Paul Rousteau is a French artist who creates natural and poetic photographic images. For me, his work captures http://www.paulrousteau.com/the beauty of life here and now. His work paulrousteau.tumblr.com is basically unadorned and lovely. Here’s our cool chat.
MICHAEL: Hello Paul, I love your work. You make photography so warm and human. You clearly like photographing people, but people can be so difficult. Why do you photograph people so much?
PAUL: I take portraits for magazines. I take a lot of portraits because they’re part of my assignments. I do not take portraits in the street or portraits of my friends. Only portraits of my son because he's not shy and I know him well. In my portraits, sometimes I can be warm, sometimes I can be ironic. It depends on the model that I have to shoot and the surprise that you always have with a picture. Lately, I try to do more "warmth" and positive images of people who I take in pictures. It’s because I prefer to be constructive. Being cynical is too easy because everyone has a lack of something. So I try to see the beautiful things in people, even if it's a bit naive or even in a cynical way.
MICHAEL: When you are photographing things, what's going through your mind? What are you trying to capture? Why do you photograph things? You can do other things instead, No?
PAUL: First, I try to organize the space, the colors, the model. I compose my image, but it's very natural now for me. After this, I try to break this organization with mistakes, lights, effects and improvisation. Like this, I can surprise myself and reveal the mystery and illustrate things that we can't see. This is my final purpose.
MICHAEL: Your work does indeed look very natural. Do you ever use Photoshop or manipulate your work? What do you think about this?
PAUL: My effects are not with Photoshop. I work naturally when I shoot. It is on the raw file. Yes, I manipulate my images, but without digital things. Afterwards, I use a bit of Photoshop for the color and few things, but I do not spend much more than ten minutes per image. Yet I like the idea that we can modify reality with Photoshop. Still, it’s not really my work.
MICHAEL: Your photographs seem very much like paintings to me. The way you photograph things seems very painterly. Do you think about paintings when you photograph? Why do you do this?
PAUL: Michael, you see very well in my work! I don’t like analog pictures because they’re too flat, too clean. I like the painting because there is soul and sweat inside. Here you can see my mood board and you can see painters that I like: http://capturesdimages.tumblr.com/.
MICHAEL: So many people today have cameras on their cell phones and many people take digital photos. Are the photos they take also art? What's the difference between their photos and your work?
PAUL: It's just editing. For my graduate project, I took pictures and I edited them to illustrate Bible scenes. So, I changed very common pictures to iconic pictures with reference of the Holy paintings. My inspiration was Fra Angeligo, Gustave Doré, or Le Caravage and all these Bible scenes that I saw in pictures when I was young. You can have a small view of the book here: http://paulrousteau.free.fr/html/html2/personal/facebook2.html
MICHAEL: Are you saying that anyone who takes photos on their cell phones can also be artists? Is this true? So many people are taking pictures now.
PAUL: I like your idea that anyone can be an artist. These days, the artist also has to be a curator. If someone takes images with his cell phone and he has good expression with them and knows how to show and sell these pictures, he can be an artist. There’s a lot of different art and the limits are moving every day so we have to be very open. Everything is art, it's depending on the culture, the mood and also what is your the definition of beauty.
MICHAEL: You're also a commercial photographer. What's the difference between art photography and commercial photography? Obviously, with commercial photography, you're working with clients and promoting products, but do you approach subjects differently with commercial photography? Does your art photography make you feel better?
PAUL: I don’t put a border between my commercial and personal stuff. I’m quite lucky because my clients are very permissive. They let me be free to work as I want. So I can express myself like in my personal work.
MICHAEL: Finally Paul, Your work reminds me a little of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Do you see him as an influence?
PAUL: Since Henri Cartier-Bresson, photography has change a lot. I'm not influenced so much by this master, but I really like the poetry and joyfulness of his projects of the French people on holiday. I maybe have in common with him the naive nature and positive things that I want to put into my pictures.
MICHAEL: Also, what do you want people to see in your work? What are you saying to us?
PAUL: I want to reveal by photography the unseen. Showing un-physical things in photography. That’s my purpose.
MICHAEL: Thanks Paul. Nice chat.
PAUL: Thanks Michael!