Shooting from the heart is a matter of feeling the rhythm of the moment for photographer Celine Meunier. She sees these moments before her eyes and hits the shutter without worrying about how it'll look -- we recognize passion and love for the medium when we see it. In this short interview, she talks with us about facing arresting moments whether blurry or perfectly captured, who and what inspires her, and so on. Dive into her simply beautiful work and read her equally honest answers below.
Hello, Celine. Welcome to the Lomography Magazine. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi there! I'm from Paris, France, I've been making photographs for a few years. I shoot with film, and I'm a cat person.
How would you define photography? What attracted you to it?
That's a tough one! Hmm, joker? I was definitely taken to photography by chance. I had had an interest since I was a kid but nothing serious, I was more into visual arts. Then in 2011, I moved to Turkey and my grandmother offered me a Nikon FM2 on this occasion. No auto mode on this camera, so I learned how to use it to be able to share about my life there, and then when I moved to Lebanon. As I went, I became curious about the many possibilities offered by photography.
What's your favorite thing about making images?
I think just making them is the biggest thing about photography for me. Then seeing the final result is something else, but there's an excitement about the fact of making images in itself.
How does photography fit into your personal life?
It's very much part of it. I find most things are worth shooting. So I often carry a camera around, and I harass my friends shooting them every minute. When I don't have the camera, I'm always seeing stuff that I would have liked to take a picture of, my eyes are on photo mode in those moments.
Let's talk a bit about your work -- how would you describe your photographic style?
I think it's in the making, but I definitely go for a natural look and I hope it conveys something lively and genuine.
Who or what would you say was the biggest influence on your work?
It's very difficult to identify a unique influence. I guess among artists' work I look at often are Bernard Buffet, Le Douanier Rousseau, Annie Leibovitz, Seydoux Keita, Noémie Goudal, Nan Goldin... though my photos don't have much to do with their work! I find a lot of extremely inspiring work as well among upcoming women photographers, social media is of huge importance for that given the little importance is given to women's work in the regular art market.
How do you stay creative?
Right now I feel I'm still learning a lot about photography as a technique. All the things I don't know are an excellent drive of creation since a lot in photography comes through practice, and there's definitely a lot to be curious about!
We love the simplicity in your photos. It feels so real and natural. Is that a look you were going for in your work?
Thank you! I'm not sure I was skilled enough to make it otherwise when I started but I like to keep it that way for now! Most images we're surrounded with are designed to have a look at the border between real and unreal. Close enough so we can identify, but not quite real, so we'd seek for them. They're the self-claimed representation of what we dream for. For me, they're the remains of a past era that was dreaming about itself.
I like the more natural look. I think it shouldn't be mistaken for being un-posed or deprived of conceptual thoughts though. It's a look that you can use for many purposes. For me, it has the benefit of creating a more direct engagement with the people who see the images, because they could relate. Also, you can see that there's still a whole lot of reasons to get startled, moved and so on out there even when you least expect it and it doesn't have to be "technicolor" to be desirable.
What would you like people to experience when they see your photos?
It'd be great if they have a pleasurable aesthetic experience, and if they identify to the mundane aspect of it would be just perfect.
In your opinion, what makes a memorable photograph?
I guess it much depends on the kind of photography you're into documentary, abstract, street... They all respond to different drives. For me, a memorable photograph would be a photograph that takes me back to this unique moment when you shoot and you have a special expectation for this very picture, whatever the reason. It can end up being a completely random image, but sometimes it comes out nicely, and it holds within the secret attachment you had for it even before it existed.
As a spectator, I guess it's a very different process, some images have this ability to take you in, they summon all your attention and stay with you.
What are the instances that make you hit the shutter?
There are times when it's a form of excitement I can't even explain in that moment. I feel that there's something special in front of me for reasons I don't know, and I just shoot. This probably occurs during the whole life of even experimented photographers, but it's also perhaps linked to a lack of academic culture of photography and image in general. A lot of them are consciously built, and this has an effect on the eye and emotions. With time, you start to understand what you see and why you took those shots and the shooting becomes more of a construct. Still, I enjoy those moments of unreasoned excitement.
What is your favorite subject?
I guess my sister! She's the model I shoot the most with, and she's extra compliant in trying everything I ask of her. It's a lot of fun, and at the same time, I like that I can see the evolution of the work through her.
What other areas of photography are you looking to explore?
I'd like to know more about portrait photography, it could improve my handling of light and working with people. I think it would be beneficial even as I seek to shoot with a more casual look. I think of it as learning to ride a bike or breath: there's a technique and when you've ingested it, you can go on freely, focusing on other parameters. Storytelling is also definitely something important to explore.
If you could work with an artist/photographer/group, who would it be?
In my wildest dream I guess learning from photographers like Annie Leibovitz or Philip-Lorca diCorcia, and for the approach of photography as a material, with Alfredo Jaar. On a more down to earth approach, I'd love to work with women of my generation, I think they're bringing a new way to look at things in general that I like and find challenging as well.
Any artist/photographer out there worth following?
Oh yes, almost too many, sometimes I feel like drowning under new images! Seriously, it's now ridiculously easy to access all sorts of new quality works. Definitely look at the work of Özkan Önal!
What was the most memorable photo you've seen?
Hmm, that's difficult, I guess a lot of things from Roger Ballen. You can't be unmoved by his work.
What do you think matters more -- talent or skill?
I'm not sure if I believe in talent that much. I think some people have a very alert intuition in their field, what might call "raw talent" or seldom "talent." With that, you can produce some work. But if you get more dedicated to your intuition, necessarily you'll develop skills, so they obviously don't go one without the other.
Does gear matter when it comes to putting out creative content?
Perhaps when creating a specific body of work it matters to think beforehand what kind of gear can best interpret what you're seeking to express. But in the end, I'm convinced you can create good images with any gear.
If you could replace photography with one thing, what would it be?
If I really have to: perhaps writing. I guess writing offers a more kaleidoscopic width of expression on the same subject. It's been underlined for a while that it's difficult to tell stories seldom with images. At some point, some text [or] caption is needed. Writing is definitely less directly visual, but it gives you the possibility to create scenes you would be able to show through pictures and explicit them in the same effort. All the aspects of expression are inclusive, they go through the same medium.
How does a perfect day look like for you?
Sunny and hot, a perfect day is to be spent with close friends and filed with a playful and kind spirit!
What's next for Celine Meunier?
I want to focus on portrays for future projects. I just started a specific series with males. I'd like to avoid the "porn-chic" style of magazine, having them in their own daily-environment suits me better. It can lead to fun moment as well I'm sure! I think "Boys will be boys" is a good title, what do you think?
Last words for our readers?
If you've managed to maintain your attention up till here, well, hands up to you, and a huge thank you!