Sacha Goldberger is a photographer who has a very pronounced taste for staging. And his pictures prove it, as they are so amazing that they show the titanic work worthy of Hollywood super-productions. For him every detail counts. But, for once, for this book dedicated to those who are usually in the shadow of the Elysée, his images are different, but always as surprising. Let’s meet…
How did the idea for this book came about?
Sacha Goldberger: I was contacted a little less than a year ago by Emery Doligé who is the author of this book “Les invisibles de l’Elysée”. At that time he was planning to carry out a series of interviews with these people who work at the Elysée and who are never talked about, and he wanted me to do their portraits. My first reaction was to tell him that I was probably not the right person for this work, my productions being in general much more complex. But he insisted, and I thank him for that, because thanks to that I had the pleasure to work on an exceptional project in the sense that it was very different from what I usually do, but also because it allowed me to enter one of the most beautiful palaces of the Republic and to meet extraordinary personalities.
How did you approach this project?
Sacha Goldberger: I thought a lot about it after we agreed on the project, especially about the lighting, so that it would be a little different in terms of rendering. At one point it became clear to me that we needed to work in the shadows and make the characters stand out with the light. I came up with a very precise idea of the rendering I wanted, but in the end, this series is far from what I had imagined, because beyond the technique and the way in which I made these images, I met 30 extraordinary personalities and I made 30 photos in which I tried to bring out a maximum of their humanity.
“This book is a human project much more than a technical and photographic one.” – Sacha Goldberger
This project is far from the universe for which we know you, but we nevertheless feel your touch. What do you think of it?
Sacha Goldberger: When I start a project of any kind, I always try to produce different things, first of all because these are often projects that require a lot of time and investment, but also because I have neither the patience nor the desire to do the same thing twice… Probably a “defect” that comes from my former job as an advertising executive. (Laughs)… So I am often surprised when people tell me that “my touch” is recognizable. But I probably don’t have enough hindsight to realize it!
What was the difficulty for you in this project?
Sacha Goldberger: Without a doubt, I was not able to use the humor and the upswing that I often find so important in my projects. There is no real creativity in this series. On the other hand, there was a lot of photographic technique with light worked on to enhance each personality and bring them out of the shadows.
So you had to use Black&White?
Sacha Goldberger: No doubt. I also wanted a very classic look so as not to freeze these images in time. Bringing these people out of the shadows by working in B&W was almost an evidence indeed. I was very careful to make sure that there was detail everywhere. I wanted the images to be dark but not stuffy. And the difficulty was to find the limit between a too dark image and a detailed image.
Was the protocol heavy?
Sacha Goldberger: Yes, it was quite complicated. First of all because I am not used to this kind of context and also because they are not. I imagine that at the Élysée Palace it is more common to see reporters arrive with just a bag slung over their shoulder, sometimes an assistant, but not much more. I arrived with a cart, lots of lights -nothing compared to what I usually use- but too much for them. Obviously, they couldn’t imagine what I could work with. When they saw me arrive they were very surprised and it was a little struggle to keep the minimum of what I needed to make the images I wanted. But as they saw the work, the first pictures and how it was going, the atmosphere became more relaxed. They understood and I was able to work the way I wanted to. And not everyone can go to the Elysée Palace. There is a thorough control of your identity, you have to show your credentials. Then you are constantly accompanied, essentially to make sure that you don’t show what you shouldn’t show for security reasons. All this is of course of an implacable logic.
What surprised you the most at the Élysée Palace?
Sacha Goldberger: Without hesitation, I would say the courtesy of all the people I met. Whether it’s the gendarmes, the cooks or the gardeners, everyone greets you and treats you with respect, which is normal, but which we are not used to anymore. When you enter the Elysée, you enter a very special place with special people. In fact, my team and I have exceptional memories of the three weeks spent there.
Three weeks, was this time imposed on you?
Sacha Goldberger: Not exactly. I think they would have liked me to spend more time there. Unfortunately, at that time I had other projects on the way, and only had two weeks which in the end turned into three.
Is there an encounter that particularly marked you?
Sacha Goldberger: It’s like asking me to choose between my father and my mother! (Laughs). I’ve had a lot of amazing encounters. But to answer your question, one person comes to mind in particular, although I could name them all. It’s Luigi, who is in charge of gifts and seems to be straight out of “Les Tontons Flingueurs”. He is a kind of Parisian titi, always smiling, touching and endearing. Entering his world is like entering Ali Baba’s cave. The place contains all the gifts that have been made to the French State. And he is in charge of listing them and taking care of them.
I think that nobody is at the Élysée by chance. All the people who work there are exceptional people. And I was very lucky to be able to meet them.
Did you do your casting?
Sacha Goldberger: No, not at all. The communication department selected these people from almost all the departments that can be found at the Élysée in order to be as representative as possible of all who work in this beautiful house.
A regret about this series?
Sacha Goldberger: Not to have been able to immortalize the President, even if he is not part of these invisible. I would have liked to have his shadow in a stealthy way, or from behind in the background.
Is an exhibition planned?
Sacha Goldberger: Not for the moment, but I would like these images to be shown on the occasion of the Heritage Days so that the general public can discover these people who really deserve it.
Les Invisibles de l’Elysée
by Emery Doligé – Photos by Sacha Goldberger
Les Presses de la Cité