Man and girl, India
Christophe Jacrot has created a cinematic, poetic visual world through his photographs. Always shot in bad weather, his photography rings with immediacy and intensity, and awakens a feeling of romantic fiction in the viewer, making us aware of both the beauty and ephemerity of life and of the fragile equilibrium of the world we live in. His photography reminds me of Henri Cartier Bresson’s words: “It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head.” In a time when one can easily feel exasperated by and bored with the interminable quantity of less-than-inspiring and forgettable images one is exposed to (voluntarily or not) on a daily basis, Christophe’s photography stays with you, it invites to reflection, to grasping each of life’s moments, to living in the present.
Christophe Jacrot’s work has been shown in many exhibitions in Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, London and New York, and he has published three books: Météores (a selection of 90 images portraying big cities in the Northern hemisphere in rain or snow), New York in Black (a series of photographs shot after Hurricane Sandy, when the whole of Lower Manhattan suddenly plunged into total darkness, transforming New Yorn into an eerie, ghostly city) and Snjór (more about this book below). I have talked to Christophe about his visual stories, about photography in the digital age and about why he thinks his master pieces are still in his head.
Dame du lac, India
Do you always carry a camera with you?
No, only when I decide to “work”.
What led you to photography?
Long strory… I did photography when I was 15 years old. Then I stoped during my 20s, to make movies (shorts and one long feature). The inherent financial and profitability constraints of the movie industry led me to come back to my first passion. I launched an artistic project on cities in extreme weather conditions, with the first series set in Paris, which culminated with an exhibition in Paris and the publication of my first book, Paris sous la pluie (Paris in the Rain, Éditions du Chêne). I continued his exploration of major metropolises in the Northern hemisphere in the rain and snow in New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, Macao, and cities in India.
Is it make or take a photograph?
Make, like a painter.
The farmhouse, Iceland
The white factory, Iceland
The beach, Iceland
“While for a long time global warming has seemed a little abstract, its effects are becoming increasingly palpable to us all. I have spent the past three years despairing over the impossibility of being able to photograph a European winter!
In search of a snow-covered but peopled landscape, I ended up in Iceland, where, thanks to a “cold temperature anomaly” in the North Atlantic Ocean, the winter season in the past two years has actually resembled winter.
This country gave me the opportunity to get away from the great metropolises that I have spent so much time exploring, and to rediscover wide open spaces.
Iceland is less wild and untouched than it first appears—there are major highways, huge tunnels, villages, ports, churches, cities… and WiFi access everywhere.
I reveled in this ocean of white, seemingly so empty and yet so “inhabited.” A precious world…”
Christophe Jacrot about his book Snjór (which means “snow” in Icelandic)
The yellow house, Ilullisat, Greenland
Most of us run for cover in rain and snow. But that’s the moment you wait for to go out and shoot. Why did you choose bad weather as the ground for your photography? What do you want to communicate through your photographic stories?
I started photographing the rain by accident. I had an order for a travel book about Paris, and sun was a pre-requisite for all the photos! But the weather was desperately rotten, and that is how I had the idea of starting the Paris in the Rain series. It was a sort of contradiction… After “Paris in the Rain”, I was looking for a very different city to shoot, but also very urban. Hong Kong quickly became my number one choice because of its raining season and its crazy urban life.
Do you ever take photos in beautiful weather?
Man is often present in your photography, but almost always as a solitary figure. Is it an evocation of one’s unique place in the world?
Not really, just to remind that people live there, and make us feel our fragility.
Elle court, la hongkongaise
Market in the rain, Hong Kong
You travel to different parts of the world for work. What is the most important lesson your travels have taught you?
I would prefer to come back 2 or 3 times to the same place; your eye evolves, becomes more demanding. I like to become intimate with the place.
In this time and age, you wish people appreciated more:
My work …
Indeed, photography has become ubiquitous. Everyone seems to take and view insane amounts of images every single day. But that does not make everyone a photographer. Do you see your photography as a much-needed response to social-media generated images?
I am rather afraid that my photos are drowning in the mass of social networks. But social networks are not everything!
You live in Paris. What is the best thing about living in Paris and which you would miss if you lived anywhere else in the world?
In fact I do live half the time in Paris and half the time in the South of France, close to the mountains. Paris is becoming just a polluted, expensive and stressful city for me. Except the unique cultural offer, and business…
Would you say you feel more at home in the South of France than in Paris?
I’m just an urban guy who lives in the country side.
So what is the best view of Paris in the rain?
Everywhere (just avoid the top of the Eiffel Tower, you won’t see anything!)
Lénine, Norilsk, Siberia
Christophe Jacrot’s books are available here