Pierre and Florent are a duo of photographers that our Direct Digital Paris team just loves! Since 2010, their colourful, energetic and unconventional style has brightened up the world of French and international fashion photography and advertising campaigns. So we wanted to know a little more about them, the mechanics of their partnership, their inspirations, their anecdotes... From Mexico to Japan, from Sarenza to Castelbajac, let yourself be drawn into their world.
How did you meet? When and how did you decide to work together?
We met eleven years ago, friends of friends, and we worked together from the very first days we met. I (Pierre) was in Belgium at a film school, studying filmmaking, while Florent was at Duperré, a school of applied arts in the fashion and environment section.
I was leading a personal project initiated in Belgium and then Florent joined this little adventure. The goal was very simple: to have unknown people perform around different constraints (places, make-up, accessories...). It was with this project that we really started to work on photography, neither Florent nor I had really experimented with this medium before. Months went by, experiments with it and then a certain Facebook magic happened: an important Mexican gallery spotted this project and that was the beginning of 5 years of partnership and exhibitions with them, in Mexico and elsewhere. Of course it was a trigger: photography, why not ?
After this performance project we bought our first "studio equipment" which was limited to two continuous light bowls. We quickly felt that we had stepped into something that excited us a lot. So we set up a project called "Les idiots de l'image" (The Image's fools) which put us on stage, at home. This was the last project exhibited in Mexico and the bridge to the next one: fashion!
How does your duo work?
It's really a two-person operation. From art direction to shooting until post-production. When we are both shooting, the camera passes from hand to hand in a very instinctive way. Moreover, even if after 11 years we have managed to find a common universe and a common vision of photography, our original passions and our personal references constitute a rich base in the development of our projects: painting and cinema.
How do you divide the tasks between you?
Without really thinking. Depending on the project, sometimes there are not two of us on the shoots but we are always together in the preparation and/or the art direction and also in post-production.
How would you describe your style?
For a long time, we were given a 'pop' image, colourful, graphic and dynamic. We developed this language a lot during our two years working with Jean Charles de Castelbajac, who was a real master in this respect.
We like to stage human beings in sometimes absurd, often poetic postures, we like important settings that evoke works of art, we have a passion for the body in movement or the surprising expression that a face can take. We like it when our images can evoke an off-camera, a before or after as cinema can do. So to sum up: pop, movement, absurdity, cinema.
What inspires you?
A lot of contemporary artists, a lot of films, but also our personal adventures and travels.
@ Take Shelter / Jeff Nichols
Video has become an increasingly important part of photography over the last few years. How does it influence your work?
Often the photos that we imagine take a more widely place in a sequence of their own. So it's quite exciting to offer a moving image vision to the client. That's what we did last year for AIGLE.
What is your best memory of a shoot ?
There isn't just one, all the shoots have marked us in their own way, all of them. There are shoots where the technique was crazy, others where something strong happened on a human level, others where it was the places that were striking...
So maybe one of each?
Technical side: Le COQ SPORTIF. 3 days of shooting to make this fresco. It was crazy.
Human side: PRINCESS TAM TAM. 10 days of shooting abroad, we left with our entire team. People we've been working with for a long time, DAs, assistants, makeup artists, DOPs... it was a great adventure, not always easy, but one that left its mark on us all.
Escape side : An editorial produced on a tiny island in Japan. What's so special about this island? It is covered with thousands of wild rabbits, the very reason why we came.
What's the strangest thing that's ever happened to you on a shoot?
- Shooting in a former narco-trafficker's hideout in the middle of the desert in Mexico and realising it while editing at night.
- Both of us being positive at COVID 5 minutes before leaving for production.
- Feeding wild rabbits to get the shot we wanted.
This past year has been particularly trying and strange because of COVID. Has this affected your work?
Yes, really, everything was going well and then the March 2020 lockdown happened: cancellations galore. In the summer work came back quite well, then during the 2nd lockdown in September it was very complicated, almost no shooting until December. We felt the general tension, an economic tension with frozen budgets and an omnipresent health stress.
Did you have to learn to work differently?
Unconsciously, it encouraged us to work in a smaller team, i.e.: one model and one hair and makeup, to recreate intimacy, to take pictures at home, to be back together again as we were 10 years ago during our first projects - just the both of us, to confront our real desires, to be more instinctive, to find a real connection with the model, to create pictures with very little light or even simply in natural light... And as we had time, we adapted our shooting method, we did a lot of film with medium format.
Do you have any favourite equipment or brands?
We shoot exclusively with Canon for digital and Mamiya for film.
Apart from some Canon lenses that we use ALL the time, we have no particular technical fetish. We rely on our team to guide us according to our projects and their specificities.
What are your essential tools?
The apple box :)
Why do you choose to work with Direct Digital?
Because you are ALL nice, and it's reassuring to have a partner you can really count on.
Knowing that with you we will always find a solution and that you will accompany us in it. And you are not stingy with advice, you are available, and above all: the quality of your equipment is incredible. Everything looks so new all the time. In short, we love you!
How did we help you?
By being accommodating on quotes when things got really tight, by getting equipment in from London super fast, by responding on cue all the time, by offering us incredible packaging solutions that work for everyone when we go on location where space and equipment management is a real issue, you manage it all up front perfectly.
What are your future projects?
We're going to the south of France next week to make an album cover.
We have a personal project of portraits that we have been doing for a year and that is very important to us.
We continue the campaigns for Salut Beauté, our friends.
And we will soon release two beautiful campaigns for Sarenza and La Samaritaine!