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Les Douches la Galerie : Thomas Boivin : Ici – Belleville, Ménilmontant, Place de la République


Les Douches la Galerie presents the new exhibition by Thomas Boivin, Ici – Belleville, Ménilmontant, Place de la République.

Since 2010, Thomas Boivin has continued his photographic work in the north-east of Paris, walking around his home, strolling through the streets, always favoring beautiful light. His portraits of passers-by or residents encountered in a multicultural neighbourhoods, with whom he very often establishes a dialogue, his urban landscapes which bring out neglected corners, as well as his own black and white prints, with subtly balanced shades of gray , have become his signature. That of a photographer who does not ignore the Paris of Brassaï, Marcel Bovis or Robert Doisneau, but who does not indulge in nostalgia either, preferring to draw inspiration from the contemporary American scene, with Mark Steinmetz and Judith Joy Ross , outstanding portraitists, being notorious influences. When he is not photographing his friends or loved ones or when he stays at home, Thomas Boivin captures still lifes, echoing a pictorial tradition, which also reflect his pronounced taste for simplicity and beauty.


Interview by Philippe Séclier

Philippe Séclier: How did you become a photographer?
Thomas Boivin: Shortly after studying illustration at the Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg, I bought a digital camera – quickly exchanged for a Leica – and I got into the habit of taking walks with my camera, in the middle of my days hunched over a drawing table. Photography quickly took over.

Did you immediately choose to shoot in black and white?
Thomas Boivin: Initially, it was a rational choice: a dozen years ago, black and white film was still inexpensive, and I didn’t have a lot of money. At the time, it was possible to order hundreds of rolls of film directly from the United States, without customs fees. In any case, I was attracted by the idea of ​​doing the processing myself, which black and white easily allowed me to do. That said, I’ve used colour film from time to time, and maybe I’ll get into it more seriously one day.

What role does light play in your work?
Thomas Boivin: I usually like bright lights and rarely go out on cloudy days. I photograph almost exclusively in the morning, little in the evening; it’s also because I take a lot of portraits, and it turns out that people are nicer in the morning. Black and white allows you to concentrate on shapes and light, while in color, it is the color that takes over.

How did you learn the printing technique?
Thomas Boivin: Alone. Technically, the basics are easy to learn. It’s more the work of the eye that takes time, knowing what you want and how the paper will convey it. I immediately developed my films and quickly understood that I had to make my own prints, but I did it for a long time in a rather crude manner. Over time, the practice of printing makes one sensitive to the nuances, to the depth of blacks. My previous experience was that of a designer who was overly aware of what, in a certain way, was a good drawing. In any case, that’s how I experienced it subjectively. I was always frustrated by the gap between what I wanted to do and what I was doing. When I chose to practice photography, I was careful that it remained a pleasure. I probably wasted time, but what was important for me at the beginning was that it was a practice above all made up of anchored habits, without feeling crushed by too early comparisons with the work of other photographers.

Does this mean that you have not been influenced by artistic influences?
Thomas Boivin: There are, of course, many photographers who have been important in my career. I easily talk about Greater Atlanta by Mark Steinmetz and its importance for me at that time, with its portraits in situation, their psychological depth, their formal requirements. I have great admiration for Anglo-Saxon photography. In France, photographers like Bernard Plossu, Hervé Guibert and Patrick Faigenbaum had an impact on me very early on – but Japanese photography, for example, also matters to me – Issei Suda for example.

Why did you choose to mainly photograph Paris?
Thomas Boivin: Growing up abroad took away my desire to travel for a long time: being once again a kind of foreigner passing through did not particularly interest me. Living in Paris, I photograph the streets and the inhabitants because they are, whether I photograph them or not, in direct relationship with me: we inhabit the same society and the same spaces. Alongside this curiosity for my immediate environment, there was initially, undoubtedly, the desire to create a habit, I wanted being a photographer to be my identity, and for that, to practice every day – so, most often, just around my house.

Between the three groups – Belleville, Ménilmontant and Place de la République – which will be exhibited at Douches la Galerie, is there a form of continuity?
Thomas Boivin: There is at least a relative unity of place and, I hope, of way of photographing. If there are real differences between these three series, they are still relatively close places which directly appeal to me. I always say to myself: hey, there’s something happening there that I want to see better. If I wasn’t a photographer, I would have this same curiosity. Sometimes I work in a more spontaneous, personal way – many friends appear in Ménilmontant – sometimes in a more systematic and thoughtful way, as in Place de la République. These are also works that correspond to different ages for me, and concerns that change. All of these variations overlap until, I hope, they have document value, although I am not trying to really work on Paris. I was deeply touched by seeing photographs from the suburbs of Atlanta, to the point of recognizing myself in them. I hope that my photos of Paris and its inhabitants can awaken in the person who looks at them a familiarity, a proximity which is a recognition of their universal character.

Interview by Philippe Séclier


Thomas Boivin : Ici – Belleville, Ménilmontant, Place De La République
Until April 6, 2024
Les Douches la Galerie
5, rue Legouvé
75010 Paris

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