Chill is a freelance, self-taught image maker living in Strasbourg. He purchased his first camera while studying for a computer science degree.
His work first came to my attention when the lovely knitphilia re-blogged a photo set featuring Chill’s image curated in such a way that bodily form was abstracted to something not unlike typography.
A bit later I stumbled upon Arousal Visions’ impeccably curated highlighting of Chill’s intricate executed depth of field and the ultra-vivid color he summons from scenes as if by magic.
I’ve wanted to comment on his work in some way; however, the overall quality demanded much more than an OMFG, lookie at the pretty colors!
Since Chill follows this blog, I figured it couldn’t hurt to reach out to him in an effort to learn more about his process.
To my surprise, he not only responded but expressed excitement at the prospect of addressing a handful of questions.
AE: Right off: I am en-goddamn-thralled by the interplay between color and depth of field in your work. It’s almost as if the dominate hue permeates the frame so completely it becomes sort of liquid—not unlike amber encasing an object. Short of Uta Barth, I’ve never seen anything that conveys 3D space in a 2D medium quite like your images. Could you talk a little bit about your technique?
Chill: Your amber metaphor is fabulous (and unusual). I really like [it]. I’m very [sensitive] to the way [things are seen]. This picture of a liquid enveloping everything is pretty and poetic. I’ve always been attracted by vivid colors and natural light. There is a particular energy and a pleasant atmosphere in it. I love close frames, it reinforce details you want to highlight and naturally goes hand in hand with intimacy.
I always [meet] the person before the session. In a nice place, [getting to know] each other, talking about what we like, what we don’t, exchanging some ideas, answering questions, etc… I think it’s normal and human « step » before making pictures. It also helps me ([and] the model) to feel more comfortable.
I work as much as possible in natural light, which makes me dependent on it. Scene colors, clothes that the model will wear, skin tones… influence substantially the result of my photo sessions. Every meeting is unique, and that pushes me to adapt regularly. Anyway, it’s never pleasant to cancelling a session when the weather is really bad. I [applied] myself seriously in photography when I bought my Canon EOS 40D. It was my first DSLR and I really enjoyed [using] it for 6 years with [the] 50mm lens I still have. I have [had] a full frame camera (Canon EOS 5D) for a little over a year. My shallow depths of field, my highlights and my frames are natural. I don’t post-process [my pictures much], my motto is to keep my pictures as natural as possible.
AE: I am going to be a bad interviewer and digress into personal biography. Similar to you, I am a self-taught image maker. I’ve also taken photography courses at an MFA level and in my experience there is a near total disconnect between traditional so-called fine art photography and autodidact practitioners—the form and content of the respective works are different + the conversations surrounding them couldn’t be more opposed. (The DeviantArt/Flickr/Tumblr crowd raves about Traci Matlock and Lina Scheynius whereas the MFA kids seemingly can’t shut the fuck up about Eugene Atget and Robert Frank.)
Beyond your manipulation of color with depth of field what interests me about your work is that it feels like it’s standing in the middle of that bridge of impossible crossing dividing non-traditional and traditional fine art practice. In form and content your work is pointedly non-traditional; however, my own response to it skews much more towards engaging critical and conceptual concerns instead of pondering why the work interests me and/or whether or not I like it. I am curious as to how you arrived upon such a rare middle ground.
Chill: Your analysis is very interesting, I hadn’t seen the things like that and I’m truly touched by it. I discovered photography during my studies, far away from the artistic environment. A sideline which quickly captivate me and became my main passion. I grew up in a family where there wasn’t any particular interests to photography or visual arts. The fact that I fell in it by simple curiosity still surprises me now, so much [that] I…feel like…it [now] forms integral part of me.
Being…very curious, I quickly realized that everything was possible in photography and it was necessary for me to control my equipment to succeed in doing what I wanted to. …[M]y technique became a kind of personal signature. I developed my skills in a rather naive way…according [with] my tastes and my desires. I try again and again, different things, randomly or with a precise idea. I correct. I start again. I think it’s in this way I developed a certain rigor in my photographs over time.
AE: What artists do you consider to be indispensable influences?
Chill: I’m an admirer of Helmut Newton (Newton’s glamour and erotic style is unique), Richard Kern (for the natural and living side), Larry Clark (I like the way he has sometimes to disturb through his works, and his manner of filming. Rough and true.), Ryan McGinley (for the timelessness, unique ambiances and dreamy pictures) and many others…
AE: While she was a terrible fucking person—not to mention the unsavory whiff of implied slut-shaming—there’s this Margaret Thatcher quip: Power is like being a lady…if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.
I mention it because I feel it is apropos to straight, cisgendered men who shoot erotic/nude work and waste a lot of breath pontificating on how much they respect women; meanwhile their work suggests a patently sexist agenda. In other words: if you respect women, no need to pat yourself on the back, it’ll show in your work—end of fucking story.
Your work comes across as at the minimum cognizant of feminist concerns w/r/t the politics of representation/depiction. And that makes me wonder to what extent—if any—you are consciously trying to subvert the art historical trend of privileged straight men objectifying the female body? Do you identify as a feminist ally?
Chill: I’m into body photography in [intimate] environments. Of course, I’m conscious that many pictures I make are glamour and sensual, and can be, unfortunately, …interpreted or quickly…catalogued as being a part of the art historical objectification of women by privileged straight men.
I would…identif[y] myself… as a a feminist ally, because I’m completely against [such] objectification of…woman and it’s always very unpleasant to receive those typical male comments about my photographs. I find that disrespectful for the persons I photograph and…my work.
AE: In an interview appearing in issue 6 of Koch Magazine you mention that nudity presents the opportunity to capture a certain ‘timelessness’. I am curious as to how that is perhaps counter balanced by your expressed interest in shooting in the model’s environment whenever possible.
Grounding the shoots in modern, personal spaces seems to contradict such ‘timelessness’. Could you talk a little about how these two features of your process connect?
Chill: The fact of photographing the model in his place, when it’s possible, reinforces the intimacy, and that’s what I try to show firstly. The environment is significant to the intimacy of the person photographed, and nudity becomes a means of enriching this intimacy.
To make timeless nudity possible, the environment has to be neutral and minimalist. Thus emphasizing only the body and not the body being a part of the place.
AE: You are stranded on a desert island. A desert island that counter-intuitively (and conveniently) has electricity, a phonograph and a DVD player. You can bring only 3 albums and 3 DVDs. What can’t you live without?
AE: What was the last book that really blew your mind?
Sandcastle (Chateau de sable) by Frederik Peeters and Pierre Oscar Levy (comic book) – A closed session between 13 persons on a beach, who will face an inconceivable event which will [raise] many questions about themselves. I can’t tell more.