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The Questionnaire : Gilles-Marie Zimmermann by Carole Schmitz


Loving and projecting the desire!

Gilles-Marie Zimmermann came to photography by chance. He first dedicated himself to be a classical musician. Self-taught, it is in the 80’s that he first started as an assistant and then as a photographer at the famous Studio Harcourt before being totally taken by the virus of photography, and more particularly of the portrait. There, and later as a set photographer, he learned the rigor of light and the relationship with the other. Fascinated by the world of fashion, he tried his hand at it for a while, dividing his time between Paris and Los Angeles, before returning to his first love: the portrait.

While he has immortalized some of the most iconic women, he explains that his relationship with the people he photographs is essential to the quality of his images. It is one of the most complex aspects of this exercise, because the essence of portraiture is the encounter.

He still considers himself a craftsman although his portraits are of great subtlety and elegance, and regrets that our era has become too consensual sometimes limiting creativity.

Meeting with a hypersensitive character who has not lost his ability to enchant the world.


Website :

Instagram : @gillesmariezimmermann


Your first photographic trigger?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: A chance meeting with Antoine Hours, the late director of Studio Harcourt in the 1980s. My first clicks in the sumptuous premises of the rue Royale (at the time).

The man or woman of image who inspires you?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Yousuf Karsh. Beyond academism, his absolute mastery of black and white, the nobility of vision. A great humanist.

The image you would have liked to have made?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: The portrait of Jessy Norman by Yousuf Karsh, the economy of means, the depth, the interiority. Everything is said.

Which one moved you the most?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: The image of a father carrying his son who died of famine in the Sahel by Sebastião Salgado. It was the first time I cried in front of a photo.

The one that made you angry?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: All the paparazzi images

A key image in your personal pantheon?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: The Kiss by Joel-Peter Witkin

A photographic memory from your childhood?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: When I was about ten years old, I went to a photo shoot in the Valley of the Redskins with a family friend who was shooting an ad campaign. It was endless and very boring.

With no budget limit, what would be the work you would dream of acquiring?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Probably Cindy Sherman’s first self-portrait, a good investment.

According to you, what is the quality necessary to be a good photographer?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Like a writer with his pen, to attract attention with his camera beyond the circle of family and friends.

The secret of the perfect image, if it exists?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: I would like to know it.

The person you would like to photograph?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: The list is so long. Some names that come to mind: Olivier Gourmet, Hilary Hahn, Alain Aspect, Park Eun-Bin…

An indispensable photo book?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: For me, the family album.

The camera of your childhood?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: A Minolta SRT 101. My father had put a condition to offer it to me for my 16th birthday, to have at least a 15 average in all the disciplines. I went from being a dunce to being a good student and I had to make Herculean efforts to achieve this.

The one you use today?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: From the Sinar to the Iphone, passing through all the formats.

Your favorite drug?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: To have tried them all, none.

The best way to disconnect for you?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: The countryside, where I now live.

What is your relationship with the image?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Stormy. I oscillate between the enthusiasm of a passionate photographer and the feeling of being an impostor. Probably nothing very original at my age.

Your greatest quality?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Curiosity of mind.

Your last folly?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Being married for more than 25 years. A madness that I hope will last.

An image to illustrate a new banknote?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: An image of which I will be the author to ensure a comfortable retirement.

The job you wouldn’t have liked to do?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: The one that requires a total commitment to the community and often garners only contempt, that of politicians. I have a lot of esteem and consideration for most politicians, whatever their opinions, as long as they work (or think they are working) for the progress of all. It is a very hard, very thankless job.

Your greatest professional extravagance?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Not really mine, but that of an unforgettable day in a Parisian restaurant that we had privatized for a fashion session when Gérard Depardieu himself unexpectedly showed up and ordered me to do the series with him and the two female models…. A moment of anthology.

In your opinion, what are the bridges between photography and fashion?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Two expressions that have enriched each other.

Which city, country or culture do you dream of discovering?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: The nature in Japan, I have never been there, despite my numerous trips to China.

The place you never get tired of?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: My garden.

Your biggest regret?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Not to have been able to meet or photograph Glenn Gould, a fascinating character as genius musicians often are.

In terms of social networks, are you rather Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok or Snapchat and why?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Instagram, for its simplicity of use. I generally post one image per day from my archives. It is, it seems, not the best way to attract followers, but I do it especially as a little morning ritual when I turn on my computer.

Color or B&W?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: B&W because it is the expression that was born with photography, its own DNA.

Daylight or artificial light?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: After my time at the Harcourt Studio, I became a set photographer, probably the best school of photography because there I met the great chief operators whom I bombarded with questions. Daylight or artificial light, it doesn’t matter as long as it enchants my vision of the subject.

In your opinion, what is the most photogenic city?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Prague without the tourists.

If God existed, would you ask him to pose for you, or would you opt for a selfie with him?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: If God made us in his image, then a self-portrait is a must!

If I could organize your ideal dinner, who would be at the table?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: It doesn’t matter, as long as there is a Michelin starred chef in the kitchen…

The image that represents for you the current state of the world?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: The one that recently appeared of the first photographed black hole, with the added bonus of the poetry of the expressions associated with it, such as “the event horizon”…

What is missing in today’s world?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Nothing, precisely, there is too much of everything.

If you had to start all over again?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: What a nightmare! One life is already enough.

A last word?
Gilles-Marie Zimmermann: Thank you.

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