Sylvain Biard is a street photographer from Paris, France. His street/outdoor photography is candid, full of humor, and a bit whimsical at times. He states that he observes a lot more in his surroundings but detaches himself and maintains a distance to capture the drama on streets. “It is the relationship with my immediate present to live more actively. My photographs are my closest reality: They are a way of structuring the unexpected, everywhere and all the time. In wandering, they allow me to pay attention to detail, to choose and put them in order.” Here we have a selection of his recent images with answers to our simple questions:
I’m a freelance videographer and editor. I was born in Paris and still live there. It’s been 31 years now. Apart from photography, I also like boulder climbing, reading, cinema, traveling (when I can afford it!) and hanging out with friends.
My job is about images. 10 years ago I was a student in an audiovisual media school where we also had photography classes but I was into movies at that time and not that much interested in photography. My first attraction for photography was in 2007 when I borrowed a DSLR from a friend for a few minutes. I immediately felt a form of freedom and a few months after I bought a small DSLR kit. I started shooting people in black & white with a cheap telephoto lens without knowing what street photography and even photography was. I was happy at first but I quickly felt bored not knowing where it was leading me. I bought a 7D as a video camera for my job but almost stopped taking pictures.
The first trigger came when someone offered me a film camera, the canon AE-1. I liked film photography as something physical and concrete. It became an exploration of cheap cameras, lens and formats. It gave me time to think about what I was doing and forced me to be more patient. I also loved the aesthetic side of film. I realized that photography had a background and was a form of language. It was a fresh new start and I became more like a student in photography than only a guy taking pictures. I started being interested and curious about what was going on in photography and discovered street photography and the work of photographers.
I often have the feeling to be more an observer than a participant. With photography I can record that distance. Photography is a link with the immediate present : When I take pictures I’m an active observer and I have the feeling of living the present. Almost all the pictures I take are not posed photography, it’s coming from my closest reality and it is just about shaping the unexpected next to me. It can be everywhere and at anytime. It gives me the pleasure to pay attention to details. Being out with no other goal than finding and choosing things that I didn’t expect is a soothing wandering.
I came to 35mm lenses because it was the most common lens featuring many cheap film rangefinder and compact camera. It’s also a classic for street photography. This year I wanted to try something more flexible and went finally back to digital. I bought a X100s which is simple and easy to use when I go out for walks on my own.
I also have an Olympus Stylus Epic in my pocket and I use a Mamiya 6 for quieter and slower projects. I scan my films with an Epson V600 and all my pictures are organized in Lightroom. I try not to spend too much time on developing a digital picture. A couple of minutes is far enough.
In photography I believe it’s important to keep a distance. It takes time to forget the emotional connection with the situation that came with a photograph and be objective about the result. That’s the hardest part!
I’m not trying so sell my photos though I wouldn’t mind if I could! First of all, photography is about being free and doing what I want. My achievement is when I feel complete while taking a picture. It is when I see myself still doing that in the future and making progress. I don’t know if it’s an achievement but I’m happy with that!
I like strangeness and irony in a photo. That’s what I also try to find when I take pictures: I look for deformations and weirdness but also quietness. It can be obvious, subtle or failed but I think a photograph should speak for itself. It’s like a language reinventing perpetually its own structure and you cannot know how the exchange is going to work. I’m not trying to explain anything. It’s just that the picture speaks to someone or it doesn’t and there’s nothing to do about it.
One of my friends asked me why I was still taking pictures when everybody does it. This is exactly what interests me in photography now. I think 20 years ago people communicated with images. Now it’s like if we had started to become images ourselves. It’s all about representations of our ego.
In that context is it only a representation of ourselves that we want to see or can we still look for some sort of beauty ? There are many great projects and approaches in contemporary photography today and I think beauty is still here.
What are your future plans, aspirations, inspirations, and motivation?
First I’d like to better organize what I’m doing, find links and connections. I hope to be able to explore other forms of photography and still practice and progress in street photography.
My first understanding of that aesthetics came from Internet when I discovered the images of photographers like Todd Gross, Justin Sainsbury, Lesley Ann Ercolano, Kate Kirkwood, Danielle Houghton, and the contemporary Greek photographers Antonis Damolis, Dirty Harrry, Dimitris Makrygiannakis etc.
Also all the collectives : Street-photographers, In-public or Burn My Eye.
Then came street photographers like Martin Parr, Joel Meyerowitz, Jeff Mermelstein or Lars Tunbjork. ‘Street Photography Now’ and ‘The Last Resort’ by Martin Parr; ‘Half Awake and Half Asleep In The water’ by Asako Narahashi are the first 3 photography books that come to my mind as important influence and inspiration.
All these influences, my attraction for contemplation, my curiosity for the unexpected are my motivations.
Note: All images used with permission. Please do not copy or distribute without the approval of the photographer.