15 May 2017
Erwan Frotin (*1978) was born in Toulon, France. He is Franco-Swiss and graduated from ECAL in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2002. In order to create his evocative images, he uses the highly specialised technique of large format photography. In 2002, Frotin was awarded the Photography prize at the Festival de Hyères. Since then, he has exhibited his work at various institutions in Europe and North America. The photographer navigates in both fields of applied and visual arts. Since 2008, Erwan Frotin has adopted an intuitive and protean approach to his work which consists of cataloguing rare natural forms and organisms. Using documentary material as his starting point, Frotin’s work unravels a nebulous, primary and sensorial story. In the past nine years he has been working as a lecturer in photography at the ECAL.
In our interview Frotin explains why a photographer has to be sincere.
What is the task of photography?
It is about marrying beauty and information in a clever way: to reveal the beauty of the world and to shape visual information, in a way that is unusual and powerful enough to inspire people, to make them experience something new.
How does photography change life?
It can be, at best, a manifesto of a personal philosophy, expressed as the photographer’s message, and thus, inspire people to look, in return, at what is best in them.
Is photography always interdisciplinary?
I do not think so. Photography is an adaptable medium, that is essentially a mirror of its author’s own relationship to the outside world. Photography can be practiced as an individual form of art, a personal research giving maximum space and time to concretely develop individual intuitions. This process generates in depth images that can transcend temporary trends by expressing very personal concerns. In this case, there is no interdisciplinarity, as the process is mainly introspective.
It can also be practiced as team work, as in the case of fashion photography. In that case, there is interdisciplinarity, as the photographers work with other art directors, artists, stylists, models, etc. As several people are focused on the creative process, they share expertises and inspirations. The results of that process are quick, and often express the joyful feeling of a very specific moment in time, shared by their co-creators.
When does photography reach its limits?
Photography is at first, by definition, a transcription of immediate reality. Its final expression is determined by the photographer’s own relationship to reality: To which extent is he an idealist, or an objective observer of reality? No extreme is better than another, no general rules can work for everyone – only very personal recipes that need to be searched for and developed as relevant photographic images.
The photographic result can drift away from reality either by postproduction alterations like collage, painting, retouching, or stay a pristine, exact mirror of reality. Both ways are possible. The most important to me is, that during this process, the photographer should always aim to express what’s dearest to him. Photography reaches its limits when the photographer cheats on himself by not sincerely expressing a kind of personal truth. This truth can be as extreme as super-subjective or super-objective – it doesn’t matter as long as it is sincere.
Is good photography invisible?
I would rather say that a good photography should be simple. It should look effortless to anyone, even if it has caused tremendous effort to be created.
Must photography create something new?
It has to show us either a subject that we do not know yet or show us something we thought we know already in a new way – which comes down to the same thing: surprise!
Which photographer influenced you?