As Real as It Gets - an Interview With Etienne Despois


If we have a takeaway from our interview with Etienne Despois then it would have to be "stay true." Those two simple words still echo and ring in our heads even after reading what he had to say. Etienne just shows so much of himself in his work and he wasn't afraid to describe them in words. It's not always easy to stay true but when you finally figure out your own personal formula as Etienne did, everything will soon fall into place.

Hello, Etienne! Welcome back to the Lomography Magazine. Please tell us a bit about yourself.

So I’m a French dude of 36 years old, living and working in Paris. I make photos as a hobby. I pretty much like going outside to do it. I love what the city can offer me. In my everyday life I work in IT at a research center. I used to skateboard a lot back in the day, now I just enjoy wandering the streets, traveling, and listening to some good chill music.

How would you define photography?

Photography is first of all a good way to memorize all sort of souvenirs but more over analog photos allow you not to do too many pictures. Nowadays the quantity has become the basic and I like to try doing less pictures but good ones. In this digital time, you often have tons of photos but at the end they are getting lost in the over quantity and to find the one picture you think of is often becoming an impossible mission.

What's your favorite thing about taking photographs?

Photography is for me a moment to relax and just wander in some places. I love goin’ around discovering new spots. Doing photography is a good excuse to do that! And it’s an excuse to see the same area in a different way as well. I often go to the same place and as I don’t wanna have ten times the identical picture, I try to view another angle of the site. So photography forces me in a way to look at spots with a new eyes each time I go there. Plus people often walk the streets in a ghostly way, their aim is just to go from one point to another. Trying to take pictures obliges you to look at things differently and to try to take interest in things that can appear same as usual.

Let's talk a bit about your work -- how would you describe your photographic style/approach?

I mainly like doing photos in the street but I also like doing photos during my trips. When I shoot in the street, I’m particularly attracted with the way people are re-appropriating the city. For my travel shots, it’s a good way to make souvenirs and now I try to create pretty ones. I mainly always cross-process my photos cause I’m in love with the render of it.

Who or what would you say was the biggest influence in your work?

I have tons of name coming to mind but Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marc Riboud or Fred Mortagne (in a more contemporary style) might be some of the biggest influences for me. Street photographers, human photographers, guys doing street art are really giving me some source of inspiration too. The city is definitely my all-time motivation.

How do you stay creative?

It’s the environment which motivates me to do different stuff. So I guess seeing different things has a big influence on what I’m doing and as I’m mainly taking photos in the street, luckily it constantly evolves so I have plenty of new creative things to do.

Your street photographs have a distinct look to them. They have very characteristic backgrounds and rushing subjects. Was that a style you were going for?

At the beginning, I was too shy to add people in my shots so that could explain why my backgrounds are usually neat. However, as the time went on, I felt that something was missing in the photos. So I slowly incorporated people in them. But I certainly am still too shy to add distinct people in my pictures! In fact, I think that I like the idea that people in the city are living in total anonymity and are strangers to each other so it might explain that the persons in my shot are often blurry.

How much do you think your style has changed over the years?

I improve my technique over the years by reading stuffs about photos and by knowing more my cameras. Looking to other photographers really helped too. And as the time goes on (and the films too,) I slowly started to create the photos that I wanted to do and found my way.

We also love your other film photographs -- landscapes, portraits and all. What would you say is your ultimate favorite subject?

My all time favorite subject is definitely people wandering in the city but I like trying to do other type of photos. That allows me to try doing other things and may be to discover a new subject that could suit me. I try to do different things in order not to get stuck in the same subject. It permits me as well to see different point of view and new techniques. But I try not too many things ‘cause I don’t wanna get lost in all the possibilities that photography offer you.

What other areas of photography are you looking to explore?

I would like to try developing and “printing” my photos but it looks to me such a big work especially for printing and I should have a dedicated room for it, things that is impossible in Paris unless I’m rich! And missing the development of a film would be the end of my life for me. The collodion attracted me a lot too but I think that I’m not a “portrait guy” and the chemistry looks so complicated!

You've been featured in the community before. What was your initial reaction? How does it feel to be put on the spotlight?

I was really happy to see that you were taking interest in my work, I was proud too (and still are!) Most of the time, you show your work to close friends and they always like your work. It’s a real pleasure to see that people that you don’t know can like it too.

In your opinion, what makes a 'good photograph?'

Stay true, do what you like and don’t try to copy. The best thing is what you’ll do by yourself

Define your style in 3 words.

Urban, wandering, passion.

Who are the artists that you follow on a regular basis?

They are so many!

In the community of Lomography, on the web or in the street, you can find so many things that could inspire you. It’s hard to pick one particularly name as it will evolve in a few sec.

What advice would you give to aspiring photographers and creatives out there?

Do what you do with love and conviction. Believe in what you’re doing, you’re your first fan!

What do you think matters more -- talent or skill?

That’s a hard question. I think that both are related and you can’t have a good result if one of this quality were missing. You definitely would need both of these.

For you, what is the biggest challenge that an artist could face in this day and age?

I’m not sure that I could be called an artist but I would like for the real ones that they stay true with themselves and keep on doing what they like.

How do you see film photography in the near future?

Film photography had a really hard time a few years ago. I thought it was going to be the end of it. However, it happens that since few months, analogue photos are really getting a second life. This is a great news to see that but I hope it won’t be dedicated for a certain category of people.

If you weren't a photographer, what would you be?

A skateboarder! But as I can’t skateboard anymore (due to my age mainly) and as I wasn’t the best one for sure, I had to do something else and photos are for me the logical things to do. I don’t forget that the thing that brings food to me is my job so I’m doing photos without the constraint that I have to pay it by doing some photographs that I wouldn’t like but would bring me what I need.

How does a perfect day look like for Etienne Despois?

I think the perfect day would be in summer (even though you can do some beautiful things in winter but days are shorter and I don’t like cold weather!) I can imagine going in some new place full of street art and friendly people (I just came back from a trip in Myanmar and the people there are so nice, they’re happy when you take their photo. They are not scared with what you’ll do with the photos not as 90% of the people in Europe… The only thing missing there was street art!)

What's next for you?

Taking pleasure with what I’m doing!

I would love to expose my photos but I’m too lazy to organize it…

Any last words for our readers?

Just keep on having fun and do what you truly believe is right for you and keep an eye open on everything around you (even the smallest!).

If you're interested in Etienne's work, head over to his LomoHome and Instagram for more.

written by Marc Ocampo on 2018-01-11 #people #street-photography #artist #feature #etienne-despois #talent-interview


  1. srcardoso
    srcardoso ·

    One of my favorite lomographers. Cool interview @etienne_despois

  2. etienne_despois
    etienne_despois ·

    Thank you!

  3. tastyredhotburrito
    tastyredhotburrito ·

    Interesting read. I actually read the entire article, which I don't normally do. I especially like your saturated color photos, they are artistic and powerful.

    By the way, I think you should continue to skateboard, I used to do it (I'm 54), and you will enjoy it. I think I will go buy a skateboard and hit the streets so all the younger kids can tease me. Who cares, right? Great work, Etienne!

  4. etienne_despois
    etienne_despois ·

    @tastyredhotburrito Thank you very much and you're absolutely right regarding the skateboard! I'll prepare myself to "fight" the lil' kids!!

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