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The Questionnaire : François Fontaine by Carole Schmitz


François Fontaine : “My memory is photographic”.

His first “real” photograph was an image of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam in October 1991. He was just 23 years old, in search of the absolute, and making his first major trip to Asia in the footsteps of his father, a naval officer. On his return to Paris, upon discovering this image, he was certain that photography would accompany him from then on and be the essential witness to his life.

A doctor in art history, exhibition curator and magazine editor, François Fontaine’s work explores the theme of memory, both individual and collective. His sources of inspiration are art, literature and cinema. His images are timeless. For him, they are the silent witnesses of desire and fear, in short, the mirror of our society.

He first settled in Madrid (from 1998 to 2002), where he established a truly professional approach to photography.

Inspired by his encounters and travels, François Fontaine likes to transpose the reality of what is perceived into a universe dominated by dreams and poetry.

In 2012, Editions de l’Oeil published “Silenzio!”, a photographic essay on the world of cinema.

Between 2005 and 2008, he produced images that gave rise to Rêves d’Orient, his second book, which comprises three works: “Transsiberian”, “Lost in China” and “Japanese Whispers”. Several books followed: “Icones”(2018), “Pulsions”(2021).

Frequently exhibited in numerous galleries and museums in France and abroad, he has also been shortlisted for the prestigious Leica Oskar Barnack and Niépce awards. His work is also part of larger collections.



Member of Agence VU


What was your first photographic trigger?
François Fontaine: The unknown.

The man or woman who inspires you?
François Fontaine: The Buddha.

The image you would have liked to have made?
François Fontaine: Anita Ekberg bathing in the Trevi Fountain (Federico Fellini’s La dolce vita).

The one that moved you the most?
François Fontaine: Antoine Doisnel’s camera gaze (Jean-Pierre Léaud in François Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents coups).

The one that made you most angry?
François Fontaine: The destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan.

The one you regret not having made?
François Fontaine: The portrait of Marguerite Duras in Indochina.

A key image in your personal pantheon?
François Fontaine: The cover of The Blue Lotus (Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin).

A photographic memory from your childhood?
François Fontaine: My father in a pilot’s uniform.

What image do you have of yourself?
François Fontaine: A blurred image.

With no budget limit, which work of art would you dream of acquiring?
François Fontaine: Claude Monet’s Water Lilies.

In your opinion, what’s the one quality needed to be a good photographer?
François Fontaine: Curiosity.

What, if any, is the secret to the perfect image?
François Fontaine: Dazzlement.

Who would you like to photograph?
François Fontaine: Corto Maltese.

A must-have photo book?
François Fontaine: Sightwalk by Gueorgui Pinkhassov (Phaidon).

Your childhood camera?
François Fontaine: My memory.

The one you use today?
François Fontaine: A Leica.

Your favorite drug?
François Fontaine: Travel.

What’s the best way for you to disconnect?
François Fontaine: Contemplating the moon and stars.

What is your relationship with images?
François Fontaine: Sensory.

What’s your greatest quality?
François Fontaine: Loyalty.

Your latest folly?
François Fontaine: Crossing the Pamir.

An image to illustrate a new banknote?
François Fontaine: The Lilac Fairy (Delphine Seyrig in Jacques Demy’s Peau d’Âne).

If you hadn’t become a photographer?
François Fontaine: Explorer.

Your greatest professional extravagance?
François Fontaine: It’s work in progress.

What do you see as the bridges between photography and design?
François Fontaine: The balance of forms, the harmony of colors.

Which city, country or culture do you dream of discovering?
François Fontaine: Atlantis.

The place you never tire of?
François Fontaine: Île de Noirmoutier, the island of my childhood.

Your biggest regret?
François Fontaine: The absence of wings.

In terms of social networks, do you prefer Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok or Tweeter?
François Fontaine: I avoid them.

Color or B&W?
François Fontaine: Colorissimo!

Daylight or artificial light?
François Fontaine: It depends on my inspiration.

What do you consider to be the most photogenic city?
François Fontaine: Shambhala.

If God existed, would you ask him to pose for you, or would you opt for a selfie with him?
François Fontaine: Impossible, there’d be too much light!

If I could organize your ideal dinner party, who would sit at the table?
François Fontaine: The Count of Monte Cristo.

The image that represents the current state of the world for you?
François Fontaine: A wilted flower.

What’s missing in today’s world?
François Fontaine: Mystery.

If you had to start all over again?
François Fontaine: I’d change era.

Any final word?
François Fontaine: Silenzio!

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