“It has given me a more accurate perception of the world around and given me some kind of instinct to see or feel something unusual happening in the streets when I walk around.”
Jeff Cabella (born 1960) is a self-taught street photographer from France currently residing in Paris.
“I am a self-taught photographer, an autodidact. It’s my home town Paris, where I practice street photography, mostly in black and white.
In contrast, I create my color photographs usually away on travels.
The b&w and color photography seem to be two separate bodies of work, but they’re linked by my ongoing interest in people and humans within their living conditions.
In both bodies of work, I try to capture and picture what constitutes the essential part of a country, a place, a situation or an event and I always try to maintain an honest and transparent relationship with the subjects I photograph.”
Interview with Jeff Cabella
Jeff Cabella, why did you become a photographer? And what does photography mean to you?
I had my first camera offered for christmas at the age of 12 and I started using it.
Later I saved money for a year or two to buy my first reflex camera (a Canon Ftb) at the age of 15 and registered to a photo club where I started developing and printing my first pictures.
Since then I never stopped being passionate with photography and taking pictures.
I think I didn’t become a photographer, I rather fell into it. It’s a consuming passion.
A photographer has many “tools” at hand to bring across his message: lenses, lighting, framing, color treatment etc. Can you elaborate a little bit on the techniques you used for this particular project in order to link form and content? In other words: How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
I have no particular technique, I allow me to work mostly intuitively.
I use my senses. When I photograph, I don’t really plan ahead because it’s spontaneous, which is something I like.
I try to be fast and close to my subjects.
I think I produce a simple and direct photography that talks to the viewer.
I principally work with 28 or 35mm.
What reaction do you intend to provoke in people looking at you photos?
“My work is to inspire the viewer to think about the life.”
I’d like to provoke curiosity, inviting the viewer to wonder about the presented situation or topic. My work is to inspire the viewer to think about the life.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
I can’t say that only one specific photographer has inspired me the most, the following photographers, they were a kind of guiding light, something that gave me the courage to go my own way: Sergio Larrain, Vivian Maier, Jacques Henri Lartigue, William Klein, Martin Parr, Saul Leiter, Fred Herzog and so on.
What’s your favorite inspirational quote about photography?
“My photographs are made to tickle your left ear.”
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
I use a Leica M7,M8 and a Ricoh GR.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
Among others, American Suburb X.
What book about photography would you recommend?
“The Americans” by Robert Frank.
I would recommend this book because this huge work (28000 pictures taken and 83 selected) gives the snapshot of the American society in the end of the fifties.
Philosopher 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?
It has given me a more accurate perception of the world around and given me some kind of instinct to see or feel something unusual happening in the streets when I walk around.
It has brought me a force to enter (sometimes without being invited) in this other people’s reality.
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?
The principal landmark, was when a friend of mine asked me to organize an exhibition of my photographs of New York City, which was quite appreciated.
It gave me some more confidence and pushed me to show my work.
Before that my only audience was my family.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to get started with photography?
Learn about technique, go see the work of photographers in exhibitions and books, shoot a lot, but don’t try to imitate anyone.
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 is my aim in photography?
A: I’d like to share my vision of events or situations I’ve met with as many people as possible and become a published street photographer (but this is rather a secret dream).