Jean-Luc's Interview

Copyright Frédéric Lallemand  © 2000

Bordeaux - Francais.
Web site:
Age: 43
  Link To Version Française.

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Photographer, member of the VU agency since 1993.
Born in 1959 . Lives and works in Bordeaux, France . His diverse and varied photographic activities are in the areas of editing, advertising and written media. His personal work can be seen in galleries and various books.

"Jean-Luc Chapin never tires of showing the public his relationship with the world, with light, silence, the sea, with others and wildlife". From "Sud-Ouest" Newspaper, France.


What is your background? I was an assistant of the photographer Claude Anaf who belonged to the school of Ernz Haas. He worked mainly on minerals. But it allowed me to work on reportage and on advertising, mainly in colour.

What is your current job? I am a free-lance photographer, I work for the VU agency and in book-publishing. I also happen to work for advertising campaigns sometimes, (for example Doc Marten’s). My photos express the relationships between man, animal and landscape.

What kind of relationship do you have with nature? My relationship is violent. The landscape is situated ambiguously, my vision is a personal one, I like to add disturbing elements. For instance I like to have strong physical contact like rafting or mountain climbing. I try to insert this edge into my photographs. Animal and/or vegetation can also create a particular atmosphere in this. Then there is of course the question of the aesthetic. This is a very important question for me. Most of all I want my photographs to be viewed emotionally. In any case, the search for beauty helps the accessibility of the image and its inner meaning. The ordering of the photographs in the books tends to favour a linear interpretation, paragraphs of text, linked emotions that we can follow. It is about taking the reader by the hand making sure he stays with the subject. That is also the way in which I want them to experience landscape.

Whilst photographing landscape, did you find that you needed special qualities, such as patience, humility, or something else? Yes, especially humility. When travelling we experience our surroundings more superficially than those who live there. We have to establish a relationship with the place and the people, We have to encounter the characters that possess knowledge of the place. When I go out into nature I look for what I know will be there whilst keeping an open mind towards the possibilities of the unexpected. I have learned to love the moments of reflection that follow the taking of a photograph. It is in those moments that photography and literature follow a similar creative process.

What would have been your second choice of subject? News photography or portrait photography.

Any exhibitions? Books? I did almost 40 exhibitions, probably the same number of books. Here are some of them.

Did you go though different phases or different styles in your career? The idea of style is mistaken. Style is something that comes afterwards or doesn’t. There is too much emphasis on that. I don’t like the word. When we progress, images evolve. For the time being I will stick to my present subject.

What changes would you make in your method of work if any? The idea comes first, If as a result a certain research is necessary, then I will undertake it.

Your Gear

Your equipment? A Hassleblad with a 6x6cm back, 10x8 (25x20cm) studio camera and two Fuji 6x9cm cameras for reportage. I use Beseler 23Cll and a Durst Laborator 5x7 (13x17cm) enlargers in the darkroom

Do you prefer up close and dangerous or do you like longer focal length? I use a normal focus lens, a non-spectacular lens. Sometimes I use a wide angle or a moderate zoom.

Black & White or colour? What do you prefer? Black & white.

Do you print your own pictures? Yes, I do. For me it means a personal commitment. As soon as the photo is taken, I am thinking about the way I will print it. I spend a lot of time in the dark room. I favour quality above quantity.

Do you use a digital camera, if yes why, or why not? No, I have chosen to stick with conventional silver gelatin printing and the optical way of enlarging.

Your Pictures

What was your first step in photography? An encounter with the photographer Claude Anaf, we were very perfectionist with high expectations which opened new routes in photography as well as in music and painting.

What is your favourite picture? Can you tell us the little story to go with it? That would be one of my most recent ones. We are in a wild spot. The image is difficult. There is a lot of emotion. The subject is similar to what I have done before and already foretells what will be possible. I had lots of excitement anticipating the result!

What is your strangest photograph? Rafting down the river Loire, I saw the roots of Alder trees sticking out of the riverbed. They looked amazingly like a woman’s legs and hips.

Do you like to show your pictures? Yes, that is what I make them for. I love the risk involved in showing them.

Do you think your have a fair opinion on other photographer’s work? There is no objectivity in this matter.

Do you keep all your photographs, even the junk? I keep too many pictures.

What is your favourite ingredient in a good photo? JLC: My favourite ingredients are bad weather or an exceptional encounter.

Your Inspiration

Are you suddenly inspired? Or do you plan a project? Neither! I do not believe in an artist’s muse. In our lives we look for things, we are full of desire, full of success and failure. These happy moments and frustrations make things happen.

Who is f avourite photographer Bill Brandt, Joseph Sudek, Michael Kenna.

What are your favourite subjects I don’t have favourite subjects, I have favourite photographs.

What are your favourite spots Marshlands.

What is your favourite mood A good mood.

Are you perpetually out and about shooting in the wild? Yes I am, I keep moving between shooting and the dark room.

Your View On

Do you know anything about English Photography? Any photographer in particular? I must say that initially I was almost ‘traumatised’ about the English spirit. What is interesting about the English is their culture of over-awareness of landscape and countryside issues. Landscape is not a insignificant subject. Also their fascination with travel is extraordinary. I am thinking particularly about the explorer Richard Burton. And also the illustrations of certain novels of the 19th Century show their very personal vision, an almost literary approach.

What do you think about contemporary photography, in particular art-photography. It is too early for definitions. Contemporary art is very interesting, often intellectual with a need for discussion of the concept which takes prominence. There is then the danger of losing emotion. The concept of emotion is of the highest importance for me even if , after all, there is an undercurrent of thinking which makes the piece successful when it emerges. However I am convinced that we make very few good photographs, myself included.

How does it feel to be recognised for your work? I am a working photographer and recognition allows me to continue with my work.

What would be your advice to an amateur photographer? Be tough on yourself to begin with, one should be technically skilled whilst not forgetting to develop one’s thinking.

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Thank You To Jean-Luc Chapin For His Patience And Reliability
A Very Big Thank You To Sicco Heligers For His Excellent Translation From French To English.

All images individual copyright as stated on each enlargement © 2000/2001/2002 except "Portrait" copyright Frédéric Lallemand © 2000. All text copyright © UKlandscape 2002.


May 2014
Roger Voller


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