5 Questions with Fabrice Bigot
- In Untitled you return to flowers as your subject matter, what sustains your interest in them?
I just think that, despite their obvious beauty and simplicity, they've got more to offer than the opportunity to take a pretty image of a pretty thing. The ambiguity of their shape, lines, texture fascinates me and this is the reason why I choose to work in black and white for my previous series Naked Garden as I didn't want any distraction from colours in order to focus on this particular aspect.
However, after the Naked Garden series, I felt like I didn't explore the full potential of the subject matter and started to be interested in the challenge of how I could actually include colours without ending up trapped in the pretty-and-cute factor. Therefore, when I started to work on this new series, I realised very quickly that in order to avoid this cliché, I will need to go back to my studio where I could have more control upon the way I could stage them, and more important, how I could use the light to get more than a straightforward photography of a flower. It is what still life is all about! Isn't it? Trying to create a poetic and seductive image which transcend the stillness or the banality of an inanimate subject.
- Why did you refrain from titling the series?
I spent quite some time searching for the right title but I always felt that, no matter what my choice would be, it would always give away too much information and could turn this series to a kind of botanical survey and I wanted these flowers to be more than just a rose, or a camellia. I wanted the viewers to almost forget what they are looking at. Furthermore, do we really need to know that this is a hydrangea, a tree dahlia, a camellia? Wouldn't it become more like a subtitle than a title?
- Why did you decide to print your photographs in relatively small sizes and editions?
Actually, I first printed them in very large scale. The importance of finding the right scale for these images became very obvious, very quickly as the huge prints were very overwhelming, becoming almost like giant monsters which was not what I wanted them to be. I spent quite a while not knowing how big I would end up printing them though. What happened is that I've got in my office, next to my computer, a small print by Hans Bellmer I bought in Paris a few years ago and got framed with a generous window mate. Looking at that small but very strong image everyday made more obvious that the answer to my question was actually the opposite of what I thought in the first place and I'm really happy with that choice. I think this the right size for them.
Regarding the small edition, I made that choice because I think that those who appreciate and buy photography have to be respected like any other art lovers and/or collectors. Printing large editions just because we can doesn’t make any sense to me. When we buy an artwork, we do so because we love the image but also because we know we will own something rare, unique, precious, desirable. Actually, I noticed that more and more photographers are now doing the same thing and release a very limited edition of their work. Is it because we live in a world where images, and photographs in particular, are endlessly shared, reproduced online or through social media? Is it, for some photographers, a way to keep their distance from the digital world, from the screen culture? Perhaps, but I can't speak for all of us.
- How would you describe your interest in 'still life' art?
The term Still Life or Nature Morte in French means that we use inanimate objects and/or animals and plants to create an artwork. The fact that we see them as dead is relevant when it comes to objects and even more to animals but it takes more time to plants and flowers to give away their last glimpse of life after being picked and brought in a photo studio. However, not much time is given to capture their beauty - flowers never stops changing, blooming, dying.
To me, the adjective "still" underlines one of the biggest and most exciting challenge in still life because, for this series, I wanted my subjects to be anything but still. I wanted them to irradiate with light, I wanted them to vibrate, breathe, dance in the glow of the light source. Then, it seems to become a celebration of life, a silent call to forgive for fading, for coming out from the dark so briefly and for returning to it so quickly.
- How long was the artistic process and what did it involve?
If we include the time it took me to really know where I was going, what I wanted to achieve and how to get it done, perhaps a year or so but the actual time I spent in the studio is more like 6 months during which I worked around the same routine. Every morning, I had to find new flowers to photograph. Therefore, I spent several months driving around the city, walking a lot and picking flowers in parks, public gardens or on the streets in nature strips and front gardens that I will bring back home and spend the rest of the day photographing. I really enjoyed working with the change of seasons from the end of summer to the heart of winter and Melbourne is a wonderful place where nature can be find almost everywhere. The perfect place for such a project.
That time I spent on the streets and parks in a search for the right thing to photograph is something this new series has in common with the Naked Garden one. Otherwise the whole process involved many differences. For Naked Garden, I worked at night, in-situ, with only one camera, one lens, no tripod, no additional lights. When you work on the streets with absolutely no control of any kind, you end up with a ridiculous amount of images amongst which, only very few are actually good. In a photo studio, you don't need to take that many shots. You spend more time to get all things right, you know what works or not. The only similarity between both series was that I was still working with a living creature whose appearance always keeps changing. An inevitable change which occurs even more rapidly when you work in a dry and warm studio.