Théo Le Foll : Knowing how to deliver your truth
At only 22 years old, Théo Le Foll, self-taught and passionate about photography, has already signed several advertising campaigns, including the most recent one for Paco Rabanne’s perfume “Fame”.
It was during a “five o’clock tea” in the showroom of a fashionable Parisian decorator that I met this young man. His angelic face and his self-confidence tinged with naivety (compared to the world in which he evolves) intrigued me right away. Very quickly, he shared with me some images of his work. His rock-decadent and very worked out style aroused my curiosity even more. We chat about photography of course and he explained that for him, this form of expression was a way to escape, and especially to feel alive. He loves the beauty of imperfection which is the essence of his art. To stop time, to capture emotions and to store them in a bag that will follow him all his life, that is his goal.
A fan of analog photography, with only 36 exposures on his film, he slows down for each image, breathes, opens his eyes and watches the world go by, then waits for THE moment and goes for it.
But when he immortalizes a moment, he doesn’t think too much. He is drawn to the colors, how they look on film and how they interact in a given scene at a given time.
A Talent to be followed…
Website : www.theolefoll.com
Instagram : theolefoll
Your first photographic trigger?
Théo Le Foll: Curiosity. Coming from a business family, I never had the chance to be educated in art in general. I never went to the cinema or to the museum, never listened to music with my family. Of course, I don’t blame them because today I am determined and ready to work as hard as they did, to succeed in my field.
On the other hand, I was lucky enough to have a grandfather who was a photographer and who offered me, when I was 14-15 years old, a small analog, compact with a rangefinder analog camera,, the Olympus35RC. And that’s when I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that I wanted to document my life. My desire from then on was to capture those unique moments with friends, on trips, with family. I’m very interested in always bringing out a part of the truth in an image.
I’ve always been terrible at writing. I don’t have a very good memory but what I see stays in my mind. I write images, I create my little tale to free myself, to express myself, to pass a truth in all sincerity. What I want is to convey the authentic.
I have always tried to be as unconcerned as possible with the critics and the academic theories that we are forced to follow. As artist we are in constant search of inspiration, we burn and it is impossible for us to preserve this heat, that is why we escape. I can make images night&day, I wouldn’t mind.
I know what I know. I want to publish the truth, the truth of the moment.
It’s very hard to know that you are different and to make your family understand it. It’s all about confidence. You have to have confidence in yourself and succeed in having the confidence of those around you.
The man or woman of image who inspires you?
Théo Le Foll: My grandmother Framboise, without hesitation. I wouldn’t be where I am without her. I admire her so much. Why, you might ask? First of all, because her gentleness and kindness are incomparable. I have learned so much from her just by watching her. She is very thorough and at the same time a bit messy. She represents for me the beauty of imperfection. I will never stop thanking her for the support she has given me throughout this “battle” I have been fighting to prove to my family that I am worth something.
The image you would have liked to realize ?
Théo Le Foll : It will happen when the time is right.
It is very complicated to imagine ONE image that I would like to make because my most beautiful images come from stolen moments, from the unexpected, from the chance to be there at the right time.
Which one moved you the most?
Théo Le Foll: The picture I made for my first appearance in the fashion world. I realized it during a fashion show during the Covid 19. It was a production of Casablanca. Entering this fashion show was very emotional because it was a first for me. I had never taken so many photographs, I was at nearly fifteen films per day. And my determination was rewarded because the organization of this show chose one of my images to make a poster. So it was a double emotion.
The one that made you angry?
Théo Le Foll: There is none
A key image in your personal pantheon?
Théo Le Foll: It’s an image I took at the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud at the gates of Paris, with a view of the whole city. When I discovered this image after having processed it and scanned it, I knew that it had something strong, very strong even. It only reinforced my decision to continue to express myself while documenting moments of life. This is a photograph of an elderly couple, holding each other, afraid of what the future might bring. What I love most about this image is the look in the eyes of the woman wearing a mask, you can see her fearful look even more clearly, despite the size of her companion, who is there to protect her while looking towards the horizon.
A photographic memory from your childhood?
Théo Le Foll: When I received my camera, I was amazed by the beauty of the object. I didn’t understand anything about it, but I felt that I had in my hands something with a strong power. But I would also like to mention the first series of images I made in Africa during a trip with my father. I was intrigued and I am still very happy to look at these images.
Without any budget limit, what would be the work you would dream of acquiring?
Théo Le Foll: There are two, I would have a hard time choosing. The first is the photo of Elsa Peretti taken in New York by Helmut Newton in 1975. And the second is an incredible image by Peter Lindberg made for Vogue America in 1988. It affirms the power, softness and naturalness of these supermodels on the beach, wearing white shirts in black and white.
According to you, what is the necessary quality to be a good photographer ?
Théo Le Foll: Perseverance, desire and vision. You have to face and dare each moment that will allow you to express yourself.
The secret of the perfect image, if it exists ?
Théo Le Foll: To find perfection in imperfection. It’s a balance. I always talk about imperfection. Even if in the end I am a perfectionist. I like precise and thoughtful compositions. The beauty of imperfection is the essence of my work. There is no secret, you have to be bold.
The person you would like to photograph ?
Théo Le Foll: Kate Moss, this woman is a historical monument for me.
An essential photo book ?
Théo Le Foll: The autobiography of Helmut Newton. Very interesting!
The camera of your childhood ?
Théo Le Foll: The Olympus 35RC, a little magic camera. I learned with it and it was very important for me afterwards because it has a tele-metric viewfinder. This type of viewfinder is relatively difficult to master but it is very intuitive.
Which one do you use actually ?
Théo Le Foll: I am lucky to have had an incredible camera at 20 years old : the Leica MP and it follows me everywhere. I am passionate about photography and analog cameras. I love searching in flea markets or on the internet, I buy all kind of cameras. I recently invested in Polaroids, and more precisely FP100C. I find them magical. I am learning today and using a Polaroid 600SE that I love. It allows me to shoot in Polaroid and with 120mm, 6×9 film back!
Your favorite drug ?
Théo Le Foll: Film, silver salt. I thrive on it. I have a lot of it in the fridge. I find that there is something more raw and more alive using film. Something you can’t find in digital. From the camera to the processing of an image, the whole process of using film gives more meaning to photography.
And I would like to add the Woman with a capital W. I find her beautiful, sweet and elegant. Without her I don’t think I would be a photographer today.
The best way to disconnect for you?
Théo Le Foll: Taking pictures, I think.
Photography allows me to express myself, to escape, to understand, to explain and, above all, to feel alive. It represents for me something very deep and very personal.
It allows me to stop time, to capture emotions and to store them in a suitcase that will follow me all my life. I am very nostalgic, and I love to sit on a bench and open this suitcase when I want to remember “the good old days”.
I like to archive.
When I see a scene I want to photograph, I just know it, I feel it. I feel the balance, I stop and press the shutter button without thinking too much to not complicate things.
I am attracted by the moment, by the colors and the way they are rendered on film. But above all, I am an unconditional lover of Black & White.
What is your relationship with the image ?
Théo Le Foll: The present moment. I am very sensitive and I love to photograph all kinds of actions and movements that intrigue me and provoke a rush of adrenaline in me. Taking a picture by surprise, in secret or in the blur of action is extraordinary because there is nothing more natural.
Henri Cartier-Bresson used to say: “Photography is an attitude, a way of being, a way of living”. As far as I am concerned, I have a different perception of things, I am interested in everything, I love to travel, to meet people, to learn, and even to struggle. So I’m not afraid to sneak around to get the picture I want. Every experience is good to take. Photography allows me not to forget that today’s time is not the same as yesterday’s, that the world moves very fast.
In short, I have a kind of very toxic and at the same time loving relationship with the image! It has allowed me to discover incredible places, to find myself in situations that are quite perilous at times and magnificent at the same time.
Your greatest quality ?
Théo Le Foll: I think I am curious.
Your latest act of craziness ?
Théo Le Foll: I’ve launched myself into the “event business”. I love to connect, to federate people, my friends, artists and collaborators around me. And I always wanted to create this type of project in order to mix different artistic fields around a main idea, which is madness! This is how “A LA FOLLIE” was born, a meeting between photography and music in an intergenerational way. The 2nd Edition took place last September and I’m working on the next one which will be even crazier.
An image to illustrate a new banknote?
Théo Le Foll: If I have to choose one among mine, it would be this one. I made it for a clothing campaign and I find it very strong.
The job you would not have liked to do ?
Théo Le Foll : Working in front of a screen, I need to move, I can’t stay in place.
Your greatest professional extravagance ?
Théo Le Foll: I left on the spur of the moment for the brand “Casablanca” to do a shoot in Mexico, and after 3 days of relatively intense work, I left for Mexico City where I stayed for a year.
What city, country or culture do you dream of discovering?
Théo Le Foll: There is New York of course. I know that I will go there when the time is right for me. But I also dream of crossing the Atacama Desert. It is the purest desert in the world. One day, I am convinced, I will make images there. I really want to.
The place you never get tired of ?
Théo Le Foll: Costa Rica, I had the chance to discover this country and it is for me, the paradise on earth. It’s simple, Pura Vida.
Your biggest regret ?
Théo Le Foll: To have had to break my relationship with my father between my adolescence and today in order to make him understand that what I am doing make sense. I am very happy that he recognizes it today.
In terms of social networks, are you more Instagram, Facebook, TikTok or Snapchat and why?
Théo Le Foll: So it’s quite contradictory but I don’t like social networks at all even though I use them every day. I think they are very dangerous for my generation and for society. But, at the same time, they are also some of the most powerful communication tools. Personally, I’m on Instagram a lot. You have to know how to use it in a smart way, it’s a long term investment, to create a community with whom to share your vision of things, your desires and your art. For me, the more real you are, the more interesting your content will be. But the more time goes by, the more I’m dying to show my pictures on a real wall, and not on social networks.
Color or B&W?
Théo Le Foll: If I really have to make a choice, I would answer Black&White without any doubt. There is nothing more powerful in images than a Black & White portrait. I always talk about film. I use the mythical Kodak TRIX400, it is extraordinary in terms of contrast and softness with a beautiful palette of black, white and gray. I will never get tired of this image that I made during my first campaign for Paco Rabanne. Black and white is too important to me. This image perfectly illustrates the symbiosis between the model and me. In a split second the softness and naturalness of the pose became one. The definition of the grain is just beautiful.
Daylight or artificial light ?
Théo Le Foll: Daylight without hesitation. The biggest responsibility for me as a photographer is the compression of light. Light is such an important element, you have to be able to see it, understand it, study it, feel it and use it. It is often very complicated to master. But, I will not hide you that I also love to work with flash from time to time.
What is, according to you, the most photogenic city ?
Théo Le Foll: When I make images in the city and I do what is called street photography, I am always very attracted by the movement, the culture, the architecture and especially the light. Mexico City is in my opinion one of the most interesting cities to photograph. But I also know I would love New York, which I don’t know yet and can’t wait to discover.
If God existed, would you ask him to pose for you, or would you opt for a selfie with him?
Théo Le Foll: I would like to take a picture of him without his knowledge.
If I could organize your ideal dinner, who would be at the table?
Théo Le Foll: My grandmother, Peter Lindbergh, Helmut Newton, Henri Cartier Bresson and Kate Moss.
The image that represents for you the current state of the world?
Théo Le Foll: This image which I have already mentioned earlier, the photograph of the elderly couple, holding each other, afraid of what the future might bring.
What is missing in today’s world?
Théo Le Foll: Freedom and real human relationships in my generation that I find too involved with the net. I wish I could take us back to the 70’s, that I would describe as crazy!
If you had to start all over again?
Théo Le Foll: If I had to start all over again, I wouldn’t!
The last word ?
Théo Le Foll: Bendita Locura.