It is an uncomfortable truth, which we try to ignore, but it comes back to impose itself even more strongly: to master a technique does not mean to dominate the soul. The artist Edouard Sepulchre reminds us with Rodeo Car Family about the importance of getting deeply involved with work, your passion. With intuition as the main driving force, he draws a photographic map of the world around you, never forgetting his inner map. His perspective captures images where everyday reality mutates to spaces and forms of great visual power. In this interview, together with the artist, we review his beginnings in the capitalist logic of advertising and his leap to artistic photography. His trajectory has been built by portraits of landscapes that looks like people, and human bodies deconstructed in polygonal structures. In his photo series Rodeo Car Family, located in a racing club in the north of France, he visually speaks of freedom in the total absence of prejudices and (above all) draws us a portrait about family. Protective looks among the members but defiant of the others who can attack them. In this case, the cars dotted with mud work as a new nexus of family unity. They are human beings to whom we are united with kind of an invisible cord, sometimes we stumble and sometimes we hold to it to avoid falling. Through his eyes, the family is the essence of every artist, perhaps another uncomfortable truth to explore. T: Samuel Prim
Before you focused your career in artistic photography, you’ve worked in the advertising business for big corporations. How was that transition from a more commercial style to something more organic and experimental? At the time I was working as a strategic planner so I had to keep up to date on economic, social and art news, I was being stimulated constantly. In these conditions, it is quite difficult to deepen what really interests you. The break happens mainly at this level. Since then, I have found a rhythm and a relationship to the world that suits me better. The spectrum of my interests is smaller but they fully make sense to me.
Something that really caught my eye is that you capture a building as if it was a person, humanizing it and giving it a personality. On the other hand, you also capture people or parts of a human body if they would be constructed structures, taking their human personality away. Do you agree with that perception? Indeed when I photograph a landscape I like to look for a human presence through the random forms found in nature. I think what’s interesting when a landscape, whether urban or natural, becomes a presence. As far as the Bikers series is concerned, the idea of not showing faces makes it possible to focus on what really matters. It is through the accessories, clothing and tattoos that we enter the world of Bikers. Faces are not always expressive and narrative. Sometimes they are, but not always. Human beings also have an old reflex that involves looking first at the face and sometimes missing the rest. And finally I find interesting that a photo does not show everything. The fact that something is missing forces the imagination to fill it. For a photo to remain “open”, it is necessary to create an enigma, in a way or another.
Your photo series Rodeo Car captures the essence of freedom of somebody that leaves the chaos and the social structure of the city to live his way. What do you think on this? These people have not left the world of the city, they are just born in a cultural environment a little apart. But they live a normal life. They have a job (often mechanic), the Rodeo Car is a hobby and they come to have fun in total freedom. There is no claim of freedom. This is precisely what is interesting. On the other hand, bikers often claim freedom, believing they escape the system and its binding codes. For that they buy the biker’s uniform. As a result, “being a biker” has become for many of them a commercial product like any other, but I did not feel that way regarding this Rodeo car community.
Some of the glances that we can see on the Rodeo Car’s faces are defiant, full of conviction. Those are eyes that are not afraid of truly looking, don’t you think? Yes I agree. Most of them are very comfortable with their image and let themselves be photographed without any problem. There is even a form of curiosity and pride in the fact that we are interested in them, because there was no other professional photographer around. This way of looking reflects pretty well the way they are talking to each other in a fairly direct way.
The spontaneity of the family members comes easy cause among them it doesn’t exist a severe authority? On location we feel that there is an authority. Besides the children have fun but don’t do any really stupid things. I think it’s because they are included in the activities and parents trust them. They are not fearful and do not project all their anxieties to their children. For example, if you look at the picture of a child drinking in a beer bottle, appearances are deceptive because he is actually drinking water. He has fun pretending being an adult in the same way that we all smoked a chocolate cigarette.
Cloudy skies and mud, contrasting with the oxide color of the metallic cars and the sport clothes of the people there. What color conception or palette did you followed in this photo series? My photography plays with colors, so unconsciously I am attracted by scenes that seem graphic to me (to the extent that they make sense). But for this series, I could not say that there was a conscious intention in terms of color palette. I work with what I have, following my instinct.
Your main body of Work is focused in France. Looking at it through your images, we can see a very eclectic country with such a cultural mix. What do you think on that? I try to show a France that people do not usually see. Each subject constitutes a micro community or a micro universe. While most photographers work on the same theme throughout their series, I need to change the subject and make a new exercise each time. But the approach is always the same, Jean-Luc Godard summarizes it very well: “It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to.”
You have an ongoing series called Looking for America where you look for American symbols and iconography around the world. And in A Month in the West, you finally get to know the real America. What does America means for you, personally and professionally? American colorists are the photographers who have aroused my interest in photography. In 2015, this trip to the United States was another form of revelation. I understood, at that moment, where my enjoyment as a photographer really was. Later, I realized that when a scene touched me, it was because it sent me back to America and more particularly to the American West and the myths that are attached to it. Obviously the themes of freedom and wandering are central, but there is also the idea of “conquest of oneself” in a desert environment where everything remains to be built. The West is both the place of perdition and the place of becoming.
Then if we talk about America in general, we must recognize that American iconography has colonized our imaginations. If you look at the other photographic series that I made in France, we often have the impression of being in the US, because these communities have been fed with US iconography from a very young age.
You have been published in some pretty well known photo magazines from all around the world and thanks to that, the public can see your work outside the museum, in their own intimacy and paying a different attention. How do you think that this has to do with the final evaluation of your work and the meaning of it? There are mediums that bring visibility, others that bring meaning and others credibility. But they are all complementary. What matters is that the public can discover the work of an artist from different sources. Doing an interview makes sense and it’s very important in a world where you tend to just scroll through the images quickly. It gives people a new perspective (view point).
Back to your past in the advertising business, nowadays advertisements are everywhere. Is more aggressive but also more artistic in a aesthetical way. Do you think publicity can be art even if it’s trying to sell you something? I do not know if we can say that advertising is more artistic today. Today indeed it looks prettier, more aesthetic, more attractive on the outside but with much more consensual messages. But the real subject if you want my opinion is that art is moving when you feel its sincerity and authenticity, when you feel that it expresses a form of intimacy with its creator. And unfortunately today there is very few brands that gives me that feeling. I would even say that those who are really sincere do very little advertising.
This issue is made under the topic ESSENCE. How would you say that is the essence of your body of work, past and present? Which is the shared concept behind? What interests me with photography is the possibility of operating a process of RECONSTRUCTION of reality. I do not try to show the reality as it is but rather I try to recompose it by giving it a final shape that offers a springboard for the imagination. Regardless of the subject, the idea is to be able to shift a point of view.
Which are your upcoming projects? My two current projects are “Looking for America” of which we have already spoken about and “Dryland”, a series that I have already started but which is not on my website yet. For now I occasionally post pictures on instagram and on tumblr. Through this latest series I seek to recreate a world on the border between the real and the imaginary from the landscapes and characters encountered in the arid lands of North Africa and the Middle East. For this project I decided to ride on a bike and I have already covered 6,500 km so far. But the road is still long and I’m far from finished. And I would like to get a book published and an exhibition of this project.
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