There is nothing like arriving at a new city or a new place for the first time and falling in love with it.
That’s what happened to Benjamin Colombel, an Art Director and Photographer from Paris, when he came to New York on a foggy night in May 2012. (I still remember the first day I arrived to New York to live in, even though it was 10 years ago. The images of 6th Ave on the night before New Year’s Eve are still fresh in my mind)
For Benjamin it was this extraordinary reflection of the light of Time Square on glassy buildings, the Empire State Building vanishing in the fog through the sunroof of the car… It was such a fresh and unique feeling which continues for the next day when he woke up early just to see life slowly rising in the Lower East Side.
I sort of ‘discovered’ Benjamin through Greg Finck, a friend of mine who lives in Paris, and was also featured on my blog. I think Greg made a comment about one of Ben’s images of New York and it showed up in my facebook feed.
But before I continue, I have a confession to make; I LOVE looking at pictures of my colleagues photographers who come to my city for their first time. They look at things different from the locals do and they want to grab any piece of information in their lens. (That’s what happens to me when I visit Paris). Ben (who easily fits my ‘Frenchman in New York’ thing) was here in a very foggy rainy week in May, and the way he captured the city was very misty. The more I looked at his New York pictures, the more I wanted to see other places he has been to and shot. I must admit that some of his other albums made me want to book a flight and go. He has that talent to look at the little things and objects in a way that makes you want to know more, and yet, you kind of understand the feeling he was trying to convey.
For me, I just wait for the opportunity to shoot New York with him next time he is visiting.
Where are you from? I’m from Quimper, a small town in Brittany, France. Near the sea. That’s where I started to appreciate beautiful images. Landscapes are so wonderful there.
Where did you study graphic design? At first I learned by myself. Graphic design is definitely not something that you learn on the bench of a business school. But after a couple of years as a project manager in advertising (after my business degree) I made the best decision of my life. I applied for a graphic design school in Sydney called Billy Blue. I was directly enrolled for the bachelor degree, I was exhilarated ! It was an amazing school with people from all over the world and an amazing education, so different from the French system . That’s where I learned to think differently. Since then I’m highly motivated in whatever I’m doing in this field !
What made you want to learn it? It’s the combination of multiple factors but I guess as I’m a fan of music since my childhood, I always wondered how the album cover were made. As a teenager I used to spend so many afternoons, trying to figure how they were executed. And what I really loved while I was in my graphic design school was to get all the answers to the questions I had during this period. I’m really into technique and still spend a lot of time learning.
If you weren’t an art director/graphic designer, what would you do? I prefer not to think about that. I would probably be highly depressed, held in a madhouse, screaming…
Where do you get your inspiration from? What I love the most is to find time to stay on a bench and watch people. Hear what they say, see how they look, how they move. I could do that for hours. Spending time with my friends is also highly inspirational. I’m really lucky to be amazingly well surrounded. And when I’m not with people I bury myself in my office with my books and one of my best friend … the Internet !
What do you mostly love shooting? As an art director, my day-to-day work is to conceive projects with very narrow boundaries. Everything has to be planned. Photography is my balance to that, I love to shoot the unexpected !
How do you usually approach a new project? If I’m not catching the unexpected, I would say that it’s a long process. I’m really critical in general but it’s nothing compared to how I can be critical about myself, my ideas, my work. I’m my worst client. That’s why I tend to think that photography is a quest to help me find who I really am deep inside. But I realized that the process is pretty long.
What are you working on right now? I have many projects in art direction and also working on some videos (one of my new passion). In matter of photography, I have several ideas right now that may be more conceptual than usual. All I need is to find some time. And I will never give up on travel photography. I’m sure all the readers of this blog can guess why? Argentina might be my next destination. Scoop!
Window or Aisle? Can we say both ? I’m always doing the splits between dream and reality.