Sophie Fontaine is a very fine film photographer from France. Her photos take you to the world of a few decades back and you begin feeling as if you are seeing stills from great French films made during 1960s. You can feel the air of the forests and stillness of the lake within. There’s some solitude with shades of loneliness and melancholy. Sophie’s images are very powerful and intimate in the way that you long to visit the places and persons she captures and ask them about their feelings. Every window in her room, every frame hung on wall, and every object lying on the table seems to have a soul, a lonely one, waiting to be lifted up, waiting to be freed. Very impressive artist she is, indeed. Let’s get to know her better:
Hi! I am Sophie Fontaine from France. I was born in a small town in the countryside, and grew up there before heading out to Nancy (a city in North-eastern France) for my studies, where I still live today. I studied Applied Arts and literature, as well as a short training in animal care. After a few odd jobs, and some experiences as an illustrator and colorist, I devote myself to film photography for about 3 years. I am also passionate about drawing, history of Arts, cinema and literature. I love Nature which has a very important place in my life. I love it both for the peace it brings me and the inspiration it gives me.
I always took pictures as a hobby, but I turned to photography more seriously some 3 - 4 years before in order to familiarize myself with this medium and then to use it as a means of creating and expressing my inspirations. I do not consider myself a professional photographer. I have so much to learn yet, but let’s say I am a “self-taught-emerging” freelance photographer.Now most of my time is organized around this passion and my artistic activities occupy most of my time.
I am open to all areas of photography but my world has been primarily developed around nostalgic scenes, often in natural places, sensitive portraits, abandoned houses, timeless atmospheres, and melancholic landscapes. I continue to explore different locations for my work, but always keep the same mindset, which I hope makes my work recognizable .
I use an old analog cameras for my work, 35mm for the most part ,120mm or polaroids. I like the imperfections and grain that film photography brings. Waiting for the result and uncertainties are part of the challenge when one uses such cameras. Unlike digital photography, one can control the final result only at the time of developing the film. Speaking of software retouching and photo manipulation, I use them mainly for cropping or contrasting colors of an image that would appear bland after scanning. I try to keep an authentic result as much as possible. But these are great tools, especially for my more graphic works and digital montages.
I am often asked about the dark and mysterious aspect of my images, about the melancholy that emerges from them… The theme of loneliness is something recurrent in my work, I’m always looking for abandoned places for my photos… I love old houses, old stones, all that reveals a trace of the past in a world increasingly becoming urban. I like that my characters fade into the scene and tell a story in a dramatic ambiance. This is why I rarely show their faces in images.
For me, the decor is not only a background for composing a shot, it is a protagonist as well. I think my images as the moments suspended in time, like memories frozen in time. The quality of my images is imperfect, as blurry thoughts… This nostalgic and “obsolete” side takes me away from the contemporary and conceptual photography… and makes them what you call distinct. There are great things in conceptual art, in particular ideas and energy. My images have to more to do with languor and nostalgia.
I think it’s great that young people express themselves through a medium, this one or an other. The new generation is born surrounded by computers, software… they have tools at their disposal and have an incredible ability to adapt to new technology. It’s wonderful if they can take a little poetry of it all… It’s very hard to make oneself unique in a world that tends toward uniformity. This is the period and phase of their life which will enable them to assert themselves through their aesthetic choices, regardless of the technique used. But, from a personal point of view, I turn more toward imaging of gone-by decades of last century. Too many photo retouching and improvising may lack soul. But everything is subjective. Account only the desire to create .
I love my region for its dense forests, hills and landscape diversity. The natural and architectural heritage is very rich in France; for example, the city where I live has magnificent monuments typed “Art Nouveau”, a wonderful art style of the early 20th century. My favorite places to take photos are still old buildings and nature, abandoned and forgotten places… The photography has not fundamentally changed the way I consider my surrounding, but has refined my vision. I look at each element as potentially photogenic, I attach more importance to detail, anything that can provide a specificity to a place.
I want to continue to work, to learn… share, travel… and create a book one day that would be able to encapsulate my photos and illustrations. Speaking of inspiration, I find it everywhere: a place, an allure, a light, a song, a book, and cinema that I like. Each artistic discipline enlightens my mind… and there are so many photographers I love: Sarah Moon, Francesca Woodman, Diane Arbus, Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, David Hamilton, Ellen Rogers, Neil Krug, Alison Scarpulla… It is difficult to be limited to a few names! The world of photographers who attract me are filled with mystery…
There is a quote from Diane Arbus that I love:
“A photograph is a secret about a secret .The more it tells you the less you know.”
I think that the urge to create is visceral, and the desire to share gives meaning to what I do… The love of the people who follow me leads me… I owe them so much, I still want to express my gratitude and bring them poetry through my images…
The people I photograph are part of my entourage for most: friends, family, artists I meet. Obviously, when people are close to us, it is easier to photograph them as they feel more confident. When I work with someone for the first time, I take my time… I work a lot outdoors, in particular places, so the path to get there is the opportunity to discuss with my model, to create an intimacy, and decide on the direction I want to give to the photo session… I leave a great deal of improvisation, I often come with just a few rough ideas in mind… It is often the interaction with the model, the place, the light that will give me inspiration.
It is difficult for me to give advice, I still have so much to learn and way to go! I could only say… Do, undo, redo. Stay curious. Learn from the mistakes and do not be discouraged by them. Open your eyes and let your thoughts drift away!
Note: All images appearing in this post are the exclusive property of Sophie Fontaine and protected under the International Copyright laws.