“The most pleasing moment is when photography allows you to meet people you wouldn’t have met other way.”
Thomas Bouquin (born 1980 in Lyon, France) is a French contemporary landscape photographer currently based in Montreal, Québec (Canada).
He studied photography at “Concordia University Montreal”.
“My work primarily examines the concept of territorial identities through the interrelationship between man and its habitat, and how elements such as memory, space and light can influence and modify our perceptions of these places.
Visually, I am working within the gap between photographic subjectivity and documentary traditions.”
Interview with Thomas Bouquin
Thomas, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?
Maybe when I was 14 or 15 years old, when during a hiking trip in the Pyrenean mountains with my family, my dad lend me his camera for the vacation, an Olympus OM-1 with a broken lightmeter.
I remember him giving me advice on how to use aperture and speed regarding the light, and how to look at different things, some interesting subjects to depict in photographs.
For me it was like growing up.
Of course most of the pictures were not very good, but in few of them, I rediscovered the feeling I had on the actual place when looking at the photographs.
It was such a great feeling and discovery!
Why did you become a photographer?
Certainly because it makes me feel alive, it’s the think I like to do the most.
I mean, I just love to walk, looking at the world outside/inside and make pictures.
I feel it makes me connect with the present and reality very intensely.
And maybe it gives me a sense to follow a kind of history, because my grandfather and father were photographers, too.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to say with your pictures?
A lot of things, especially a way to create something that includes the present with a sense of the space, the past, memories, history, light – which merge a lot of conscious and unconscious thoughts.
I’m not sure if I want to transmit something special, maybe only my relationship to things.
I mean it’s a medium I use to mediate things in a front of me, things that interest me and I want to show to people.
In a sense it’s a way to talk and communicate with others, to create interactions. The most pleasing moment is maybe when photography allows you to meet people you wouldn’t have met other way.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
Maybe it’s this young and almost unknown photographer called Stephen Shore.
No, seriously I had a real and strong discovery when my ex-partner offered me the Phaidon retrospective book about Stephen Shore’s work. It was like I discovered the kind-of stuff I tried to make, but thousands of time greater, as such a master could do.
The way he framed, constructed pictures about everyday subjects, his amazing sense of light and space and composition, how he used colors. Especially the “Uncommon Places” body of work.
During a photography history class, I wrote an essay about him and the “New Topographics” exhibition.
He had such a huge legacy on landscape and documentary photographers, and still have today. It’s just amazing.
Your favorite quote about photography?
It’s a Luigi Ghirri quote I like a lot:
“Every time we visit a place, we basically bring with us all we have already experienced and seen.”
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
Thinking about images all the time, reading a lot of books, looking at what great masters did before, and contemporary photographers are currently doing.
Walking a lot, taking notes and lists of things I want to go back to photograph.
And I do a lot of pictures for my projects. Then I have to edit and sequence them, it’s not the easiest part for me.
Sometimes I had to make bad pictures of things I have in mind in order to move on, to test the idea, and confirm if it works or not. I need a free space to enter, create and see what happened. I’m a bit intuitive in my process.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
To not make pictures to please others, even if it’s great to have nice comments and feedbacks.
One thing I learned by photographic teachers, friends and readings, it’s to assume your references, to emulate what you like and to try building your own perspective.
Try to be yourself in a reverential space, it’s not easy, but it’s very challenging.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically (color treatment, framing, lens use, etc.) and conceptually?
“I need to walk a lot, I really use my body to photograph.”
I like to work with standard lenses, closely to the human vision. That way I could frame with my eyes first, and look carefully at things before trough the viewfinder or glass of the camera.
And I need to walk a lot, I really use my body to photograph, I spend the first part of a session to practice, to be in the mood of my work, to isolate myself and to be concentrate on my subject.
I’m interested to document ordinary things but in the same time to include a subjectivity approach of it. A kind of strangeness, frozen in a straightforward aesthetic.
I’m really focusing on things that modify and influence our perceptions of places. Using memories, light and space as matters to create pictures.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
To be passionate and work, it’s just about work to materialize ideas.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes? Especially keeping in mind the flood of images we are exposed to every day.
“…maybe it has to challenge our sense of vision, to make us rediscover things.”
We all are part of this flood of images, everyone could do a great picture once, but it’s become harder to repeat it in a series on a specific subject, to create a good rhythm and an interesting story.
There is no secret. A great picture still to be alive after years as the work of Atget or Sanders, so maybe it has to challenge our sense of vision, to make us rediscover things.
And it’s funny when you say to people you’re a photographer. Every one know someone, a friend or cousin, who does great pictures with his new DSLR…
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Everywhere from books, movies, Internet, discussions and suggestions by peers…
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
A light shoulder bag with the Mamiya 7II, 80mm lens, Kodak Portra 400 rolls and a sekonic lightmeter.
Sometimes a Manfrotto tripod.
For my current project I’m using a Toyo Filed 4×5” camera with color film, it’s great!!!
What’s your favorite website about photography?
Not a specific one. Each one brings something different and interesting!
What book about photography would you recommend?
I recommend the photography section of a good library or bookstore, and read them all!!!
But maybe the “Phaidon Stephen Shore Monograph”.
Or the “Luigi Ghirri Project Prints” published by JRP Ringier. There are a lot of great texts from him inside.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) photographer?
I recently read a quote of Henri-Cartier Bresson saying:
“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”
So make pictures again and again and please use the HDR setting on your camera with parsimony, otherwise it would break your retina!!!