes recently in that area?
Technology and as a consequence abundance. There are galleries where labels indicate “I-phone” photography as a medium. Photography isn’t much of an art anymore, but more of a mass production business. For changes, I would point out mass production again, with prints being printed digitally on canvas and paper.
Also, a shift has been made in the sense that people take pictures of what they believe is going to sell, instead of using photography in a personal and creative manner.
You have earned a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art/Photography from the College of Charleston. What is it that the academic career has taught you about documentary photography that working in the field couldn’t have and vice versa?
The academic teaching at the College of Charleston have taught me the basic techniques of film photography that I was fully lacking, which are the use of a camera and the development of film and paper in a darkroom.
The facilities there are amazing, and I have learned a lot by spending hours in the darkroom printing, with the help of teachers and other instructors. It also has taught me regularity and perseverance, for projects and deadlines are numerous.
“I believe that with patience and effort everything will come into place.”
The time spent in school also allowed me to figure out my own style and interests in the world of photography, which by the time I graduated were quite clear so that I could continue on my own.
On the opposite side, since I have been a freelance photographer, new challenges have arisen. I am still a young adult and having to be my own “boss” has sometimes been a little difficult to handle in terms of organization, but I believe that with patience and effort everything will come into place.
However, having to come up with my own projects has been very interesting. I have developed ideas that I could not use in school because it did not fit into the given guideline for the class. Now that these rules are gone, I have full freedom to create and it has allowed my series of portraits to evolve in a certain direction.
Besides, working in the field has also taught me a lot about the chemistry used in the darkroom. Being a member of Redux, I now use my own chemicals, which is a change from the College of Charleston, where everything was provided to us already diluted and ready to use.
Susan Sontag once said “The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality, and eventually in one’s own”. How has photography changed the way you look at the world and what have you learnt about yourself?
“Photographs are a way to convey ideas about other places and cultures.”
Photography has changed my view of the world in terms of what I pay attention to. Photographs are a way to convey ideas about other places and cultures and I try to avoid prejudice in the way I depict people in realistic or street photography. Eventually, this aspect fades away in this series of hand-colored portraits because they do not depict the person being photographed, and are obviously an unrealistic depiction of an imaginary character.
Every photographer is going through different stages in his formation. Which “landmarks” do you recall that have marked you and brought you to the place where you are today as a photographer?
There are a few steps that I will not forget. The first time I discovered the pictures of the roll of film I just took and developed, still wet. The time I stopped wondering if there was going to be at least one good picture to be printed. The time I dared printing on bigger paper. The time I started paying attention to the history of visual arts. The time I really started paying attention to light. The time I realized I liked taking pictures of people, although not in a wedding-photography manner but in a weird way. The time I realized I would rather have a complete different career than have to give up film photography.
What are you currently working on and where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
I am currently expanding this series of hand-colored portraits. Now that I am back in my hometown, the idea is to use every one of my family members as models for the same type of portraits.
Last but not least, let’s switch roles: Which question would you have liked to be asked in this interview about your work that I didn’t ask? Please feel free to add it – as well as the answer.
“I believe people will eventually buy my photograph.”
Maybe how do I think I will be successful in a film photography career, in a world where everything is digital and hence, super cheap and fast: my answer would probably be that I don’t know.
Patience, hard work and a bit of luck? Although film photography has almost faded from the artistic world, I find that people are very impressed/ interested when I show them my work, because it is different from what they see being done in digital photography, and they happen to value the manual craftsmanship.
Therefore, if I can improve my marketing skills (as we were saying earlier how important that is in the art industry nowadays) and succeed in having always more exposure, I believe people will eventually buy my photographs so that I can have the means to keep practicing film photography in the long run.