Alain Laboile, a French sculptor and photographer has achieved great fame and success as a visual artist for shooting magnificent black and white images of everyday fun and frolic of his six children. The series aptly named “La Famille” captures their innocence and youthful exuberance with uninterrupted freedom they enjoy while living in a rural setting, is something not common these days when children are brought up with a great care.
Laboile’s children play in a shovel-dug pond full of mud and play with dangerous animals, but they are very close to nature and get what is inaccessible in a modern metropolitan living. His photos evoked old memories of my childhood spent in a rural place when there was no one to scold me for playing in dirt and catch crabs. His photostream is indeed a nostalgic reminder to a whole generation born and brought up around 1980.
Still working as a full-time sculptor, Alain Laboile picked up a camera quite late in his life but photography seemed to have gripped and absorbed him to the extent that on Internet he’s now primarily known as a photographer. His images have been acquired by collectors and galleries around the world. For this showcase post, we’ve selected an assemblage of his color and monochrome images. Here’s more from the artist himself:
Please tell us about yourself:
I was born in Bordeaux , France in 1968. I live in the deep countryside, surrounded by vines. I’m working as a sculptor and I’m a father of 6.
In 2004, as I needed to put together a portfolio of my work as a sculptor, I acquired a camera, and thus developped a taste for macrophotography, spurred by my passion for entomology. The first prominent events were the winning in 2007 and 2008 of two big Canon contests. My family is now my major subject and the birth of my last two daughters is no stranger to my intensive exercise of photography .
In 2007, I pointed my lens towards my growing family and this was, though I did not realize it at first, the starting point of my family album. Now I shoot the everyday life and I share these photos on the internet. I realized the universal and timeless dimension of my photographic work by reading testimonies from other people living all over the world.
It is fantastic to be able to share daily pieces of our family life, and find a positive response to this simple life close to nature. Immersing someone in their own childhood through photography is very rewarding. The use of black and white probably reinforces this feeling. I cannot count the stories of people remembering themselves in the countryside with their grandparents, or recalling the smell of summer vacation…
I like the idea that someone could delve back into his own life by looking at pictures of a random stranger on the web. What is sure is that this photographic vein based on family is not a calculation nor a conscious decision on my part. However, these universal comments necessarily influenced my photographic production.
Now I create a day-to-day family album that constitutes an legacy that I will pass on to my children. My work reflects our way of life, revolving around their childhood. My photographs will be the testimony of that. In a way, my approach can be considered similar to the one of an ethnologist.
What camera/lenses and settings etc. do you mostly use?
I use Canon 5D Mark III and Leica M Monochrom, both with a 35 mm f/1.4 lens. I convert my RAW in B&W with Camera Raw, and then a little bit of Photoshop CC.
I sold a big portfolio to a collector and the French Museum of photography recently acquired several pics.
Your photos have immense spontaneity and charisma. How do you manage to shoot your children?
I shoot exactly what we live. I work at home and my wife does not work, therefore we never needed someone else to take care of our children. Today, they all attend school. We do not comply with the trend of having an overload of out-of-school activities and our children know how to enjoy this free time.
This type of education creates situations of games, scenes of the daily life that somehow come out as my shots. We chose to live in the countryside, in a really old house, without unnecessary comfort nor television. Our vast yard is bordered by a stream with its bamboo forest and a family dug natural pool. This is our universe.
I learned to know this natural environment intimately. I know where to stand to catch the lights. Despite the relatively limited space, there is always plenty to discover, and the children’s ingenuity plays a predominant role there.
My space of shooting is restricted, because this is the way we live. We do not go on holiday and are mostly all together. The possibilities of game are there numerous and constitute so many opportunities to immortalize these moments of life.
How do your children and wife react to your taking their photos?
We have 6 children : Eliott (20), Olyana (18), Luna (16), Merlin(14), Dune (7) and Nil (5). My youngest children do not pay attention to the camera and are willing participants simply by indifference. Those in the middle heartily play along and, although they are aware of the photographic work in progress, it does not affect their behaviour. As for the elders, the over-consciousness of their image makes them harder to shoot naturally.
Once again, the immersion in the game with the youngest makes things easier. My wife is always here, taking care of the children and helps me by offering me the possibility to build our family album. She’s a precious assistant.
Do you follow latest trends and approaches of contemporary photography?
I started in 2004 with a photographic culture close to the nothingness. Comments on my photos, sometimes while quoting photographers in reference, widened my knowledge. I practised an instinctive photography, without calculation. I don’t know much about contemporary photography.
I exhibit worldwide, I have many publications in progress. I receive everyday enthusiastic and heartwarming messages from fans, that’s enough for keeping motivated! Becoming parents is in itself an adventure. Nobody is really prepared for it. We evolved in the course of their birth, tried to adapt ourselves to the personality of each of our children so that each developed his/her own unique personality.
We sometimes groped, lived the upheavals of the adolescence and the adventure is far from being finished. Photos tell it through the expressions of the children, the metamorphoses, the memories which they evoke, the anecdotes to which they send back such the narrative of an epic. It’s a never ending source of inspiration.
Share some words of advice with our readers:
I have no advice to give to photographers, but I used to read testimonies of photographers on some forums saying that they were looking for a style, their own style. That is the key. From my point of view, technique is very secondary. First asking oneself what we like, what gives us passion is to me the real way to know the pleasure of photographing.