Jean Francois Lepage - some say he invented the fashion genre completely new.
Lepage is a high fashion photographer and artist as the same time. The French photographer, born in 1960 in Paris, started his career more than twenty years ago. Whilst working for countless fashion and lifestyle magazine – Harper’s Bazar, GQ, Vogue are just a few to name – he developed his unique style and created amazing looks. Mixing his artistic view on the world, which seems strongly influenced by painting, drawing and reminds of cinematographic elements or sceneries, with high fashion results in images that are truly stunning and most of all not “typically fashion”. Some even say he invented the genre completely new.
In some of Lepage’s pictures the models seem the live in their own worlds, lost in their thoughts rather hovering in the frame of the image than being part of it, even though it’s all about them. They are isolated from everything around them. Other pictures look like Lepage is working against this separation: drawings, paintings and graphics and even staples unify model and environment… at least at first sight. Jean-François Lepage’s pictures and his style definitely inspire your imagination – no matter if you think of them as fashion or fine art or a mixture of both.
Who or what inspired you to take up photography? Is it still the same sort of inspiration?
Painting has always and still influences photographers as it’s the birth of visual arts. Four hundred years before the invention photography, Pieter Bruegel was already capturing movements and framing like photographers do. However, at the end of the 19th century photography has clearly influenced painting this time, because of photography some painters were seeing the world differently. We can figure out clearly in Degas works and later in the works of Edward Hopper.
When I was a teenager my uncle offered me 3 books of 3 photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Smith and Robert Frank.
Those photographers are still part of my creative process, they are my base, my foundations because they reach, without the purpose of being artists, simplicity and truth. I love painting, movies and photography, because this 3 mediums have in common the ability to reveal us instants and moments of life we don’t see clearly with our eyes.
What equipment/camera do you use?
I work with 4X5 or 8X10 cameras.
Why do you concentrate on people?
For the moment I make mostly fashion pictures and even if I like still life photography, I rather prefer to photograph people.
How many hours do you spend on editing your pictures and how much time do you actually have for „taking photos“?
I make very few images to get my photographs, so my editing is extremely fast. I shoot most of the time between 4 or 6 photos a day and when I get one or two good images, I’m happy.
Do you prefer digital or analogue photography? And why?
As I’m shooting with big format cameras, for now, I’m still shooting with films. I follow the evolution of digital photography and I’m pretty sure I will, one day, find my way to work with digital. There is no rush about it…digital is clearly the future of photography. At the end a good photographs is a good photographs whatever the technique used.
How would you describe your look / your style in five words?
Paradoxal – Paradoxal – Paradoxal – Paradoxal – Paradoxal
What was the best advise you ever received and what would you like to tell prospective/aspiring photographers?
Most people who give you advise care about you. I’ve never listened to advise, not because I don’t care about people but because most of the time those advices are to reasonable and reasonable thinks are the beginning of immobility.
I would recommend to a young photographer to follow his intuitions and translate, all advise he will inevitably get, into his own way. We are all different and we need to take many different roads sometimes to reach our own universe.
How do you recognize the perfect moment? Can you actually feel it?
I often say that perfection is the opposite of what I’m looking for, I like to improvise and built images in a sort of non-organize situation. For me, making each new image is a puzzle of many pieces to join together in a certain laps of time and of course it’s never the same puzzle.
Can you see the world with “non-photographer eyes”?
Yes, yes, yes, I’m only concentrated on making images when I have my camera near by…and my camera is big!, So most of the time I don’t have it with me.
If you had the chance to meet a person of your wish – dead or alive- and ask one single question who would it be? And what would you ask?
Albert Einstein: ‘Can you give me a bit of your IQ?’
All images © Jean F. Lepage