Eric Frot is a photographer and graphic designer who has been taking photos in the Paris area for over 30 years. Though he is known for his black and white work, his colour photos are vibrant and thought provoking. He doesn’t differentiate between shooting on the street and shooting in the forest; it’s all about expressing his ideas. In his words, “I do not want to show the reality. I want to show the reality that inspires to me. There is no truth in my photos, only my falsehood.” His photos are now on display at Médiathèque Jacques Duhamel in Le Plessis-Trévise, France. For a more in-depth view of his work, check out his website, Flickr, and Instagram.
I asked him eight questions about his work and current projects. Our online conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from, and where do you live now?
I’m almost 53 years old. I love music. I love light. I love darkness. I love shadows and silence. I love wind and thunder. I love my independence and do what is needed to be to live as free as possible, what doesn’t mean anything, but it motivated almost all the choices I made in my life. I was born in a small town, 100 kilometres from Paris, France. I moved to Paris when I was 20 to study photography and lived in the city for 30 years. At the end of 2014, I moved back to the countryside to a very small village between woods and fields where I live among horses, rabbits, and roe deer.
You’ve said you tend to shoot mostly in black and white but are also drawn to colour photography. (You have a fantastic sense for colour!) Has your feeling about those two ways of shooting changed in recent years?
Thanks for these kind words. That’s an interesting question. A few years ago someone told me I was a black and white photographer. This statement surprised me, as I have used colour as much as black and white since the early ’90s. But maybe my black and white work has more impact on viewers.
In the ’80s, I used to shoot a lot in black and white for all my personal work because it was cheaper, and black and white was very common in the newspapers and magazines. But I’ve never asked myself if I preferred black and white, or colour. It depends on my mood, on what I want to express. Some photos need color, other need black and white, so I always carry two cameras.
You do a lot of street photography and you live in Paris, which has such an incredibly rich tradition of that. Do you find there are resources there—I’m thinking of galleries, exhibitions, colleagues—that inspire you? (And, if so, do you have any advice for those of us who don’t have such access?)
I haven’t done much photography in Paris since I left. But it’s an incredible city for photography, culture, and inspiration. I have a pass for the Maison Européenne de la Photographie where I love to go a lot. I saw a great exhibition there about Japanese photography recently. The Ed Van Der Elsken exhibition in the Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris was really awesome. I also like the Polka Galerie which is much smaller but where the works exhibited are always inspiring.
Painters are a great inspiration to me. I really admire the great painters’ work. Brueghel (both the Elder and the Younger) would have been great street photographers if they had had a camera, as would other famous painters such as Le Tintoret. I love abstraction and I tend to experiment with some form of it in my flash photography.
The internet is also a fantastic tool to discover and learn. There are a lot of websites (museums, galleries, press agencies or newspapers, Tumblr, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, etc.). But it’s very time consuming and I prefer to look at books at home or in libraries and bookstores.
I usually prefer shooting on my own but sometimes I go with friends whose work I love. Isa Gelb, for example, who is the curator and designer of Underdogs, a stunning magazine in which she gives us the opportunity to discover the work of photographers she enjoys, and Laurent Bichaud, with whom I studied photography at school. He is an awesome photographer. I invite you to check his work about the Velvet Revolution in Prague in 1989, or his series about Paris 911, among many others.
Can you describe any interesting experiences you’ve had in doing street photography?
I never thought of me being a street photographer. I think I shot in the street because it was my immediate surroundings. I don’t differentiate between shooting in the streets or shooting trees in the woods. My state of mind is the same shooting candid or staged photographs. First you need an idea, second you have to make the photo– framing, and exposing correctly to get the result you want with your idea. I do not want to show the reality. I want to show the reality that inspires me. There is no truth in my photos, only my falsehood.
How do creativity and self-expression in your photography relate to creativity in your graphic design projects? Are those processes quite similar for you, or pretty different?
Well, photography, painting, or graphic design is all about making a picture. Different tools, different techniques but same skills. I guess graphic design helped me to develop my sense of colour.
When I work, or when I shoot, I try to empty my mind; this is not so difficult because it’s not really full in general. But it seems to me it’s the best way to allow ideas to come to life. If I think too much or I’m worried about something I can’t get out of my mind, I won’t be able to work efficiently.
Are you exploring any particular themes in your photos this summer?
Summer is ending and I finally didn’t shoot a lot. Summer is the time of the year I do work a lot. I still have an ongoing series about my dreams and my nightmares, but it hasn’t progressed very quickly. I used this summer to put some distance from photography, and clear my mind. I admit that I had an overdose of images, between my job and the internet.
Is there a certain time of day/week/year you find you’re most likely to get photos you’re happy with?
I don’t think so. Light is one of the points in the result in a photograph, but it’s up to the photographer to deal with it. Creativity is needed, specially when the conditions are not favourable. And I love to fire a flash in the dark night.
One final question: Can you tell me briefly about a couple of photographers I may not be familiar with yet but you would recommend checking out?
I previously talked about Isa Gelb and Laurent Bichaud. [Editor’s note: Isa Gelb has been profiled on the site this summer; be sure to check out her interview.] I really love the delicacy of Sylvain Biard’s photos. His series D’ailleurs demain, Badlands, and Shima are awesome; also, the beautiful series Leaving Scars by Patrick Sagnes. I very recently discovered the work of Andrea Buzzichelli. His work Inhabitants is really worth checking out. These are a few among many awesome photographers who deserve attention.
Many thanks to Eric for doing this interview. I’m so appreciative of his thoughtful answers that provide insight into his work. Be sure to check out more of his work on his website, Flickr, and Instagram.