[When I changed careers to venture into photography, I had to learn everything from scratch. I was an engineer by training and even after three years working as a management consultant (a job in which you must always seem like you have an answer to everything in order to reassure your client), I had a tremendous amount of learning to do when I decided to go-it-alone as an artist and photographer.
Things I had to learn were as varied as photography technique or a different type of client management and business development (the most obvious) to perhaps less obvious aspects such as vision, how to define my own positioning and how to nurture my creative and personal energies, which are equally crucial in aligning one’s efforts with a truly personal approach.
This “engineer & photographer” stream of articles is an attempt to share what I learned and how I went about it. I hope you gain useful knowledge and ideas out of it.]
In early 2010, I attended a photography training at Gobelins in Paris.
This is one of the best and most practical trainings in digital arts, web, video, photo and animation. Right after the Copenhagen Climate Talks of December 2009, I had chosen to launch a project about climate change and to tell the stories of men and women who had already started acting to mitigate climate changes, in order to inspire more of us to also act. This was the genesis of the Climate Heroes project. And in order to make it happen, I knew I had to acquire all the skills and tools necessary to become a photographer, as fast as I could. The training at Gobelins was amazing (and I will go into greater depth about what I learned there in a future article).
At the same time, I discovered the work of Sebastiao Salgado.
I became familiar with his work, through the long-term documentary projects he had done about migrations, manual workers, and his most recent one: Genesis. This one in particular made a big impression on me, as it dealt with the places on Earth that remained untouched by the hand of Man (read: large-scale western consumerist civilization).
I was incredibly inspired by this way of working, not solely in a photojournalistic way that requires to be reactive to the news, but in a more creative and vision-oriented approach where you create the frame in which you want to work, and deliver a message about a topic within this framework. I guess I much prefer this storytelling-heavy method because it allows me to go deeper into a subject and to address different layers of complexity, mixing artistic and esthetic components such as image style and colors, as well as content. As an engineer by training, content, in the form of educational and scientific information about climate change for instance, is of the highest importance to me.
I was eager to learn more about how Sebastiao was designing his projects. I was also looking forward to getting his advice about how to launch Climate Heroes — and perhaps avoid the most obvious mistakes I would have made. I therefore wrote to his agency in Paris (we were actually in the same neighborhood) and stopped by to ring at the door. The Manager, Françoise, was very nice and I came back a few times, but Sebastiao was never here, as Genesis took him to remote shooting locations more than 8 months a year.
Finally, one morning during my training at Gobelins, during the Studio Lighting Technique class, I received a notification for a voicemail on my phone. Sebastiao himself had left me a message and offered to meet. I was super excited and learned a lot during the amazing time we spent together in his studio in Paris, looking at the prints from his latest trip for Genesis, and talking about how to carry out large-scale photo documentary projects.
Watch the video below where I tell more about the advice he gave me!
What is your experience building large-scale projects? Have you tried to work as a team with other photographers? How long have you worked on your projects?