When I was around 8, my parents bought me my first camera. It was a disposable camera, that I used to take photos of my little brother, my grandparents, and also on a trip to the Alps. Back then, you had to develop the films before enjoying the results of your efforts.
Then, later, I was offered my first digital camera. I remember it well : it was for my first school trip abroad, to the UK. I was not that fond of photography back then, but I enjoyed trying to get some nice compositions.
The first time I really found myself enjoying photography was around my twentieth year I still had that old Olympus of mine that was as easy to use as a car without steering wheel. I didn’t know anything about photography, composition, light, and so on. I just wanted to take pictures of what was truly moving me in the world I was living in : a lonely tree on the hill in autumn, a flower springing out of a hedge, a butterfly calmly resting on a flower, a cross hidden at the intersection of two roads lost in the woods…
And then came India, and its madness. Back then, I had a bit better camera, and yet, I didn’t know much more about photography. There, photography was not only a means to share my day-to-day feeling of being lost in a country that continuously dissolves your soul in a mixed feeling of belonging and rejection. It was also what saved me from becoming totally mad, and helped me go beyond my initial feeling of disgust for what I saw everyday. In the viewfinder of my camera, the dire poverty that was surrounding me gave way to beauty. Photography also helped me, back then, to form bonds with people I will never forget, though I haven’t kept them as close as I wish I had now. Photography in India was about seeing the world, feeling it, with some distance and at the same time getting closer to what life was there.
When I came back from India, I remember I had the wish to photograph my village, my city, my whole life. When in India, I had had so much troubles explaining where I came from. I realised there that I hadn’t taken much time to document my life, to give people an idea of what my life was where I grew up. Photography was a means of sharing. Sharing who I was, as people shared the places where they lived with me. I remember I took many photos of Lyon. That’s actually the moment when I fell in love with my city, which I had inhabited for so long without giving any attention. Come to think of it, that’s quite crazy how we can ignore so long what is truly lovable in our lives. I visited the traboules, the monuments, the streets. And then I fell in love. With the city and a girl that I used to adore. And I forgot about photography, and many things. When I think of it now, I wish I had given more room to it. I guess it would have helped me moving on, and become a better person. Life isn’t always what it should be.
Photography took me back a year later. While I was about to leave for Shanghai, I decided to spend all my money on a new camera and three lenses : a Nex 6, a 20f2.8, a 35f1.8 and a 50f1.8. I remember I thought I was crazy to spend so much money on what looked like a whim. But when I went to Shanghai, it helped me explore the city, open to its strangeness and familiarity. It wasn’t like in India : less of a cultural shock. And yet, Shanghai was where I knew I would never let photography down again. There, I had the chance to live with a great photographer, who gave me some lessons, and opened my eyes for things I wouldn’t see : tiny details in compositions, the power of colours, the conscience that great photos can come when and where you expect them the least. Even though we had huge differences in our ways of seeing life, I must confess now I admired how downright honest the feelings he put in his photos were. It went straight to the heart. Even now, there’s something in his photos I feel I can’t capture. A vision. A part of him.
When I went back to Lyon, I decided to not give up photography this time. So I spent a lot of time taking pictures of Lyon, trying to spend more time discovering it. I took my first sunrise pictures, my first black and white night pictures. I wandered aimlessly in the city, in hope of a new scene to photograph. And then I moved to Paris.
Paris was a different city to photograph. Somehow, I’ve always felt it was less intimate than Lyon. Of course, there are great photos to take there. But it feels like taking postal card pictures, in a sense. Anyway, photography was what helped me meet who I consider now was the most exceptional encounter in my life. And it made the experience of photography even more exceptional. I had always been kind of a loner when it came to photography. But with this person, photography became sharing again. Everything that I took into picture, I did it to share with her. Photography truly became my main means of expression. It was like a love song, where I would sing my love for life, my love for what was surrounding me then, and my love for her. I miss those times and cherish them dearly.
More recently, though, photography became more of an obsession. With Flickr, Instagram, Facebook, I think I’ve chased success too much, and given too little room for expression. Of course, I like the pictures I’ve taken. Some are exquisite. And some come with great memories. But when I think of it now, they don’t express anything. They’re beautiful, well-composed, with good technic, but I don’t find any soul in them. Any memory. I don’t find anything that makes me smile. There’s something amiss.
And so it happened lately that, after the most heart-breaking moment in my life, I thought about abandoning photography. It didn’t move me as it used to. It didn’t give me any smile. It was just about perfection, about success, about pleasing. Nothing about sharing. Nothing about being moved. And in the end, nothing to share except the need of being loved. But no love shared.
Yet, last weekend, when I went to the woods of Saint-Germain en Laye after so many months chasing for successful photographs, I felt relieved again. Though there was the bitter taste of loss when I wandered under the branches of the trees, I also suddenly remembered what I loved so much about photography : living in the present, seeing beauty where others see banality, making every moment unique, every place a palace of conscience, every leaf a masterpiece of nature. Curiosity grew again in me, and the will of capturing what was moving me with it. Yes, I had found back what I had long lost.
I guess that’s the lesson I’ve learnt lately : don’t ever stop being moved, don’t let your obsession for success stop you from feeling, and think about sharing before thinking about harvesting admiration and so on. And so that’s what photography is to me : a means to feel, a means to share, and means to remember where I belong.