Alex Cretey-Systermans

Where are you from/based now?

I'm based in Paris, where you can find me at home in my studio most of the time when I'm not shooting outside. I live with my lovely wife Sidonie and my 1 year old wonderful daughter Lili.

What is you background in photography? What got you started?

I studied art and got a BFA (french equivalent) in photography and a MFA (french equivalent) in painting and photography. I'm more a painter, formerly. Photography first started as a tool to bring back documents for my personal work. Back in my art college years, my photography was more 'conceptual' at this time. Today I try to work as much for my personal projects as for editorial assignment. Note that I still have my brushes and oil colours in a drawer close to my cameras...

What equipment do you use?

I use film cameras as much as I can. Medium format film cameras are my prefered tools.
Also, even if I don't like it, I always bring DSLR on assignment, but the best pictures always come from film. I'm very anxious about the future of film in photography.

You seem to travel a lot, where has been your favourite place to shoot? Is there anywhere
you particularly want to go at the moment?

I did an awesome trip aboard the mythical Eastern & Oriental Express train through Malaysia and Thailand in october 2011 but my recent trip to Burma was unforgetable.
The country is dramatically changing at the moment and democracy is showing up, hopefully.
But it was mostly still untouched by globalization, which is weird today and feels like a time travel. People here were extremely friendly and the landscapes are sublime.
I'd like to go to rural China for a project I 've had in mind for ages . I'm also working on a collaborative project about Mongolia, hopefully a book project. We managed to raise funds for it but It looks like we haven't time for it for the moment.

What is your creative process, do you plan what you want to shoot or is it more spontaneous?

I'd say both. Some projects involve a very slow process, meticulously planned and patiently built, (I could wait for good light for ages) While some of them are very spontaneous when being shot.
I spend hours sequencing and editing the work, though. I'm very obsessive when it's about selecting and sequencing the work. Note that on assignment, I just have no time at all to work properly. I always have barely few minutes to shoot a place and good light conditions are just an unreachable dream.
My dream assignment would be the one with time. A lot of time to plan the work, to think before shooting, to frame, to wait for the good light.

What drives you to keep taking photos?

I am a picture person. I've always been. And other photographer's work always drives me. I am a photobook collector : whenever I return to one of my prefered books, I always feel the urge to shoot again. Also, I still find good photography is somehow magical. Everyone knows that famous quote by Garry Winnogrand : "I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed". Which is exactly my feeling.

Who or what Inspires you?

I cannot tell exactly what inspires me, as inspiration is irrational, subjective, spontaneous.
What I know is that I am inspired by good light in reality and good work in art.
Or more precisely, when reality makes me think of good art I know and when good art reminds me of good moments from reality, I can feel very inspired.

Are you working on a project at the moment?

I'm still editing my recent travel work for a few french magazines and my personal work is always, day and night, on my mind.

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