EWW: Considering your work as a whole, are there any themes or style, such as color palette, subject matter, etc., that you use or rely upon?
Christophe: Technically, most of my pictures use a relatively dark background and are rather contrasted. I tried several times to come up with a decent high key image, but so far the results were disappointing, so I tend to stick to darker ones. As for themes, there are many of them I really like, and many others I would like to explore! Thoughts about human condition, human behavior, politics, anticipation, are my favorite topics when I am in a bad mood. When I feel more joyful, I like to create what could be described as children illustration for adults. I love the fantasy they involve: the usual logic can be forgotten, and surrealism is king.
EWW: This may to some extent be a repeat of the last question but a great deal of your art seems not only artful but also suggesting a message of some sort. Is that true? What is behind the work that you have done?
Christophe: Absolutely! I am so very glad you mention it; it is a kind of a success for me. Thanks. I create pictures in order to communicate. I am not a very talkative person in real life, I mostly observe things and people. Images are a great way to talk: one cannot interrupt you. You get either ignored or studied, in a way. I like that.
EWW: On your website, you write about the technical process of creating a particular work. In general, can you describe that technical process and which usually comes first, the photography or the digital art?
Christophe: What comes first is the idea. I usually draw about 5-10 sketches of an image before even thinking about photography or digital art. When I am happy with the meaning, the composition, the lighting, the colors I have in mind, then I start thinking about the way to actually create the image. When I can prepare a real setup and simply photograph it, I just do that. It often looks much better than CGI. Unfortunately, some setups are impossible to create ‘on stage’ within a decent budget, so I have no other choice than using digital art from there. It’s just the most efficient and convenient way I found to create my images. Another fact is that I am awful at drawing or painting, so a camera is a very useful tool to me!
click on an image to enlarge it.
EWW: What do you consider to have been, and continues to be, major influence(s) in your work?
Christophe: I am probably more influenced by music and musicians, rather than digital painters or photographers. Among classical ones, I can quote Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninov. (A bit) more recent ones could be the blues masters, Hendrix, Pink Floyd. Nothing very original. I just love listening to their work and staring ahead of me. I feel like I am sharing their ideas and feelings through the notes. As I am a trained musician, I am able to analyze music and detect how it is technically constructed: some incredibly clever transition to F-sharp minor, an unusual 7/4–4/4 time signature, etc. Tools, used as needed, to create masterpieces, to convey meaning and emotions. That’s what I very modestly try to do with my stuff, and this is also why mastering the tools is so important to me. It’s not that I hate randomness, it’s just that I want to control it (yes, I am aware of the underlying paradox).
EWW: What training do you have in photography, digital manipulation and digital art?
Christophe: I don’t have any particular training, I’m just a hobbyist. All my knowledge comes from the Internet: blogs, tutorials, and lot of time spent looking at various images and photos, analyzing their creation in order to be able to reproduce it. When I don’t know how to produce some kind of visual effect, I force myself to use it in my next image. This way, step by step, my skills expand, and let me create more and more freely. I am really amazed by the amount of information available: if one has the will to learn, everything is there.
EWW: Can you share with us what types of equipment and software you use and are there any equipment and/or software programs that are “must haves” in order to be successful in your type of art?
Christophe: My tools are quite common: Canon 5D mark II, a few usual lenses among which the versatile 24-70mm, a 70-200mm mostly used for portraits, and a few less usual ones such as a tilt-shift 17mm, a 1-5x macro lens, a fisheye. I like lenses that produce unusual result, in a controlled and reproducible way. For lighting, I mostly use Elinchrom studio strobes along with various modifiers. Regarding software, I use Adobe Lightroom 4, Photoshop CS6, and Nik plugins (especially Color Efex 4). I am also fond of my Wacom tablet: it really helped me a lot with composites, and I would definitely recommend getting one if that’s the kind of things you like to do.
EWW: Do you have any advice, in general, for someone that is just beginning to develop their talent in digital art or photography.
Christophe: Always keep in mind that you are the only one in charge of your life. You decide what you want to do, or not to do. Obviously, some constraints exist (money being one of them), but don’t let those take control over your feelings. Do not listen to various advices that will aim at controlling what you are doing. For example, I often receive messages saying that my work is “nothing more than photoshopping, and not photography in any case, even if I use a camera”. I suppose those people would like me to do something else, simply due to the fact they prefer something else. Another person once told me that my work is “too cold, too analytic, lacking human feeling and warmth”. Well, maybe, but even then, am I not allowed to do things as I please? Do we all have to do the very same things, over and over again? It would be so boring, wouldn’t it. So I tend to only learn technical stuff from others (how to use the camera, how to light a scene, how to create a given effect in post-processing, etc.), but I don’t ask for opinions about the topic I choose, about the way I show them, or the way I share them. After all, life is not a race: it ends the same way for everyone, so everyone has the right to choose the path he wants to walk.
EWW: Is there anything else you would like for people to know about you and your work?
Christophe: While I am fully aware that there still is so much to learn and improve, I would like to thank warmly my lovely wife, for her total support, her patience, our discussions about concepts and ideas, her help with the sets building, with the posing, her advices regarding composition, colors, mood, with everything. Most of those images would simply not exist without her.