David Ledoux: Photography work is 'one giant quest'

By Shah NairEvents - 29 January 2015 12:00 AM | Updated 2:53 PM

David Ledoux: Photography work is 'one giant quest'

David Ledoux, the masterful composer of mechanically processed photos (who had the Alps and the Lake Geneva in Europe as part of his backyard view growing up), was here in Singapore recently to share about his work and the amount of pride he takes in the traditional methods of art. 

Using an argentic camera (an analog film camera) as well as stencils, gels and torches, Ledoux captures surrealist images akin to “painting” on film.

The French photographer’s works, 15 of them, are now on show at Tippling Club in Tanjong Pagar until March 2015. inSing caught up with him for a chat.

'Holiday Picture' | Photo: David Ledoux

How did you come around to Singapore? 

I met Cynthia Chua (of The Spa Esprit Group) in Paris, while I was doing a show there. She went to the show by chance and she really liked the technique and what I was trying to achieve. She proposed that I come over and do an exhibition in Singapore, so I decided on a theme. And you know it is always nice to travel for what you do.

You grew up on the lakes of Geneva. Did that have a huge impact on what your career would turn out to be early on?

Lake Geneva (between Switzerland and France) has a particular atmosphere. It is very slow, very quiet and it is just at the beginning of the Alps. With the proximity of the mountains, there is this great melancholy about it because the lake stays very still and it is always changing colour, and there is a great amount of light diffusion that goes on.

Speaking of which, is diffusion a great part of your work?

I started developing this particular technique a few years ago and I am constantly finding new tricks and trying to manipulate things, like fogs in the sky, or shadows on the ground. 

Initially, you were trained in fine arts and painting. Has there ever been a time where you have had to focus on the digital tools for art, too?

I think it was in 1998, digital art was still only at its beginning and we kind of focused more on the traditional modes of art, like painting. 

But of course, some students back then were all ready to jump onto the digital bandwagon. I, however, grew up on the rich history of art, especially in a country that is full of it. 

Were your parents into art, too?

Yes, my mum was from a family that was into art and craft and I realised very early on that I was talented in the use of pencils, paint and the approach of paint. I realised further along my path that photography and my understanding of light would help me find that desirable niche too. 

You've shot for Vanity Fair, GQ, Dazed & Confused, and Vice. What was your takeaway from that side of the media industry?

I was very inspired by people like Nick Knight and Paolo Roversi (fashion photographers), who were visionaries of their time. 

Along the way, I found myself experimenting with fireworks and neon lights and I did a shoot where I got a girl to set off fireworks. It was the beginning of an idea that photography was not just a snapshot, but that it could take duration and a moment, and capture both.

You speak of fireworks, and your first picture centring around one. Is that why there is always an element of fire in your works?

I think, when you experience that rush and that emotion when you are building up towards a piece of work that takes, maybe, a few days with all that anticipation building up, it doesn’t really matter how much effort goes into manipulating a raw element like fire.

Please tell us more about your relationship with the Argentic camera. 

I grew up with it. On a digital camera, for example, you cannot do double exposures or even triple. Argentic, Hasselblad, 6x6 cameras will allow you to do as many exposures as possible on a single negative.

I’m really happy that you can’t do this on a digital camera, because it is something that is very valuable to the many generations before the current digital one.

'House On Fire' | Photo: David Ledoux

Which piece is the one on which you spent the longest time working?

Sometimes I take a lot of time cutting out the stencils, like the ‘House On Fire’ piece took a long, long time because it is layered up with all the stencils.

How do you unwind? Through music, perhaps?

I don’t really have much interest in music (chuckles), because I love what I do. It makes me happy, so there’s no stress naturally. 

I absolutely love surfing though. It came to me when I spent my school days in Australia. And skiing, too, since I was from the Alps. And I think it’s good that I don’t live next to the ocean, otherwise I’d spend all my time surfing instead of doing work.

What is the most challenging thing about photography?

It is to find your own style, technique and execution. Especially considering the history of photography and the number and variety of things that people have already done. 

As an artist, you always want to be different from the rest. It is one giant quest.

Spa Esprit Group Presents David Ledoux – ‘Tropical Uncanny’ | Date: Now till 1 March 2015 | Time: noon-midnight daily | Venue: Tippling Club, Level 2, 38 Tanjong Pagar Road | Admission: Free