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Artist of the Week — Samuel Guerrier

July 22, 2011 by qna_radilova · 478 comments

Interview of Yana Radilova with the photographer Samuel Guerrier

Samuel Guerrier: “The power of imagination rules the world of photography!”

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You introduce yourself as “the result of miscegenation”. How has the variety of nations and religions in your family affected your creative power?

Yes, I am a result of miscegenation. My mother was a French Catholic, my father is a Tunisian Muslim, and I have a Jewish first name…. In this context I have a laic approach of things; I already wrote that I am not for any one religion or else – I’m for all of them. As a child, I grew up amongst different communities. This quite influenced my work which reflects folklore, fairy tales and mythology… I am presently studying shamanism in Inuit mythology to be able to depict a story of an Aleut huntsman…

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Taxidermy

Do you remember your first steps in photography?

Frankly, this is accidental I started off as an artist and even today I make my living from painting. I started off with digital collages after training as a computer graphics specialist, with a series called “Sacred and Secular”, I finished by inserting portraits of friends, this was my first contact with photography. I immediately loved the exchange between the models, working on the light, trying some claire-obscure techniques (chiaroscuro). I am also fascinated with the work of Caravaggio and the expressionist cinema.

What techniques do you use?

I see photos as a painting, this is the atmosphere I try to convey in my snapshots, I work on them on Photoshop and illustrator, which is my real photo studio. All my background decors are done in double exposure; I work the negatives to obtain luminescence and other glaze effects used so well by the Flemish primitives.

LoveIsAVampire
Love is a vampire

How do you select your models?

My series of photos are rather similar to film scenes also I only work with actors. Elisa Sergent (Ladybird) is my muse: she is a confirmed actress who regularly plays in Parisian theatres. I discovered her in Beaumarchais’ Barber of Seville and in Lady Windermere by Oscar Wilde, she is absolutely stunning. Dan Uzan, the actor in Taxidermy is a comedian and director. This actor has a rare inner nature!

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Ladybird

Do you follow the example of any famous photographers?

I could quote you several names like Man Ray, Edward Steichen, Gertrude Käsebier, etc… but it is not photography which brought me to art. When I think photos, I associate music, literature, paintings, graphics, antiquities, cinema, in short everything except the actual photo… I remain more influenced by films like Charles Laughton “The night of the hunter” than actual photos.

Is photography popular in France?

I would say yes, in Paris we have the European Photography Museum, but also there are festivals in the provinces like “Rencontres d’Arles”. I appreciate so much the iconoclasts like Pierre & Gilles and Bettina Rheims; I also love the retro and romantic world of more confidential type of photographs like Raphael Neal and Lisa Roze.

Can you define your style?

My style is hybrid, between photography, painting and cinema. I would define it rather like something between baroque and phantasmagorical, Lewis Carroll type and of course Burtonian. I am a narrator or storyteller with pictures, and I have this kinetic and indeed cinema goer’s approach to photography, all my portfolios are like storyboards. Someone once said about my work when he looked at my pictures that he felt he was looking at the silent screen movies. This, I think, was the best compliment I ever received. My work is a type of mix between Méliès, Muybridge and the magic lantern which started off cinema.

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Taxidermy

Your models express strong emotions. How do they catch the meaning of your photos?

I am happy that you see it like this. As often in cinema, I start from an artificial base to obtain reality, I try to obtain the deepest and most sincere feeling from the actor. For this, one must approach it progressively, each one of my stories begin with a scene taken from every day life before jumping in to the fantastic world. It is at this very moment that the tension mounts and where the photogenic power of the model is no longer enough, and so now you understand how important it is for me to work with seasoned actors. I love coaching them, making them progress on an emotional level. I take time to speak to them about their character just like a film director with his actors

LastCallForBrooklyn
Last call for Brooklyn

What historical events do you try to reproduce in your photos?

In films, I am a real fan of dramatic stories like “Gone with the wind”, “Il Gattopardo”, ”Barry Lyndon”… I love period costumes, antiques; an old object has a history and stimulates more imagination on the spectator.

Will you believe me when I tell you that I do not cling to the past? My last series was called “The Dream of Copernicus” a metaphorical travel between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. I wanted to evoke the subject of religious obscurantism which is still very much alive today. I found it more effective and wiser to transpose an upsetting and indeed perplexing subject into another period.

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The dream of Copernicus

The clothing of your models and the decoration are really impressive! What triggers your great power of imagination?

My quest for clothes and accessories is rather like a treasure hunt. I am capable of spending months looking for the right costume; this happened for the American football pad that Dan Uzan wears in Taxidermy. It dates from the 1930’s and proved difficult to find; also, I have been interested in the art-deco period. Pierre Chareau, Eillen Gray for the modernists and the more traditionalists like Jacques-Emile Rulhlmann, Armand-Albert Rateau; I also like art craftwork, like the Dunant lacquer work or Rene Lalique glassware; everything is inspired and inspiring!

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Taxidermy

Where do you exhibit your photos?

Mainly in Paris and in Germany. I am presently in contact with several art galleries, one in America and another in Tokyo; but hush-hush – this is a secret! Some of my works may be viewed on Myspace (www.myspace.com/samuelguerrier) and Facebook (guersam@yahoo.fr) I am presently working on my official website.

Have you made landscape photos? Why do you prefer portraits?

I am sorry to say no; and really I would love to get on photo the romantic and desolate landscape in the Caspar David Friedrich paintings. Up to now, I never really thought about landscape as a subject, for me it remains a decorative element just like a piece of furniture. I still have a lot to learn. I am unable to work without a model, and for this reason I never photograph actors outside always in studio in front of a white wall. Then all the decors are added, a little like in cinema with the blue screen compositing (chrome key). I love working with actors. I also bring into my photos all types of insects and animals. If I draw attention to their symbolism, it is to illustrate human impulses.

Fire
Fire

What are your professional ambitions?

Hold more expos and travel throughout the world, I also have a project of a photo book for next year, a collection of my first portfolios, I also wish to work with musicians as I did with the English group “The Spectral Mirror”. I really loved listening to they repertoire “Our foolish hands” on Myspace. Since then we have made a series of visuals for their first album.

Would you teach young photographers?

Why not! Transmission is an important thing. Certain artists I met were generous and allowed me benefit from their know-how. I would be happy to do the same tomorrow.

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Ladybird

If photography is a single world, what rules it?

The power of the imagination!!! Which I would really call “the third eye”!

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Taxidermy

Short Artistic Bio :

1995 : Drawing courses to the Académie de la Grande Chaumière
(Academy of the large thatched cottage)
1996 : Expressionist Painting courses to the J.Y Guionet artist studio.
1997 : Computer Graphics Designer training (Photoshop/Illustrator)
1998 : Webmaster / Network Administrator training
1999 : L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts à Caen (School of Fine Arts in Caen)
2002 : Freelance Graphic Designer
Since 2007 : Artist & Photographer (several exhibitions in Paris and Germany)

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