Please welcome our week 39 presenter Ray maï.
1) When did you first feel a connection to photography?
I don't think I could give you an exact time for an answer. I’ve been raised up surrounded by pictures of French humanists (Doisneau, Brassaï, Cartier-Bresson, etc…). Perhaps it unconsciously put that idea in my mind that the best thing to do with a camera is to be a witness, of your time, of your surroundings. I first had a compact and had fun with it, but I soon had pleasure to take pictures of my city, people in the streets, typical faces and characters.
2) What was your first camera?
Well, I’ve had a camera since I was a child, a simple cheap mechanic camera I had for a birthday near 10 years old. I used it mostly for memories and landscapes when I was in holidays. At that time, photography was not a passion.
I purchased a digital camera as soon as I could, a Kodak DX4330, a 3mpix compact cam, with which I really started to discover and try a lot of different things. The mastering of light and reactions of a camera gave me the envy to take out the old cameras of my father (Ricoh and Mamyia), and discover the pleasure of playing with DOF. I bought my first DSLR two years later, a Minolta Dynax 5d, 4 years ago. I own now a Sony A900. When I look back, I remember that one of the most important thing that made me buy a reflex was the quality of tele lens. Finally, I mostly work now with 50 and 85 primes…
3) Your photo stream is mostly made up of portraits. What is it about people that you're trying to convey through your photography?
I would say that the (hidden or not) goal of any photographer is to show something he finds beautiful, strong, or interesting. I don’t know how exactly how I started to “specialize” in portraits, it came progressively, along with the equipment I was buying. The purchase of my 50mm 1.4 changed a lot of things in my vision of photography. I have been influenced a lot by the work of others photographers, able to catch really strong things in the eyes of their models, I quickly learned that all in portraiture is related with the glance. I’m not sure of what I aim to introduce in my portraits. I love glances as they are concentrations of all the personality of the character, nothing can introduce a character better than its personality. My love for the glances drove me to spend money for small DOF portraiture and leave teles for “3D” primes.
4) Your portraiture seems to focus on the very young and the very old. What draws you to those two ends of the the spectrum.
Well, I try to make interesting pictures, different than what the others photographers usually show, otherwise, there is no sense to practice photography. I look after emotional pictures, and directly, it leads me to children, because they like overall to play with the camera, it is game for them, and then to rather old people, as we can read their life (suffering, happiness) in their glances. Generally, they’re also the most eager to be a model.
5) Do you ever give money to the homeless people you photograph?
I did that, sure, but never for posing. I did that, but because we chatted, became familiar and I wanted to help them. I do not think that money is a good way to make pictures, it is not a way at all to value your model, even rather the contrary. A good street portrait needs contact between the photographer and the model, you have to deserve it and sometimes it takes weeks. It can be awful moments with drunk and violent guys as well as a very pleasant and endless conversation with homeless gentlemen. In any case, it is a big lesson of life.
6) Tell us about the beedees photos.
Beedees are cigarettes made from eucalyptus leaves, basically they’re just rolled eucalyptus leaves. I have seen them only in Indian sub-continent. As it costs near 5 cents the 30 beebees pack, it is mostly smoked by poor people in India, those who cannot afford to buy tobacco cigarettes. Considering the health aspect, beedees are worse than cigarettes (and forbidden in France) and tend to make more damages on the skin. I titled that picture “Beedee damages” as that man looks sick, his cheeks are …. and his skin pretty destroyed.
7) Are you earning a living through photography or do you hope to?
So far no. Of course I would love to live from photography, but it is a hobby I practice for pleasure. I like to work without pressure, and I do not think I would be interested in being a photojournalist (except maybe a war photojournalist) or studio photography. My photos have no commercial aim, people like them but would not use them to decorate their home…
8) If you could spend a week making photos anywhere in the world where would it be?
In the Nubra valley, Ladakh, India. The part of Ladakh I did not have time to visit last time.
9) Tell us the story/background info on one of the photos chosen for Spotlight Seven.
I would have to discuss the back story behind this photo if I were to choose one:
That was in a train leaving Haridwar to Delhi, an overcrowded train, as you can see on the serie "Crowded indian trains". That little girl was taking a train leaving Haridwar for Delhi. I think she was traveling with her grandparents. I was waiting on the platform for the next train as I saw her, in the middle of the wagon, crying and begging her mother not to leave her.
There were two very strong things there:
- I imagined myself at the same age in that chaos of people shoving, shouting and struggling to enter the train. I was myself very impressed and I found her very wise and strong in front of that.
- Her wet glance did not leave her mother at any moment, until she was too far to see her...
10) Show us a photo on flickr you wish you took.
The strongest I have seen so far, I do not think that I need to explain why.
Originally posted at 3:09PM, 7 November 2009 PDT
jakerome (a group admin) edited this topic 43 months ago.