“I try to make people ask themselves questions, to let the imagination run free.”
Julien Legrand (born in 1979) is a street photographer currently based in Lille, France. He is a member of the Street Photographers collective VIVO.
“Most of Julien Legrand’s pictures explore the chance moments of everyday life. For him, streets and public spaces are inexhaustible sources of inspiration.
He always has a camera with him and takes pictures almost every day, anywhere, at any time. He operates spontaneously, instinctively, creating a visual record that does not seek to relate or denounce anything; he prefers to let the imagination run free.
The idea of being suffocated by a repetitive and impersonal daily life frightens him, so shooting on the street is his way of constantly keeping in touch with the world around him.”
Interview with Julien Legrand
Julien, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures out on the streets?
The day I shot this one which is displayed on the front of my homepage. I was at this place, wondering what the dots on the pavement were for, everything was grey around. Then this guy arrived, adding some colors to the scene, some of them matching the one on the pavement I felt – wow!
Why did you become a photographer? And why street photography?
I’ve always been attracted by images. I learnt graphic design at school. Maybe I feel more comfortable by communicating with images rather than talking. I’m amazed when I’m outside, by the movements of the people, the situations, the changing light from a day to another. It is very inspiring to me. By the way, lastly I saw so many people talking about street photography and trying to define it that now I prefer not to consider my work as street photography, I find it too restricting.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to say with your pictures? Or what it is at all that a photograph can transmit in your eyes?
Photography is a kind of extension of myself. I have always been watching what was happening around me, the camera is just a tool for recording.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
Hard to choose one. Currently, the ones who come in mind are Harry Gruyaert, Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Ernst Haas and Jonas Bendiksen.
What’s your favorite photography quote?
Lastly, this one from David Alan Harvey:
Life is all about how you look at something. It’s all attitude and philosophy more than actual reality, because everyone’s reality is kind of the same, but everybody has problems or advantages.
How do you handle uncomfortable situations while shooting street photography? People, for example, not wanting to have their picture taken or not understanding the concept of street photography.
It is very rare. I smile, I try to explain my approach, it often works, otherwise I give up and go away.
What’s your strategy when you walk up close to people. Do you interact with them or take the shot and move on?
I have many strategies, it depends on the situation, sometimes I interact (after the shot), sometimes not.
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
I try to make people ask themselves questions, to let the imagination run free.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic language?
Learn the rules, then forget them, “shoot what you are”, make the images you want to see.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
28mm, well-organized frame, some contrast adjustments and that’s it.
You shoot both color and black and white? Do you have any preference and what does your decision depend on?
I think that before, I used to shoot mainly in black and white because I felt a bit – well, maybe melancholic. Life wasn’t what I wanted it to be and my shots conveyed some kind of sadness. Now I feel better in my life, I’m fed up with melancholy, I shoot in color.
What qualities and characteristics does a good street photographer need?
To be interested by everything happening in the streets, not really a quality, maybe it is a way of living.
Street photography is very much about seizing the moment. Things usually happen unexpectedly. How do you train your eyes to “know” when a special moment is about to come?
I think the only training is to shoot as often as possible.
Your pictures combine a lot of compositional elements: lines, shapes, shadows etc. How much of that is planned and how important is intuition and a quick hand to press the shutter button?
Sorry, I really don’t know, maybe I can’t do in another way.
What does a photo need to be a great street shot?
Elements that make people ask themselves questions, wonder what’s happening, that’s the main thing required for me.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
I think about projects when some of my images convey the same kind of things or feelings. I never shoot following a project in mind.
What’s the biggest challenge shooting on the streets?
To find new things from a very well-known place. (The streets where I live or walk everyday).
Talking about gear. What is in your back when you go out shooting?
Olympus OMD with Lumix 14mm (28mm eq.35mm) my wallet and my electronic cigarette!
What’s your favorite website about street photography?
Maybe the one of my collective, www.street-photographers.com, completely chauvinistic! But I’m sure I will always like it. (laughs)
What photography book would you recommend?
Maybe Harry Gruyaert’s “Made in Belgium”. It is different from the books everybody else seems to recommend.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to get going with street photography?
Use a small camera with a wide-angle, lens, carry it every time, everywhere. Watch photos everyday (internet, books etc.).
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: For you, what is street photography?
A: I really don’t care about it! (laughs)