In a previous life the guitar was my vehicle of expression. I started playing in local bands as a teenager in France, played, and later managed to convince my parents to agree to let me switch my major from mathematics to music in College. My teachers saw a potential career for me. The path was unclear though. Starting from a small town in eastern France in a family far removed from show business or the arts, the chances of me ending up playing the American music I loved behind world class artists like Wanda Jackson or Charlie Mc Coy were pretty slim. Yet it all happened. Years later, knowing what I know about the intricacies of music business, I realize how incredibly lucky I have been. Music gave me so much. I traveled the world, met and worked with incredible artists, played thousands of concerts (I do miss the communion with an audience and the band member camaraderie in my current photographer life). I eventually met my wife through it, moved to the country I have always loved, and even became an American, adding a new layer to my French identity.
People often ask me how the switch to photography happened. I don’t really know actually. See, for me it’s all the same. It’s all about expression, about culture and aesthetics, and about a quest for beauty. The instrument may be different but the process and the goal are very similar. As a photographer I ran into success very early on (I was shooting for not even a year when my work was published in the trending wedding magazines —beginner’s luck!). I also took on commercial and editorial assignments way above my experience and skills level back then (not knowing what you don’t know can be a blessing).. everything happened so fast and without me trying to pursue anything, like it was meant to be. Soon after, I realized I was now spending more time with a camera in my hands than a guitar; not that music had left my heart, still hasn’t today, but my professional and public identify started to shift towards photography. Around this time, when random people would ask me about my profession, “photographer” started to become the easiest short answer.
Today, 14 years into a photography career, I’d still rather eat with the band at weddings; music is as present in my every day life as ever and there is no real distinction in my head between music and photography.
When I edit a photography project, it feels like mixing a record. It’s about culling the unnecessary, identifying the heart of the story, finding a balance and an arc in the narrative.
Music and photography are both related to time. In music, every note is connected to the previous and the next one (actually closer to what a moving image/film would be). What I love in photography is the notion of freezing time; the disconnection of a frame from space and time entirely. There is freedom in this. Nothing matters other than that the split second moment. Gary Winogrand used to say that making images was the closest thing to not existing he had found. You can let go and forget everything in that 1/125s, even yourself. I find it exhilarating.
There are more similarities between music and photography though. In both fields, we talk about composition, about dynamic range. Contrast is very much like compression in the audio world. It reduces the bandwidth between extremities of the spectrum (highlights and shadows, or soft and loud sounds in music) to give more concentration of energy, more ‘punch’. There is also foreground and background, space, warmth or coldness, all terms relevant to both mediums.
Film is like Vinyl. It provides a similar soft clipping compression, making distortion pleasing, where digital distortion turns into dead pixels and harsh digital distortion artefacts.
I also think there is an analogy to be found between the exposure triangle (Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO) and the interaction in audio between EQ, Dynamics and Reverb. The relation between those variables control depth of field, perceived loudness and a position in the frequency spectrum (density in photography).
Anyway…guitar or camera, it’s all the same for me!