Our next installment of the shooter spotlight series comes from our own backyard here in Shenzhen. Having lived here for over six years and shooting just about everything imaginable, it’s nice to see someone with a fresh take on the city. I came across Adrien’s photography on a local social networking site and was lead to his new blog. He’s got a passion for photography that is guided by boundless creativity and curiosity, and it’s inspiring to see someone with such energy for taking pictures. Adrien gets busy with a flash off camera, and has seemingly a million photo project ideas. Read on to learn more about this inventive young shooter, and check out his website afterwards.
Name: Adrien Bernard
Hometown: Paris, France
Tell us about yourself:
I am a 23 year old fresh graduate in business management. I came to China seeking to be thrown off and amazed, all in an attempt to know more about the world. I think I am a real romantic!
How did you get started?
I started photography while I was a student. At the time my parents were still supporting me financially which made buying my first camera a bit difficult. I was given enough to pay my rent and eat properly while going out from time to time. I decided to get into photography because I did not know anything about photography yet had my head filled of images, not necessarily photos but also movies and cartoons! It was the spur of the moment, like so many I have had in the past for other activities that I never continued. On that spur I bought my camera using the money given by my parents and ended up eating white rice and pasta at home every day for quite some time! I did not want to delay my purchase and couldn’t resolve myself to ask more money from my parents. Probably the best decision I have ever made, haha, though it got me pretty broke.
Favorite camera and lens? Why?
I would have to say that my 5D is my favorite camera (so far!). I wouldn’t mind acquiring some larger format cameras though! My usual choice for lenses goes to primes because I find zooms too heavy, too voluminous and too boring to use! I prefer my primes which are all m42 mounts (one of them being 53 years old) because they have better optics, their manual focus rings run far enough to be precise! My usual choices are 50mm and 85mm. I can’t hide the fact that I also love wider focal lengths. I totally hate anything over 135mm as it forces me to shoot faster and it’s always a bit difficult to get manual focus right (without AF-confirmation : the red blinking light).
If you could shoot anyone/anywhere/anything, what would it be?
Haha I want to shoot everyone and everything all the time ! If I had to answer on top of my head it would be : 1) a Fashion shoot with a disposal camera and optical slave flashes underwater for an evening dress catalogue (possibly in a hotel to negotiate an over-week-end stay). 2) High end product catalogue of missiles. I recently came across the website of a notorious arms dealer, and thought, “How come they sell so expensive products yet have terrible pictures and website design”. Naturally I am a pacifist, but If I had a shooting wish it would have to be out of the ordinary.
What’s your shooting style? Photographic influence?
I shoot anything with preferences going to fashion, reportage and portraits. I like fashion for the creative and under control feel. In some of my pictures, I enjoy acting as stage director much more than photographer. I’ll drop my camera on a tripod, set my framing and explore scenes and gestures with the models (the more the better). I also enjoy reportage for it’s immersive feel. To me shooting reportage is what requires the most observation skill and flexibility from the photographer. Add to that the fact that you meet real people and work to highlight real life. Finally I do close to no photoshop, just the general raw development and colors on Lightroom.
How did you get into off camera flash photography?
I started off camera flash not so long after I bought my first flash. The problem at the time was that it was really difficult for me to focus on so many aspects of a photography and I did not know anything about certain essential rules regarding light. But one day I started noticing differences in light, reading about them and slowly have ideas of lighting I would like. Having an idea of what I want and being my hardest critic is what keeps me growing. I am still trying stuff out and trying to get the high quality studio in the street. I have considered buying softboxes but I haven’t come across anything as light as umbrellas and reflectors that I can truly go anywhere with.I don’t really like softboxes, I don’t really know why… To tell you the truth I preffer natural light and reflectors. Everyday I go to work with my camera and a big size reflector in my bag “just in case” haha.
What’s the best thing about shooting in Shenzhen?
What I enjoy in Shenzhen is that I am finding it easier to find people willing to shoot for free, I also enjoy the much more present nature and the landscape. Shenzhen is new enough for me, isolating me from being photo scenes, allowing new ideas to emerge slowly.
What is the best thing about photography?
You are cool, you have an expensive communication tool available to you for free! More seriously, photography gets me outside my apartment and interested into things I would have otherwise no interest in. Also photography can be enjoyed alone (while meditating) or with friends (you can get everybody contributing in some way). Another great thing is that you provide a “neighborhood” service. You can make gifts of prints, birthday shootings, help out for resume pictures or other stuff… This is really helpful when you want to build your network.
Worst thing? : Everybody thinks you are cheap and that a monkey could press the button of your expensive “beautiful images making” camera.
What’s your most memorable shooting gig (either paid or not) ?
My most memorable shooting was actually the first real photo walk I had on my own. I had a camera in a bag that I took everywhere but was always scared of taking it out. Having the camera in my hand made me feel “tacky” and shooting people felt like voyeurism. So at that time I only took quick snaps; half of them blurry and most of them boring. One day I went to a park in the early morning, I first walked and somehow the sun, the freshness of the air and the friendlyness of the people built my confidence. I took out my camera and slowly went toward people asking them if I could take their picture. By the end of the afternoon I felt really confident in my approach and every shot I took was followed by very interesting inter-cultural chit-chat. On my way home, in the bus, I notice a factory gate open in which the factory was being taken to the ground and un-guarded. I got out of the bus ran to the factory but ended up facing a guard. Himself, his colleague and I had a small talk in Mandarin and Shanghai dialect, about where I was from and what I had came to do. After bargaining a little I got the authorization to shoot but only the outside part (as the guard did not want me to enter without safety helmet). While shooting the exterior, I took some shots of a worker. Noticing me while shooting him, the worker came to me and told me “Hi man, follow me I am gonna tour you around”. I declined his offer complaining that the guards did not want me to enter without safety helmet. His reaction surprised me as he took off his helmet, putting it on my head and saying “okay let’s go”.
Who is your favorite photographer? Why?
I am gonna sound cliche but Robert Doisneau is the first photographer I have known. While in boarding school, his pictures of scenes in Paris were everywhere. He was the first photographer whose works are printed in my memory.
What does the future hold for you?
Anxiety, frustration and possibly some good things too! I am planning on focusing on my main professional career in marketing & media and hopefully invest in higher end photo equipment. Regarding photography I’m looking forward to shooting more personal stuff, from themed shoots to crazy unusual ideas (but I need cash to invest in my art)…
Tell us about your new blog.
Well Shuaisile is a blog that Danny and I created. Danny is probably my first Chinese photographer friend in Shenzhen. Because our collaboration keeps us creative, and because we spend good moments shooting, we decided to build this blog. In general we try to promote creative lifestyle and on our personal on-going projects or shooting “wishlist”. The goal is to give the possibility to people of our network who are attracted by our creative lifestyle, to join us by matching our needs. It is an exchange of services. Contribution are various and not necessarily implying money. It can be a tip on a nice spot for us to explore, modeling for us. We are very spontaneous in our shooting style so some ideas will work some won’t but we at least we keep the fire alive and the ideas coming !