“Sometimes I wait a long time before developing my film so I forget what I had captured. The sensation of the image appearing on the paper in the darkroom is just magic…”
Nicolas Hermann (born in 1978 in Nice) is a French contemporary photographer. A friend of his family was passionate about photography and shared it with him before he died. Then Nicolas Hermann learnt by himself and by participating in a few workshops where he met other people with a passion for photography. For Nicolas Hermann photography is a way to visually capture what’s on his mind.
“Photography has always been to me what words are to a novel. A way to express myself, to develop my writing through slices of life rooted in a particular atmosphere, sometimes flirting with the frontiers of oddness. Just like the omniscient author, I commit myself into penetrating my protagonists soul, revealing their deepest sins and mysteries, at a glance. Using black and white film, I am seeking for interplay of lights and shadows proper to the charms of poetry and enigma.”
Interview with Nicolas Hermann
Nicolas, why did you become a photographer?
I started photography because I felt it was the best medium for me to express my sensitivity and vision about my daily life.
What does photography mean to you? And what do you want to transmit with your pictures? And in others words: What is it at all that a photograph can say? Especially keeping in mind the over abundance of photographic imagery in today’s society.
Photography is a way to capture my thoughts, my doubts, my vision about life. I love sharing my work with people and I hope some would be touched, surprised or self-questionned about it. I use this medium to share my vision with others and maybe show life in an another way. Capturing details, life, forms or ambiance that people won’t see or pay attention because of their daily routine.
You are a traditionalist, an analogue photographer, enjoying film. Why?
I started learning photography with digital cameras. It was a good way to understand quickly the results of the change of shutter speed, aperture or ISO.
Then I sold all my digital equipment and bought an analogue camera. Since then, I’m only capturing life with film.
“The fact that I only got 36 frames makes every single capture important.”
First, pixels look different from grain, even if today with digital techniques you can make it almost look the same. The fact that I only got 36 frames makes every single capture important. Then, I can’t look right away through the viewfinder after a shot. So I can stay focused and concentrate more on the scene. Sometimes I wait a long time before developing my film so I forget what I had captured. Finally, the sensation of the image appearing on the paper in the darkroom is just magic…
Which photographer has inspired you most?
I’m studying masters of photography by myself by buying books about photography. Every week, I discover the work of a new one. There are plenty of talented artists.
I love especially the work and commitment of Diane Arbus, the poetry of Sergio Larrain, the graphic colored scenes of Alex Webb, the streets captures by Daido Moriyama, the world and universe of Michael Ackerman.
Your favorite quote about photography?
“Quand je fais des photos, où que ce soit, si j’ai 46 ans, 2 mois, 16 min et 20 s c’est le temps que ça m’a pris pour faire cette photo. C’est l’accumulation des expériences et des cultures qui fait que j’ai fait justement cette image à ce moment-là.” Bernard Plossu
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process? How do you plan and execute a project?
“I’m interested in capturing life, man in his environment. An environment that I’m trying to make look unreal or timeless.”
I love creating poetic or enigmatic photographs, playing with lights and shadows with black and white. There is almost always a character in my pictures because I’m very interested in capturing life, man in his environment. An environment that I’m often trying to make look unreal or timeless.
I don’t plan and execute a project. I photograph my life and surroundings and try to interpret it with my vision and sensitivity.
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 photographer?
I started photography three years ago, and I remember that I bought a digital camera to learn photography. I did a workshop to learn the basics of photography and how to use my camera. I understood that we had to be careful about becoming a geek or new camera addict buyer because of the brand new model and technology that arrives on the market every year.
“Don’t be a slave to your camera.”
So buying books and not gear was my biggest landmark, so I develop my style by knowing by heart my camera and not being preoccupied of the technical issues. Then you can focus on your creativity. Don’t be a slave to your camera, but let the camera be the medium to express yourself, the extension of your arm and eye.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
I only work with black and white because I like the way you can create your own world. I love developing my films and images in my darkroom. I do the all processes of creation by my own from the capture to the final image. I only use a 35 mm lens that is my favorite lens because I love the perspective, not to wide and not to close. I’m always trying to frame what I want in my shot before so I don’t have to worry about cropping the image and perspective later. I use Kodak 400 Tri-X film for the latitude of development of it and especially its grain look.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
Passion about it. Sensitivity about what you feel, being aware of your surroundings and environment, persistency about making an interesting body of work.
Where do you draw inspiration from your photographic projects?
From my life and travels. I always bring a camera with me so I’m always ready to capture what catches my eye. With time, a natural direction and style is developing by itself with good attention on the choice of my photographs.
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
After trying different cameras, my Leica MP with a 35 summicron is the one that suits me the best. Small, solid and very discrete.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
I look at Magnum Photos and follow the “British Journal of Photography”.
What book about photography would you recommend?
I love books! There is a collection that I love and that is very affordable: “Photo Poche” by Robert Delpire.
It is a collection of the most important photographers. Each of them has his work presented in a single book, with very good image quality. If you want to have a large knowledge of the masters of photography, here it is!
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) photographer?
To develop his own vision by making personal photographs, then it will be unique. And to be patient, as Henri-Cartier Bresson said: “Your first 10.000 photographs are your worst” – and you can add some more for digital. (laughs)
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.
Q: What do i feel about the mobile photography and its abundance of new photographs and upcoming photographers?
A: I thinks it’s great that technology makes photography easier to learn and use. The best camera is the one that you always carry on with you, so I think mobile photography is and will continue to grow. It popularised photography and lets the chance to anyone to express his sensitivity and creativity. The most important thing is not the camera you have, but what you want to capture with it. I’s just a tool at the service of his master.