*A Shooter Files interview series featuring photographers from around the world with a focus on capturing Street Photography in their own cities and countries
The Shooter :
Yves has lived in Marseilles, France for most of his life and knows it well. I actually had the pleasure of meeting Yves while he was visiting Istanbul last August, though. We met through Spyros Papaspyropoulos and StreetHunters.net when they came to Istanbul for a filming of their Street Hunt series.
It was great meeting him and talking about photography. He’s not only an amazing photographer himself, but he’s also very interested in learning about and looking at other amazing work from photographers around the world.
When looking at Yves’ own work, it becomes very clear how much he loves light. His photos show an eye for light to add drama, focus, and interest to the complex scenes and moments he captures. There’s natural light, shadow and contrast all used together in a magical way when going through Yves’ photos. And all with a human element and touch to the scene.
In much of his work, he also looks to show or say many things in one scene. He uses a wider angle to incorporate layers and multiple subjects/elements into the frame, while organizing the chaos of everyday life into a photograph.
With his camera and eyes, Yves is able to find the extraordinary in day-to-day life on the streets.
I’m very happy and honored that Yves agreed to be interviewed and featured, along with his city and photos, for this installment of “A Shooter in…” interview series.
And now for the interview…
(All photos were made in Marseilles by Yves Vernin)
1. Can you tell me a bit about how you got into Photography, and more specifically, Street Photography?
I took pictures when I was a teenager, especially street photographs, but then I didn’t touch a camera for twenty-five years. I went back to photography three or four years ago.
In the beginning because of a love story with a woman who lived in a foreign country. We used to write to each other a lot and she did photography and I wanted to illustrate the story of the everyday.
2. How would you describe your style/interests when it comes to photography?
Shooting the street, right next to my door, it’s perhaps seeing what I am the only one to see – that the mundane can in fact be extraordinary. I cannot cheat; I have to do with what’s there outside. The most beautiful light is the one given to us, and I have learned to recognize its beauty. To me, a good image starts with the right composition, but needs a particular light as well to really captivate me.
As a photographer, I am particularly attracted by wide angles. I have grown to believe that bad images stem from being too far from the subject…By choosing wide angles, I am the one creating my image, whereas a tele objective would only provide me with detailed scenes that I wouldn’t control. Then I need to find that decisive moment, which will bring a human touch to the geometry and the light. Coming closer to a stranger, capturing his expression right when his face lightens up, and bringing him to the center of the stage, that’s when photography becomes a sort of drug to me.
Today, I feel that everyone is equipped to produce good street photography: one just needs a mobile phone. But it remains to be seen whether or not it is legitimate to capture a moment in the life of a stranger. This is my belief that to take legitimate street images, these images need to have a universal appeal. Making people look beautiful is not my goal; my images are only testimonies of their humanity. Street photography shouldn’t be a theft, but the acceptation of a gift. Simple images rarely attract my attention, I like photographs that are able to organize the chaos – photos where my eyes need to analyze the various components and planes to understand the whole. Alex Webb, Constantine Manos, Raghubir Singh have had an important impact on my work, for their ability to make sense out of the chaos, in a complex, but beautiful manner.
3. How long have you lived in Marseilles, France?
My parents settled in Marseilles when I was seven years old. I’ve lived here since then with a few parenthesis in Paris, Djibouti and Corsica.
The City :
4. From a Street Photographer’s perspective, what are the first descriptive words that come to your mind when thinking of Marseilles?
Marseilles is a port, a city open on the sea and closed on the land. It is a Mediterranean city, cosmopolitan. It is regularly swept by a cold and dry wind, which gives this Mediterranean light its peculiar brightness.
5. What do you like most about shooting photography in Marseilles? What makes Marseilles unique to other places for photographing?
There’s nothing special about Marseilles except a Mediterranean light and a population perhaps more diversified than in another city.
6. Do you approach Street Photography differently in Marseilles than you do in other places? How would you say people’s reaction is to Street Photography in Marseilles compared to other places?
In France, there has been a law for twenty years about the right to control use of one’s image and to maintain one’s privacy. For a lot of people, this means you don’t have the right to shoot even in the public space.
More specifically, Marseilles is a poor and cosmopolitan city with an omnipresent informal economy. Street sellers, if not drug dealers don’t like feeling observed.
You need to know which street not to take and respect certain susceptibilities. A lot of its inhabitants are Muslims or of African origins and don’t like being photographed by people they don’t know.
7. Has anything interesting happened to you while shooting photography in Marseilles?
My last anecdote. Well, I was facing a group of young people who wondered why I was paying them so much attention and suggesting me to focus on other people. I thus told them a story:
One evening Nasruddin was crouching under a lamplight. His neighbor asked him what he was doing – if he had lost something.
– “I lost my keys.”
– “And where did you lose them?”
– “Out there!”
– “Then why are you looking for them here?”
– “Because here there is light.”
8. What are a few of your favorite streets and spots for shooting photography in Marseilles?
If Marseilles is a very old city, its upper-class has been interested in its past. History is not visible here and the city center map mainly dates back to the 18th century. The streets are thus parallel and perpendicular to each other and rather narrow with a lot of cars. There are only two ways the light can come from. I enjoy walking in Le Panier for this specificity. Le Panier is the oldest neighborhood of the city and has anarchic streets, warm and textured walls. Unfortunately, it isn’t very lively.
Otherwise, most of the time I go to places more open to light like the Old Port and the Canebière.
9. What are some of your favorite subjects to shoot in Marseilles?
I have a series in mind, the first one dedicated to the wind, we call it mistral. I thus try to go out when the wind blows and to go to places where it blows the hardest.
10. What is your favorite non-shooting activity when out shooting photography in Marseilles? (What do you like to do for photography breaks in Marseilles?)
I work a lot as a doctor and today I dedicate almost all my free time to photography, not only shooting, but also watching pictures others take.
Otherwise, I listen to a lot of music, in particular classical music and also contemporary and jazz. I read a lot less than I used to.
11. Outside of Marseilles, what has been one of your favorite places to shoot Street Photography?
I like Mediterranean lights, surrounding Marseilles. I like Barcelona, Genova. Further on, the cities where I most enjoyed shooting were Delhi and Jerusalem. And I am coming back from Ethiopia. This was also a very strong experience.
12. Last, but not least, what Tips would you give a Street Photographer coming to shoot in Marseilles?
A big thank you to Yves for sharing his work, answers and city!
For everyone who would like to see more of Yves’ work, just follow the links below…
The Links :