From rock singer to fashion photographer is quite a journey, but when the result is a shoot with Vanessa Paradis for VS, we reckon that it’s all been worthwhile for Éric Guillemain.
In 2002, the Moroccan-born singer left his Paris bookshop job, and the French rock band Venice, to try his luck as a musician in New York. He found work as a photographer’s assistant, starting with absolute basics like changing lenses. He used his first camera to create the cover for his CD, and then began taking it out onto the streets of New York.
By 2006, Guillemain was photographing models in his apartment, seeking a raw image with little styling or make up. “I just wanted soul in daylight”, he says. He called these portraits “Before Fashion”, likening them to an acoustic musical performance. He and his subjects were strangers, so he was testing the chemistry between them.
As a teenager, Eric read Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Zarathustra” and Antoine de St Exupery’s “Wisdom of the Sands”, and it seems to us that these books influence his work. He’s more interested in stories or improvisation than concepts, photographing what he sees, and preferring “touch” to “retouch”, loving women for what they are, and not for what we want them to be.
By the end of the year, he was working with Peter Lindbergh, but friends persuaded him to submit his experimental portraits to Surface Magazine. Being chosen as one of the winners of the tenth Avant Guardian competition led to calls from other magazines. and he found himself in what seemed to him at the time, “the pretty odd world of fashion”.
He has worked for several well-known fashion magazines, such as Vogue Japan, Australia and Brazil, and Numero Magazine, photographing numerous models and actors like Lizzie Jagger, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Lou Doillon, Uma Thurman, Jamie Bell, Nick Cave, and of course, Vanessa Paradis. He’s discovered that actors are more insecure in front of the camera than models, because they’re used to a script, but Guillemain is drawn to directing them. He suggests that they let their bodies speak the lines, just as he tries to make music with his camera.
He says that he’s inspired by love, but acts spontaneously, trusting only the truth of the moment rather than any preconceived ideas, and following his instincts. His advice is “Don’t think. Just shoot“. He’s genuinely interested in his subjects, and so builds a good rapport with them, without being too intrusive. He believes that this empathy spreads, and produces a special kind of magic, which comes across to us in the pictures.
His approach to lighting is to use a couple of strobe lights for jewellery, perhaps, but to keep the effect soft. He prefers the set to look natural, and not to be overlit. He says: “A great photographer is able to shoot a million photos in a million ways, but in the end he chooses to just shoot one, and in some unique way”.
Here at Just The Design believe that Éric Guillemain is that great photographer, and that he grasps that “unique way” every time, adding an artistic dimension to fashion photography.
Two photos above: Model Terese Pagh Teglgaard for L’Officiel ParisNovember 2011
To Photos Above: Jacqueline Jablonski
Clément Chabernaud Modelled for The Antonio Azzuolo Spring/Summer 2012 lookbook.
Kristina Romanova for The Ones2Watch
Paz de la Huerta
Miranda Kerr for The Sunday Times Style
Mila Jovovich For S Moda
Jessica Hart for Vogue Australia
For Deutsch Spring/Summer 2009 Tanya Dziahileva
Model Charlotte Free for Numéro