Olivier Seignette is a 46 year-old French photographer who recently joined Paris based agency Hans Lucas. In his latest series Gathering, Olivier captures his summers spent with his whole family in Sweden, focusing on the calm, beautiful nature and his children, nieces and nephews.
Hello Olivier, thank you for this interview. What are your main interests as a photographer?
When I started photographing, I was mostly shooting in black&white, and buying books oriented to photojournalism by the likes of Eugene Smith, James Nachtwey and Eugene Richards. Then I became gradually interested in color photography and in a slower, narrative story-telling, with a particular focus on landscapes and portraits.
Most of my pictures are taken in my daily life or during trips. Photography is completely integrated in my routine, so most of my photos depict people and places of my universe.
What is Gathering about in particular?
Gathering is part of the work I have been making for several years now in the North of Sweden. Me and my family meet there every summer in an isolated place close to the sea, in a region called High Coast. This place calms me down and inspires me, I like the feeling that time is suspended. For about a month there is almost no difference between day and night. The light is so peculiar. The nature is raw yet beautiful at the same time because of this simplicity. Gathering captures the impatience as the moment when we all meet together again approaches.
Can you share some insight into your approach to the work?
I usually work in an intuitive and simple way. I like trips, nature, peace and quiet, big open spaces that are more or less uninhabited. I’ll take any excuse to go and shoot a bit.
While in Sweden I wander for long hours and run almost everyday in the nature that surrounds the place I am staying at. Sometimes, I spot a few locations while running, so then I go back with my camera; other times I’ll see or pass by a certain place without paying too much attention to it, then one day, I decide that I like it, and take a photo.
Editing is especially fun for me, because I can play around with the small illustrations I print to create my framework. I then put them on a magnetic blackboard right in front of my desk and I leave them up for some time. I mix, move, take some off, add others until I find the match and balance I was looking for. This is the way I create my stories.
Tell us a bit about making the Gathering photobook.
In Gathering, I wanted to create a rhythm between the children and teenagers portraits – who are all from my family circle – and photos of landscapes. These two themes do really occupy my everyday life during my summers in Sweden.
The book is a paste-up, superbly printed in very few copies. I noticed that whether a book is printed in thousands of copies or just one, it does not change the public reaction – in both cases, it exists. This is not the final version, though. I am currently busy on another project: when I am done with it, I will come back to Gathering to work on a new version of the book, with less photos.
Choose a photograph from Gathering and share with us something we can’t see in the picture.
This little boy is my son holding a mirror by the lake. That morning, the weather was not very good, and it was just the two of us by the lake. I was shaving myself. He took the mirror to play with it, and I was going to photograph the reflection of his face but what I saw instead was much stronger and interesting. I pushed the button right away. It is one of my favorite pictures of Gathering.
Who are some of your favorite contemporary photographers?
I particularly like Stuart O’Sullivan’s books How Beautiful This Place Can Be and A Shared History, and I enjoy Vivianne Sassen’s powerful work. Richard Misrach, Jem Southam, Nich Hance McElroy and Eirik Johnson’s superb series Sawdust Mountain are also photographs I particularly am found of.
Do you have any other passion besides photography?
Choose your #threewordsforphotography.
Passion. Inspiration. Discovery.