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Interview with Fabrice Silly

#1 Please introduce yourself

My name is Fabrice Silly. I’m living near Bordeaux in a small village called Margaux, well known to all good wine lovers. I’m 47 and for nearly 8 years now photography has become my passion – it’s almost a drug !

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#2 How did you get interested in photography?

I was lucky to have a father whose all time passion was photography. Back then good cameras already existed and he passed hours in his lab, so darkness and the smell of acid are wonderful memories for me. So it was thanks to my father that I discovered photography, but nevertheless did not immediately become a fan, I enjoyed it for sure, but only practiced from time to time, without any precise research, more as a hobby and above all to bring back holiday souvenirs.

As the years passed I was only involved when travelling. However when Christmas was nearing I always spent my time in more or less specialised bookstores searching for a “nice black and white photo album” for my Dad. One year a friend recommended “The gardens of Le Nôtre”. I immediately found the book amazing, never having seen that type of shot before, finding it revolutionary, modern, pure, in one word a masterpiece! From that moment on, but still unconsciously, my yearning for photography had come back, and the more I contemplated images, which originated from long exposure, the more I wanted to create that type of shot myself.

While spending time researching that technique, photography gradually turned into a real passion. You must understand that creating a long exposure is a pleasure not to be equalled in any other field, starting from the optical capture and continuing until finalisation of the image in postproduction. Shooting time often takes place under necessarily difficult climatic conditions, alone, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by sense enhancing elements; and you feel fully alive, privileged and fragile!

Though not realising it, I was becoming addicted to photography, rapidly taking an interest in different styles, searching endlessly for new procedures offering essential results and emotions. Emotions sometimes lacking in long exposure, of an aesthetic nature only.

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#3 Do you have an artistic/photographic background?

I can’t say I have had any precise artistic training. As the years have gone by my concern with art in general has enabled me to discover different artists and their movements. My interest in any piece of art has always derived from its aesthetic appeal or from the emotion it gives me, not from its concept and the written works around it. Since any work of art once exhibited becomes the sentimental property of the public involved, any one of them is free to discern or to ignore its artistic beauty and to feel different individual emotions. I like to consider that art requires no specific training as to the feelings it can incite and would even go as far as to say that the magic of emotions felt when contemplating a work of art is twofold when free of all historical or technical knowledge.

#4 Which artist/photographer inspired your art?

As I explained previously my first great discovery was Michael Kenna, then Josef Hoflehner.These 2 photographers are in my mind the masters of long exposure techniques and have inspired many artists in the same field. As for other styles I am a fan of Sarah Moon, Lili Roze, Michael Ackermann, Christopher Thomas… And then painting is for sure the art the most close to photography, so I appreciate many, many of the works of Flemish painters as of contemporary expressionists.

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#5 How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph?

It depends where I’m shooting. If it’s during a journey I like to prepare my trip using Google Earth, it helps to identify places of interest and gain precious time. And then the climate has to be suitable, so an I-phone with weather forecasts and tidemarks is also a great help! Otherwise I don’t need any special preparation, when I’m out I can grab my camera at any time, it’s never far away.

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#6 Which places have been your favourite shooting sites so far and why?

When I began long exposures the seaside was my favourite playground. Then after years of travelling big cities attracted me more and more, complicated to shoot, but nevertheless an endless source of inspiration. Many Interesting themes and subjects can be very different. That’s why up to now I especially remember shooting in cities such as Dubai, Hong Kong and New York.

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#7 Photographs with such long exposure make the world look really desolate and lonely. Why have you chosen to present your works in such a form?

First of all the type of photo you refer to strongly attracted me in the very beginning due to its aesthetic supernatural appeal. Long exposure creates a unique environment unspoiled by parasitic elements, a sort of restructuring of the place involved. You are aware you are going to bring out a certain number of pure, clear lines, restructuring the image and reaching a universe of sheer calm and Zen!

You must understand that creating a long exposure is a pleasure not to be equalled in any other field, starting from the optical capture and continuing until finalisation of the image in postproduction. Shooting time often takes place under necessarily difficult climatic conditions, alone, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by sense enhancing elements; and you feel fully alive, privileged and fragile!

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#8 The technique you’re using to create your photographs has been masterfully developed. Could you please tell us something about it?

Using Photoshop has always been a long, hard, learning process. Without any training it took me a long time to succeed in getting to the result I wanted and had constantly in mind, in spite of an occasional technical hitch! So soon I took to modifying or breaking down the structure of my images to make them easier to create, especially since during any long exposure the elements you require are rarely all present!

#9 What do you do in your life besides photography?

I’ve worked for over 20 years for Universal Music, a sector like photography to go through incessant change due to technological development. Both activities have been revolutionised by the amazingly rapid progress of numeric technology, in the way they are carried out, used, appreciated and consumed. The simplicity and quality of numeric imaging has completely overtaken analogue technology. Nevertheless the new numeric empire has left initiates with an insipid taste, rather more frustrating than nostalgic. For numeric imaging has left aside the soul and the aesthetic appeal, leaving us to require computerisation to give back one or another analogue aspect to our numeric files while listening to a vinyl disk at home.

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#10 What future plans do you have? What projects would you like to accomplish?

To tell the truth I’ve loads of artistic projects in mind! I like alternating projects, just as I enjoy many different artistic movements. I of course intend to go to big cities such as Shanghai, Chicago or Singapore for an urban, architectural, photographic approach. I am also endeavouring to work on superimposition effects, emotionally contrary to any long exposure techniques, but which give me much pleasure. Furthermore, I would like to use theatrical techniques in studio work, I know what I want to do, but do not yet know how to go about it technically! So, the desire to rediscover wide spaces untouched by humanity, and to use my camera to expose our lovely planet for 3 to 4 minutes at a time remains and will always remain part of my projects.

Fabrice Silly portfolio:
www.fabricesillyphotography.com


2 Responses to “Fabrice Silly”

  1. Pavel Javor

    Very interesting interview Fabrice. Great creative photography. Greetings.

  2. Clint Phipps

    Thanks Fabrice in helping me master another step in my guest of meaningful long exposure .

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