Interview by Mia Dillemuth | Copy Editing Matthew Jones | Pictures by Charles-Henry Bédué

Any thoughts on perspective or the way you frame your images? Your style is quite exceptional.

I avoid the obvious.  I agree with Eggleston when he says: I am at war with the obvious.  When something occurs I pay attention to the void surrounding the event.  The void, the unknown and its mystery is always there beneath the surface.  So I try to frame the details that reveal its omnipresence.  These details are never obvious; they are found where you don’t expect them.

What have been the themes of your latest works?

I don’t really work with themes. The unique theme I can explore is my own psyche, this Unknown that we carry (or the opposite) everywhere.  So I act by being open to everything; I let life surprise me in the way that it decides.  I follow the path life draws, which goes from good moments with people I love, to random bath of crowd in crazies globalized cities, to long-distance solo walks…

 

How do you work, can you let us in the process?

I collect pictures that I consider like seeds. I can go into the world to look for them like a gatherer, a hunter or as a wanderer who doesn’t expect anything and love to be surprised.  I believe that the sparkle can happen anytime, anywhere as long as I don’t judge what I see. Then, I can meditate and edit my pictures for months, like an alchemist trying to transform metal into gold. Editing is almost everything.  A good picture alone doesn’t mean anything to me; it is a detail of a whole, a piece that has to find its place in the puzzle of a maze.

Also, an image shared or sold is a precious opportunity to connect with strangers.  This human aspect of the sharing is important because, when I work, I need to be alone and disconnected from people. I am in a parallel world.  When I share my work, when I sell it, it is like finally planting the seed in a new environment and getting to see what it will become.

 

Your agent from nineteensixtyeight.com discovered you from Instagram. How did it all happen?

Isabella Brancolini found me on the web after my Foam Talent selection in 2014. I share my work online but I am very selective. I am not a fetishist of photography as object; whether onscreen or printed, what matters the most to me is the harmony and the clarity of the flow.

Did you always know you want to become a photographer? 

I had never been confortable with the fact of define myself as “this” or “that”.  I try to know who I am – it is a lifelong job. Photography is just a tool that I use to read and understand myself in relation to the world.  I started to play with photographic images at the end of my art studies in 2003.

What is your relationship with fashion?

Beyond fashion, I am attracted by symbols, patterns and geometrical figures.  Fashion is a goldmine of living symbols – it is Pure Energy.  The human aspect is secondary, a pattern among others. There is so much vanity in that world, that I cannot appreciate the faces.  I see more masks than faces, so I don’t prefer to photograph them.

A natural face is so rare. They are easier to find among the children, that is why I like to photograph them.  So fashion is all about playing with a flow of dangerous creative energy.  It is a fantastic laboratory of experience for an outsider like me.  It reminds me that Baudelaire’s verse:

“Nature is a temple where the living pillars

Sometimes emit confused speech;

Man passes through the forests of symbols

Which watch him with familiar gazes.”

 – Charles Baudelaire, Correspondences

Words and literature mean a great deal for you. Do you write yourself?

I write down my dreams as often as I can. Sometime I wake up 3 times a night to write everything I remember before it fades away.  My dreams are very important to me. But there are two categories of dream:  There are the ones that speak about my personal life, my story, my parents etc.  These can be important but are common.  And then there are the Big Archetypal Dreams. They comes from what Carl Gustav Jung says: “The Collective Unconscious, laying beyond our individual subconscious; when a dream rises from there, it is like having a religious experience.”  Every evening, I pray to have one of them, and I sleep with my notebook and my pen in my bed.  It replaces my camera.

Is there someone that you admire as an image-maker?

I am nourished in priority by thinkers, philosophers and poets.  They are strangely German or Swiss German, not French (Novalis, Schopenhaueur, C.G.Jung…).  Mystical literature is at the core of my life too.

For the visual art, Ingmar Bergman, William Eggleston, Saul Leiter and Henry Matisse were decisive discoveries in my life. They are artists that I deeply love.

And of course, since my three-week foot trip in Tuscany last year, I admire all the middle age and renaissance Italian art.  It was the craziest aesthetic and religious experience I had with art in church, palazzo and museum.  I want to live there in the future.

What makes you happy?

To know that we know absolutely nothing about life; this Mystery enlightens me. Life is magic.

What is your favorite place in the world?

The place where I am.

You are very close publishing a book of your work. What will it consist of?

The Cult of The Self draws the first part of the path I followed until here in Helsinki.  I finished the main editing over the past two months. Winter in Finland is a great time for quietly editing my work.  I connected images from my people to landscapes at the other sides of the world, or to anonymous humans cropped into fashion crowds.

You recently had a intriguing exhibition at the Finnish Museum of Photography. Why did you decide to stay? Can you let us in on the project that you are planning in Helsinki? 

I don’t know how long I will stay, but but the time I have, I would like to explore the life of Helsinki and the local fashion industry to find my precious symbolic images before to go back. From the most private and intimate event to the biggest public event, I want to be everywhere.  But to do this, I need some good guides.

All pictures by Charles-Henry Bédué from a series called L’Habit fait Le Moine.

www.charleshenrybedue.com