Interview with Yiannis Bautrait
1) Tell us about yourself and you as a photographer . What gear do you own and use of street/documentary photography ?
My name is Yannis Bautrait, I’m 36 and I live in a little town of the south of France, Carcassonne. I work as an archivist.
I’ve been “making” photography for about 10 years but “more seriously” for a couple of years. During a long time, I used not to have an “artistic” view while making pictures, I used to take pictures, without any meaning. Since I’ve fallen into street photography (at the end of 2012), I’ve been trying to have a thought on my pictures, to build them more.
Since I’ve known that, I’ve only been making street photography. I can say I’ve found the kind of photography that suits me. Now I find landscapes or monuments boring, I need some life in front of my camera. Moreover, I can’t deny there’s a kind of adrenaline and excitement before going on the street : “Will I find nice characters to shoot ? will I find good places to set people ? will I make interesting pictures today or nothing good ? will I meet open-minded people or aggressive ones ?…”. We never know how it will happen, that’s always a surprise. Of course, that’s up to us to make it good, we can control some things, but not everything. And there are a lot of possibilities : even if you come on the same streets of the same town in a short time, you’ll never do the same pictures. Sometimes, I feel as a director, I choose a stage and I try to set my characters on this stage… that’s a funny play. But it’s never a play to the detriment of people : I like them and I never try to laugh at them. I just want to show the life around me as I see it : there are nice moments, sad ones, moody places, funny situations, curious ones, strange people, serious ones, light, colors… that’s varied and I like that.
I would say that street photography is about fun.
Since I’ve had Fuji X100 and after, a Fuji X100s, I’ve almost exclusively used this camera for my street photographs. It’s very intuitive, discreet, I can quickly change the controls according to the circumstances and I’m glad with the unique 23 mm lens. I’m at ease with it for the kind of pictures I want to make.
2) Has photography affected the way you live your life, what’s the impact?
We can say that photography affects the way I live and that’s not always easy ! Indeed, it’s difficult to go for a walk without seeing some scenes that could have been photographs if I had my camera. I see photographs everywhere around me. Since I make street photography, I hardly can walk in a city without shooting… and then that can be boring for my wife.
Nowadays, photography became more than an hobby, that takes almost all my free time : shooting, editing, posting on internet, looking pictures of others, meeting friends to talk about photography, reading photo books, going to exhibitions…
When I don’t shoot for a time, I miss that… I need to photograph regularly. That’s now a part of my life and of my balance.
3) Who’s your inspiration ? what message inspirations did you get from them?
Well, I won’t be very original saying that Henri Cartier-Bresson is the most inspiring photographer to me. His compositions and frames are examples ; he could be very patient to wait something happening at the good place and the good time but he also could search a good character, dancing among the crowd.
Since my taste for street photography grew up, I’m interested in other works : I have some affection for the Humanist french photography (Ronis…), I like the sense of humour of Elliott Erwitt (and his dogs), I like the view of Robert Frank about his contemporary, I appreciate the long work of Joseph Koudelka among Gypsys, I’m impressed by the unknown (during her life) Vivian Maier, I like Garry Winogrand’s spontaneous pics… And there are so many great photographers I didn’t have the time to discover !
For some months, I’m more and more interested in color street photography. Then, I naturally turn to the works of Saul Leiter, Alex Webb, Joel Meyerowitz, William Eggleston…
Aside from famous photographers, I can appreciate the works of friends on flickR or facebook. Without searching especially the inspiration, I like watching good pictures and sometimes I think it could be interesting to work in similar ways, to develop some different approaches I didn’t explore yet… but never in the view to copy.
I appreciate a lot the work of photographers gather into collectives, like : In-Public, Street Photographers, The Observe collective, Burn-my-eye, Strangers… We can see there a modern view of street photography and that’s refreshing.
Generally, I don’t search any inspirations but these different works, famous or not, must have some influence on mine, unconsciously. I guess that these readings, these exhibitions, these thousands of pictures seen make that, month after month, I don’t make the same photographs and my personal work evolve. I can notice that I think more when shooting, I observe better all the elements around me (light, composition, frame, colors…)… even if sometimes you have to react quickly or the character you noticed is out of the scene the second after. It must be a balance between thought and spontaneity.
4) What are your feelings on color and black & white photography ?
I like both color and B&W, for my pictures and also in the works of other photographers. Sometimes I see a scene in my mind in B&W, then I’ll turn the picture into B&W on my computer. It depends of the light, the colors of the clothes, matching colors on a scene, depends of the background, the graphical meaning of the place…
At the beginning I used to make only B&W pictures, with graphical scenes, but I more recently learned that color could bring something else, something interesting. When I go out in the street when pressing on the shutter I see it’ll be a B&W or a color shot. That’s one of the advantages of digital photography.
I would say that I turn into B&W for graphical plays and to reveal some expressions on people faces because your eye isn’t disturbed by something else and I play with colors when they’re enough speaking, expressive. It seems more difficult to make a good photography in color, because there are more elements that must be enough interesting into the picture… I still have to learn more about light and color to make better color (street) photographs.
5) Have you been doing any series or projects ? What’s your thoughts on single vs series/projects photography ?
After 2 years and an half of street photography practice, I can’t say I work on series. I just make single shots and when I go on the streets, I don’t say to me, “let’s shoot only red people or people with mobile phones”, or “let’s catch only silhouettes on colorful backgrounds today”… But, when back at home, after a work of sorting, editing… I can observe I have some pics that go on the same way. It’ll require to take the time to print them and put them on a table to see if I can have some series among all these single shots. I guess I have : I have some with umbrellas, some with dogs, some with phones, some with glass reflection, some with shadows and silhouettes plays, some with funny expressions or behaviors, some with matching colors… Well, maybe I have series but I have a big work to do to define them and to build them seriously.
However, the idea of making series gains ground little by little.
6) Where we can find your folio or follow you personally ?