Sebastien Tixier

Where are you based?

Paris, France

What is your background in photography? How did you get started?

I’m self-taught. I came to photography late, 6 years ago when I finally bought my very first camera. Still, I’ve always been fascinated by photography since I was a child, but didn’t have the courage to start learning. I took some quick evening classes in drawing instead... But I kept being more fascinated by the photography medium because of its ambiguity: it might be visually realistic but yet it transcribes a bias. Thus when digital finally democratised I thought it was a great opportunity to start learning easily, and bought my first DSLR camera – I started with digital and went to film right after.

What equipment do you use?

I mostly use a medium format Mamiya RZ 67 for my personal work. A Canon 5D mk II for digital, that I also use to polaroid with. And some other film cameras 35mm and medium formats for special purposes.

What is your Creative Process, is your work planned or spontaneous?

It’s not an easy answer... I think my creative process is very different for each work. If I take for example the series “9288”, it went out very spontaneous. By nature it’s more a sort of “live photo report”, and it’s very different from my other works.

They share a more similar approach: generally I have something in mind that I want to turn into pictures, and start working on it. So it’s much more planned. But when I start, I quite never completely know everything it means to me; and it generally reveals over the months in the making of the series. Sometimes I will still discover things, years after it’s been finished! So I would rather describe the process as both planned and instinctive.

For example with “Ordinary Life Stories”, which are all stagings, I let the original idea grow for weeks and turn into an image all in my mind, mentally adding elements or changing the scene to add coherence/incoherence. Then I start sketching the image and see if it resists my thoughts for a few more weeks, to finally take the picture.

“Instant of Latencies” is somewhat in between: I found myself shooting some very similar kind of urban/landscape images for 3 years, until I actually understood the feeling they had in common and what felt important to me. So the series was then constructed by regrouping pictures from this period. Each picture is obviously not as planned as my stagings, but still most of them have not been taken “on a whim” but after identifications of the places and appropriate time for light.

Could you tell us a bit about your Ordinary Life series and 9288 (transsiberian) series? They are quite different in subject matter but have a similar stylistic quality. How did they both come about?

“9288” is indeed very different from my current other works. We decided to go through Siberia with another photographer friend in the mythic transsiberian train, from Moscow to Vladivostok. There weren’t many more plans at all, if any! The idea was basically to do the complete trip non-stop – it takes like 7/8 days – trying to capture the landscapes, mood and life, from the train through the window or on the platforms … and see what comes out. Of course sometimes it’s very frustrating not to be able to stop and explore a certain region that you see pass before your eyes, but doing the complete trip non-stop is just such a thrilling experience that not doing it would have been even more frustrating! There is a moment when you feel like you are part of the actual train.

“Ordinary Life Stories” is quite the exact opposite in terms of “process”. Each picture in this series is very planned and sketched first. This series actually went out as a collection of mini-series: I had first been working on some pictures originally planned to be separated (first the photos with the red wires, then those with the stars) and realized they were all talking about some similar things, so I decided to regroup them under the name “Ordinary Life Stories”. And the series was then extended with more photos. This work is much more “conceptualised”, it deals with our relationship with ourselves, our bodies, our experience, the doubts, hopes or disillusions that we carry.

Who or what inspires you?

Pretty much everything that affects or touches me, be it encounters, emotions or life conditions. Generally speaking, humanity with its cracks and poetry is what I want to represent, and more precisely so far my work mostly tends to present this as a general questioning about our urbanization and our physical or psychological isolation.

Speaking about influences, I think that David Lynch’s aestheticism has certainly been a great inspiration for me, and a lot of photographers of course. In random order, I would think of the works of Gregory Crewdson, Nadav Kander, Stephen Shore, Erwin Olaf … and a lot more obviously! I am continuously looking at images, in magazines, in the streets, on the web, from famous and unknown artists. Also the static and “overacted” poses of the models in Renaissance paintings are probably related to the way I often direct my models to.

What are you working on at the moment?

I think the series “Ordinary Life Stories” is not over yet, but for now I’ve started working on a new project: it isn’t titled yet but I can introduce it as a series that also has a conceptual approach, but with a repetitive pattern in the framing. Though the series is shot in colour, the aesthetic is stripped down to mostly only black and white items, and alternating stagings with models and still-life pictures. I am at the very early stage of this work so I still don’t know what it all means to me, but it’s probably focusing a little bit more on growing-up, the regrets and expectations it carries. On a very different approach, I have also started shooting scenes of urban/rural scenes at a large scale that I think are related, but right know I have no idea where it will bring me! Lots to do!

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