Rearview | France | 2017
Hi Francois! Thanks for uploading your great works! Would you like to introduce yourself and your work to us?
Hello everyone and thank you for your interest in my work.
I am a French street photographer living in Los Angeles. After graduating from a Masters degree in Environmental Design in Shanghai, I worked as an exhibition and interior designer for five years. I was recently still designing shows at the Getty Museum, here in LA, but left to use my creativity towards my own artistic practice. That’s when I created François Aubret | fine art prints. I go out, take photos and sell my favorites as prints on my own online shop.
I describe my body of work as “Graphic Encounters.” It is a documentation of hidden geometry and patterns I come across in my daily life. My discoveries turn the mundane of everyday errands into extraordinary captures.
In your work, no matter the color or the subject, everything is concise and well composed. How do you make such clean image despite of the chaos of environment? Do you rely more on shooting, or more on the retouching?
It is true, my photos are very clean because I am very much this way myself. You should see my apartment! There is never a dirty plate in the sink. I just can’t think straight and be creative in a messy environment.
When I am out shooting I spend a lot of time composing my photos and waiting for the right moment. That’s what I rely on the most! It is very enjoyable to be outside and take the time to do what you like without being rushed. Once I get home I, of course, do a bit of editing but it is usually just clean ups of distracting details that I didn’t even notice while shooting (like dirt or cracks on a wall). I only edit my images to get back to what I felt when looking at the scene. I am also very selective with my photos.
You write on your website, ‘These photographs reveal the hidden beauty and humor in overlooked urban scenes’. Indeed, you have great ability of observation, and are very talented at create humorous atmosphere. Do you go to the street on the purpose of finding this kind of humor, or just keep sensitive and come across them in daily life?
A little bit of both. It is always when I don’t have my camera with me that I miss great “Graphic Encounters.” So I always take it with me now. But I also plan shooting days around LA and see what I can find. It is like treasure hunting! Somedays I go explore parts of the city I don’t know and some other days I walk around familiar places. I am always amazed to find new shots on streets that I walk on everyday. That’s the magic of photography: being there at the right time.
You shoot the series of ‘Graphic Encounters’ in Los Angeles. Do you love this city? What’s the most interesting thing happened there during your work?
Los Angeles is a strange city that grows slowly on you. Of course you immediately fall in love with the weather and the palm trees. But the city is so spread out and made for cars that it is difficult for a new comer to find a sense of belonging and community. It is very different than any other city I have been to, but I do love it now. It is very laid back. Plus, creative industries are emerging everywhere here and it is great to see.
The most interesting thing that happened to me recently was when I was taking photos around Downtown LA. A building keeper stopped and told me “Look up! Look up!” He was pointing at a falcon sitting atop a building. He told me everything about it and how the owner is using it to chase pigeons away. Seeing such a creature in the heart of the city was so unexpected and I loved how my camera created a short but meaningful interaction with a stranger.
Besides of the amazing weather in LA, what else are essential to your pleasant and enjoyable style?
Indeed, the amazing LA weather plays a big part in my photos but it is not the only element. What I am looking at has to be highly graphic, usually a combination of different surfaces with different colors and textures. It is even better if it is quirky like an odd combination of colors or a weird detail on a building that has been left out during its construction. It also has to be very flat and no people. I like the fine line between abstraction and reality and, to me, depth of field and people add too much reality to my photos.
You uploaded your illustration ‘Pool Noodle’ on Facebook. I can see both the color and style of your illustration are very ‘Francois’, too. What’s the different and the same, between the feeling of photographing and painting?
This is too funny! My “Pool Noodle” series is actually a series of photos and I am so glad you thought it was a series of illustrations. It wasn’t my intention to mislead the viewer but I like that the compositions and play of colors tricked your mind into thinking it was an illustration. To reinforce what I said earlier, I like the fine line between abstraction and reality. That’s where the ordinary becomes extraordinary and that’s how I want to make people dream in their own daily lives.
Pool Noodle Wallpaper_by Francois Aubret
You make interesting captions. Take the ‘Genesis’ for example. I just see the shadow of leaves forms a harmonious duality at first glance, but when I notice the caption ‘Genesis’, I suddenly get the metaphor of the oil painting of Michelangelo. It’s very interesting! ‘Penrose’ gives me this feeling too. What’s your opinion on the relation between the caption and the image? Is it another kind of humor in your works?
It is not an easy task to name your work, especially as I act so instinctively with photography. Most of my photos are the results of visceral reactions. It is only afterwards that I analyze what is so compelling about this or that shot. The name you give your creations sets the tone of who you are and who you want to be talking to. So when it comes to that, I realized I could keep it simple, fun and concise like my photos. As much as I can, I like to use the names as clues for people to see what I see or make them laugh. I want people to feel comfortable with my art. So starting a conversation with humor and ease is the best way to do it to me. Everyone loves a good laugh!
Genesis（《创世纪》） | Los Angeles | 2017
Penrose（彭罗斯） | Los Angeles | 2017
When you put several prints together, especially when to decorate the interior space, how do you decide the layout?
This is going to be the interior designer in me talking. To create gallery walls I take 3 elements into consideration at the same time: the layout, the imagery and the furniture sitting in front of the wall. What the image is about has a big influence on a well balanced gallery wall. The furniture placed in front will give you a framework to work with and help you create points of interests on your wall. I would advise people to start placing their large prints first. Lay them on the ground in front of the wall you are working on first, and find the spacing you like. It will give you a sense of how it will look without taking any risk. Once it’s up, play with the medium and small ones around. Gallery walls are about harmony so play with what is bold and subtle, large and small, high and low, in line and off the grid until you are happy with it. Trust your vision and have fun with it!
What’s your next plan? Except for interior decoration, what else forms you want to try to take to present your works?
Some exhibition would definitely be cool. That would complete my journey of exhibition designer to artist of a show. I kind of like the idea of going full circle on that. Other than that I was thinking street art maybe? I am just wondering how these photos would look if reintroduced in an urban environment. Would that be interesting? I don’t know. I keep myself open to any ideas and collaborations.
You have lived in Shanghai for 6 years. If color and sunshine is the key words of Los Angeles, then what’s the key words of Shanghai?
Shanghai is not a very colorful city, except for all the awesome neon signs and lights everywhere at night. So I would say mist and concrete. That would make some pretty cool monochromatic and mysterious shots. I wasn’t a photographer at that time so I would love to go back and see what kind of “Graphic Encounters” I could find there. My approach might totally change and that’s kind of exciting.
What do you want to say to people on Tuchong?
I simply want to thank you all for the love and I hope reading this has been interesting. I know Chinese New Year is coming up and I wish you all a great time with your family! 新年快乐!