PHILIPPE FRAGNIÈRE — Interview
Philippe Fragnière, Swiss photographer based in Lausanne.
Hello Philippe Fragnière, how are you?
Hello. I’m very well thank you. I’m about to start filming for a clip, I’m very excited.
Can you introduce yourself?
I’m a Swiss photographer based in Lausanne. I have spent two years working as an assistant for the Photography Department at ECAL/University of Art and Design in Lausanne where I graduated two years ago. Apart from that I work as a freelance photographer, mostly in still life, and on personal projects and exhibitions.
Do you remember the first objects you became obsessed with taking pictures of?
I think one of my very first obsessions was with water drops on a math exercise sheet, I was fascinated by the distortion of numbers. I took the photo with my first Casio digital camera I had received from my parents. At that time, I was not really involved in photography. One of my earliest memories of an object I shot at the very beginning of my studies was of a big rock covered with moss in a foggy forest in October.
What photography means for you?
Well, I have always thought photography was an excellent excuse to do things you would not or could not do otherwise, like catching a frog, visiting a glass factory, meeting a guy who collects pistols… I also think photography gives you a kind of critical distance on the world around you; you’re the observer rather than the actor.
Photography is for me a sort of obsession. Despite the fact that I don’t take photos all day long, that I don’t shoot every street corner with my IPhone, and that I don’t share these images on Instagram, photography is a sort of compulsive need. I think what I prefer is looking at something and thinking about how I could shoot it, often without actually doing it; that could be a place, an object or just a mood. Then when I actually have to take a picture, I know where I have to look to find what I need. I create my own archive of images without actually taking the images.
Can you tell us more about your series « Greppon »?
Greppon is a series I have exhibited recently. It’s part of a larger body of work inspired by tales and superstitions. It reveals a certain idea of fatality. At the beginning I was working on precise quotes of stories I had heard from old people from my village, using the numerous legends that exist only through story telling and the oral tradition. But it was too illustrative in a way, now I’m more into the idea of telling stories I imagine or building myths on symbolic evidence. This is an ongoing project without a clearly defined goal. I’m working on it when I have time, spontaneously and without any restrictions. This project is closely related to the day to day life of the rural area I come from. All the pictures relate to each other in their mysterious and fragile mood; each picture has it’s own story and can be seen as a fragment of the whole project.
« Snowpark » was more into architecture and abstraction, right?
Actually it’s more about landscape. What interested me at the beginning was the way landscape is modified through these constructions inspired by architecture or urban patterns. It was an intriguing paradox: having urban structures in the mountains while freestyle riders started riding real urban equipment in proper city environments. I had also been involved in freestyle skiing a few years back, so I knew that world quite well. Working on the project I then became interested in other aspects, especially the formal relationship between those constructions, sculpture and architecture. The abstract quality of the environment (grey and cloudy skies) actually allowed a confusion between these elements. In my mind it’s more an aestheticization of landscape rather than an abstraction of it. My interests lie in the object, its nature and its relationship to the landscape; I waited for weather conditions that allowed decontextualization and abstraction to reveal or blur these different relationships.
Who influenced you in terms of image’s aesthetic?
There are so many inspirations, it is really hard to give one name. I’m not sure there is one or two in particular actually. I think it’s more a mix of influences from many different fields… I like the way Dali freezes the movement in his painting, I like how direct advertisements were in the 50s, I like the way Irving Penn created his compositions… I also follow with a lot of interest the work of other photographers.
What is your next project?
I’m very excited to take part in the Festival Images that will be held in Vevey in September. My snowpark project will be exhibited in a new way, large prints will be displayed on a massive wooden structure. I’m also very busy with my first monograph project about my snowpark series. The book is published by Kodoji Press. We worked quite hard these last weeks and I’m now pretty excited to see it for real! Then, I am about to start filming a clip for a jewellery company. And finally I hope to take time this summer to work on my ongoing project on myths and superstitions.
Which books are on your bedside table?
Ouhf! Actually my bedside table is covered with piles of books. At the moment, on top of them you find Albert Renger-Patzsch, Photographer of objectivity; Marten Lange, An other language; and Jarosly Rössler, Czech avant-garde photographer.
The last word…
Interview : Dennis Moya & Tiffany Baehler – 07.14
Photographs ©Philippe Fragnière.