How did you choose your means of expression?
I discovered photography by chance through meeting a fashion photographer. My English was rubbish and her husband gave me a private lesson every week during my last year of secondary school. I went to their home for this lesson. Their lifestyle was very different from mine with my parents. I discovered a form of freedom that I didn’t imagine existed. I quickly wanted to become a photographer to gain this freedom. I had no technical knowledge or even a camera. I really started from nothing! As an adult I really wanted to be free and I was sure that photography would provide me with that.
What equipment do you use and why?
I use a variety of equipment depending on my financial means, not for technical reasons or certain results. I have been mainly using a small Canon digital camera for the past 6 years. As soon as I have a bit of money I use my Mamiya (6×7). I have always made do with what I have.
How do you prepare for a work session?
I don’t have a pre-established work protocol. I tackle each series depending on what I want to say, how I’m going to work on a technical level and the financial resources I have to do it. When I decided to go to Japan for 3 months to do the Nippon 2011 series, I already knew that I could afford to use medium format and film. Black and white was essential. The synopsis of the photo story that I wanted to produce had been written. When I flew to the Japanese archipelago my 3-month itinerary was 95% ready. When I began to photograph hunting towers (Jägertürm), I didn’t have any money to process the images, so I chose to take them with a small, hybrid digital camera. I started in 2014 and I didn’t think that I would still be taking photographs of them in 2019 (it’s my longest and most extensive obsessive series – nearly 300 Jägertürm).
Can you describe to me what is different about when you started out and your current work?
When you are 20, come from a modest background and decide to become a photographer, you do everything you can to prove to people that you are capable as some people are just waiting for you to mess up. These days I really don’t care what people think about my work. I have never felt so free.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
Do your origins and culture play a role in the work that you produce?
In hindsight, I think that each of my photographic series represents a chapter of my life. The act of photography helps me to understand the world in which I am living and seeks to answer each of my questions. Therefore my social and cultural origins have influenced me. I would even say they are necessary elements for understanding my ‘work of art’ as such.
What events have influenced you most?
To name but one example, maybe my trip to Japan, to the areas affected by the earthquake and the tsunami. Throughout the long weeks spent over there on my bike with the Mamiya slung over my shoulder, I became aware of the great vacuity of our modern societies focused on consumption, performance and progress, forgetting that the earth, water and light are vital elements to life. Without this trip to Japan I wouldn’t have gone to Iceland, I wouldn’t have walked to Santiago de Compostela, I wouldn’t have met my wife and I wouldn’t be here in Germany tending to my vegetable garden.
What are your sources of inspiration?
Nature and the fact that it is essential to life.
ON A MORE
Are your works more of a dialogue, a trace or a denunciation?
My works are a dialogue with myself above all, as I am producing them (the photographic act is something very selfish). They are a trace as soon as they are shot and printed. As for being a denunciation, that’s up to the viewer to decide.
How do you view human beings, and through your work as a result?
I can have endless empathy (L’appartement 33, Siggi’s World) or assumed ferocity (Les faces cachées).
How would you compare your last work with your next?
A logical suite.
Is art poetry or social intervention?
Art is anything and everything encompassing emotions that are unique to each artist.
How do you view your own work?
My only concern is that it is as sincere as possible. Intellectual honesty is of primary importance when I take photographs.
What projects do you have in progress or forthcoming?
For several years I have thought about translating the meaning of my work in the garden through photography. It’s not easy. Maybe this year I will manage to put together a series of images.
Do you have anything to add?
Over to you for the last word…