Interview #74: Thomas Bouquin
CUS: How did you get into photography?
Thomas Bouquin: My dad always had a camera with him during family vacations or weekends, and at a point I simply asked to use it. Try to make a picture, to see the world through the viewfinder and potentially understand how the camera works. Then I realized that some of the pictures I did preserved what I saw or felt at the moment. It was such a nice discovery.
CUS: Did you study, or are you studying, photography? If not, how did you learn?
TB: I started to learn with tips given by my dad. Five years ago I took an evening photo class once a week just to improve and learn because my pictures always disappointed me. I was so into it that I decided to apply to the photo program at Concordia University in Montreal that I’m completing. I’m almost done.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live. How does your city/country/location have an affect on your photography?
TB: I moved from France to Montreal 7 years ago and I think this change of continent really influenced my photography. It soon became the ‘in between’ reference of my practice. In between two places, two cultures, and two histories, looking for a point of convergence through the photographic process.
CUS: Tell us about your photographic process.
TB: Memory, trace, light and space are aspects of our complex world that fascinate me, but the bulk of my work relies on the gap between photographic subjectivity and documentary traditions, as I often combine straight techniques of representation with my own personal experiences.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
TB: A dark coffee, 2 toasts with butter and home-made strawberry jam, plus and orange juice and two scrambled eggs.
CUS: Who are the individuals in your photographs?
TB: They are friends, family, encounters, strangers, sometimes dogs…
CUS: What makes a good image?
TB: If I knew I would be rich & famous ! That being said I like images which seem to be perfect with something weird or imperfect within. Something you tried to understand or question so you can’t lose the pleasure to look at them.
CUS: Where do you draw inspiration from?
TB: Mostly from other photographer works. Also from movies, novel, other artistic medium… and what I discover in my immediate surroundings.
CUS: What can you tell us about your project "Lou Mistrau"?
TB: In Lou Mistrau I went back to the south of France, visiting family and friends in places I already new. It’s about the feeling to know a place very well but in the same time to experience some distance with it, when you are also a visitor and a resident. Connected and disconnected. It’s quite a strange feeling I try to understand through photography each time I go back there since spring 2012.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true?
TB: No. Taking or making a photo doesn’t mean you’re a photographer. I’m not a writer because I know how to write with a pen or on a keyboard.
CUS: What are your thoughts on digital vs. film photography; photography and the Internet? (For example, mass amounts of images being uploaded every day via sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram…).
TB: Those things are made to exchange and spread content, to communicate. However it’s not so easy to avoid because it’s everywhere now. But I think it’s good to take a break sometimes, to slowdown and focus on our work instead of just uploading stuff that is not so pertinent.
CUS: How do you differentiate “art” photography and “non-art” photography?
TB: Photographs are made with purpose. If the purpose is to question something, or make people think about something, even if it’s simply about beauty or the process, I think it could be art. On the contrary, if the photo is made to sell or illustrate something, even if it’s wonderfully and carefully made, and even if a lot of crafts, technics and skills are put into it, I don’t think it’s art but a very nice and empty shell that fill out a purpose.
CUS: Do you think that the Internet (as opposed to a gallery or any other art institution) is a legitimate place to showcase photographic work or do photographs have to be seen in “the flesh” to be fully appreciated and experienced?
TB: I think both of them. Sometimes I see very nice photos on the web that lose their power in the flesh, which are not very well printed or presented. Also the Internet is great to make photography works more democratic, especially in the case of very rare or expensive photobooks. And it’s great to see works from all over the world, because it’s impossible otherwise to travel for each exhibition or festival.
CUS: What are your plans for the spring?
TB: To enjoy spring after this no-ending and very cold winter in Montreal, to walk a lot and simply make images. Also to research and prepare a trip in France to pursue my current project.
CUS: Your favorite photographer?
TB: Stephen Shore, Paul Strand, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Eggleston, Atget, Sander, Evans… Can’t say just one name sorry.
CUS: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
TB: I have no idea.
CUS: Your dream equipment?
TB: A free color film processor with free color negatives.
CUS: Your dream location to shoot?
TB: Somewhere I don’t know yet.
CUS: What is the biggest challenge you face with your work?
TB: To keep the motivation over a long-term project.
CUS: What was the last thing you dreamt about?
TB: I can’t remember because it was too fucked up.
CUS: What are some of your favorite books and films?
TB: In photobook I will say She Dances on Jackson by Vanessa Winship. In novel, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, and one of my favorite movies is Stranger Than Paradise by Jim Jarmush.
CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose and why?
TB: Araki because he looks funny.
CUS: What advice would you give to your fellow photographers?
TB: Keep going !
CUS: Our last interviewee, Monica Uszerowicz, asks: What were you doing before you answered these questions, and what will you do next?
TB: I was watching the end of the NHL play-offs game between Montreal and Ottawa. Next I will check a bit of the NBA play-offs before sleeping.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask the next interviewee?
What is the color of your socks ?