GP: Sebastien, how did you come to photography?
When I was young I was very fond of drawing… In order to develop my drawing practice I took art lessons in secondary school, I discovered art history and particularly the photography of Man Ray, with a portrait of Lee Miller. The image in question had been subject to a solarization process and when I saw it, I had the feeling i was looking to a drawing.
Discovering this artist made me want to go to paris and see the photography for real; it was the cover image for a temporary exhibition in Centre Pompidou: La Subversion des Images. I was 18 at the time and my desire to make photography started this way.
GP: You have a fine arts school background. How has this education background helped you with your practice?
I started my university studies in a design school. But I have quit this direction very quickly and then integrated an art school. More than a theoretical and practical teaching, this opened up my mind regarding the use of photography as a medium.
Constant communication between the different workshops of the school and different practices have considerably feed my manner of thinking and making up an image, up to its destination.
One of my first projects has been to photograph the American West without going there. I thus realized screen captures via a video game imitating these landscapes. I did a virtual exploration respecting my usual protocol for producing photography, and I did it with my avatar in the video game: the walking, locating places, being constraint to stay or to come back, all without my hair blowing in the wind.
GP: What motivates you? The sense of the track, the notions of order and disorder? A sort of fascination for the arbitrary?
I was born and i grew up in Corsica, a territory that presents different samples of the world and different manners of inhabiting.
I was able to observe there important transformations: some sites vanished away, others came out. Just as it happens everywhere else in the world. Except that here, I had the feeling to see these changes applied to a body, to a being of a special genre, as it it was all about a friend.
This experience with the landscape made me get interested in human projects, made me careful about traces and decisions which participate to the synthetic reality that comes out from each territory, everywhere I go.
GP: Would you say that your photograph has a social character?
My photographies do not have for ambition to rally people to a common cause, to a common sense. But they try to translate through discrete signals certain relations that we entertain with the world.
Without going so far as to give a documentary load or denunciation, the fact of photographing something involves that we are interested in it and we try to understand it. Moderate presence of the human figure in my work, when it is not completely absent precisely reveal the Human within its aspirations, who often does not take account of any social form between beings and environment.
GP: How much do you make to intuition in your work?
I have started practicing photography with a reflex, then a rangefinder camera; I am rather slow at shooting, so I have progressively started the medium size and the view camera.
I am not researching for an image that resumes everything, nor do I have the attitude of the hunter on the alert. I am rather like the hunting dog who, through accumulation of hints and details, finds what it covets.
Most of the times I set out a territory before the shooting, after precise researches or starting from souvenirs. But the hazardous encounter with a interesting scenery marvels me.
There is also the moment of framing, where I have often thought I had to calculate everything. And yet a form of loose, where the gaze overtakes the intellect allows to see elements that did not arouse interest just before.
GP: Could you say that you are interested in photography as a silent medium?
I love this idea of silence a lot. It is difficult for me to photograph when I am in a environment that is very crowded. The feeling of being observed when I plant the tripod in the decor is difficult for me. I have the feeling I disturb, I steal the image.
So it is a sort of meditation into which I render myself, which conditions my gaze at the research of a feeling of liberty which pushes me to avoid big cities, for instance.
Also, far away from these overcrowded life areas, the world seems more legible, with a vernacular form that springs from the earth and the tired objects that populate it. On the contrary, the new material conditions, economic and social smooth and standardize the texture of landscapes.
In the end, this protocol takes part to the aesthetics of my photographies, which present trails of knocks, sounds and energy expenses from which would have suffered my subjects.
GP: What is a beautiful photography for you?
A beautiful photography, and this could seem obvious, can be enough to itself. But a really beautiful photography is laden with a history, intimate concerns, passion and angst.
It discretely unveils the other side of a setting, a slice of the real sustained by the force of the frame, the choice of the color or of the black and white, of the depth of field or the precise focus.
It requires the same patience, the same energy that a man uses for a woman he wants, and whose heart is difficult to take. A beautiful photography must be dreamed of, desired by its author, before one involves itself physically with making it.
Published with kind permission of Henri Peyre, https://galerie-photo.com. Translated from French by Cristina Albertini.