Interview With French Street Photographer Jeff Chane-Mouye

I remember coming across one of Jeff’s photos on World Street Photography The photo was in black and white and taken extremely up close with the old man’s face filling 75% of the frame. The man was located near the beach and had a pondering thought. I thought to myself, I wish I had taken this photo.

I love both the framing and post processing of the photo. The beach in the background with the senior citizen pondering in the foreground created a nice subtle juxtaposition, nothing too obvious or  juxtaposition where it was a one and done humor type of photo….something you see a lot floating around on social media these days. There was enough content to keep me intrigue while giving me enough space to create my own story in my head. Ever since I’ve been a fan and followed Jeff’s work, I’d like to see him photograph the beach more often!

I always have fun interviewing other street photographers from around the world and learning their creative process and how they stumbled upon street photography. This is no different. Enjoy the interview below!

Hi Jeff thanks for doing this. where do you live and how does this influence your photography?

Hey Tim, glad to be featured on your Blog. Thanks a lot for that mate. I live in the southern part of France, in Aix-en-Provence, the city of Cezanne. A place blessed with wonderful light. A very touristic destination. During the summer, the streets are filled with thousand of foreign people from all around the world. I guess like me, you’re used to that in Honolulu. Kind of the same here, but we don’t have the beach ! The old city is made of narrow streets with these old buildings in yellow stones. So basically, pretty easy to do some light/shadow stuff. I kind of misused it too much and got fed up with doing all the time the same things, light/shadow, silhouette….I’m still using the awesome light I have here, but trying to give a new direction to my work. A more straight and raw approach of Street Photography. I’m also drawn to tourists in the Streets. It’s funny to see how they act and their gestures. Always moving like a flock of birds.

Street Photography is… (fill in the blank)

Street Photography is about failure… Once you have understood that, you don’t care much about making crappy photos and once you get a decent picture, you’re the happiest person!

When and how did you get into “street” photography?

I started Street a little less than 2 years ago. I was looking for a new camera to replace my Nikon D200 and discovered a new type of camera : “The mirrorless”. Of course I came across the Fuji X System and going through reviews, I ended up reading some blogs where people were praising the Xpro or the X100 for Street Photography. I ended up on Eric Kim’s Blog. That’s kind of where it all began for me. However, I’ve been photographing casually for a while now, since I was 18 years old (won’t tell you my actual age =]). Nothing serious. Landscape, family, trips … Just documenting my life. I continued onward when I had kids. But I felt that I needed to do something to find myself out of this routine. A good friend of mine was making these wonderful landscape photographs. I kind of envy him but landscape is not really my thing. I decided to go for the Street Photography as I have some time constraints being a father of two little boys. Believe me or not, but I studded almost all the materials on Eric Kim’s Website before buying my new camera : a Fuji XE2 with a prime 18 mm (28 mm Full frame eq). Then I started hitting the streets in April 2016…

How do you go about your photography? Do you have a plan or bring your camera everywhere with you?

I used to plan my street photo sessions before, but now as I always have my camera with me, anytime and anywhere are good opportunities to take pictures. As you know Tim, I have a Ricoh GRD IV now. I’ve been using it as my only one camera for more than a year. I praise this camera and it’s the perfect one for me. It’s a pretty old camera (2011) with a small sensor which sucks when there is a lack of light but you get such a massive depth of field with it then you don’t need to worry about and can simply snap away.

I have a very basic approach. I let my instinct guide me in the streets. Well I’m somehow drawn to the light and tourists when I’m roaming the streets. For the rest, it’s just about luck and opportunities. Sometimes I can be pretty patient if I feel that a spot could give me some interesting pictures. I remember a quote from a National Geographic photographer, Sam Abell, he wrote: “Compose the picture and wait!” Most of the time it’s a lot of walking and taking snapshots. Just a reaction of what I see in front of me. I don’t think too much when shooting. I shoot a lot, I don’t count my number of clicks. There’s a time for thinking when I edit my work.

If you had to explain your work to a child how would you describe it?

You’re a magician ! The camera is a magical tool that enables you to encapsulate a moment for an eternity.

I had to explain to my kids (8 and 5 years old) why I was making pictures of strangers in the streets. It’s a odd practice, but kids are more open minded. They don’t judge. Sometimes as I’m post processing my pictures, they come to see my work and I ask them what they find interesting in the picture and what according to them made me click the shutter. My oldest son already has an eye for it. I like to play this game with them because kids are straight and honest. It’s a good way to see if a photo is working or not.

What frustrated you about photography?

I would like to be able to show my work to a wider audience. But let’s face it, there’s a lot of cronyism in Photography. It’s an artistic community and you need to know the right people with strong connections to achieve your goals. I’m not saying that my work deserves more, but you need to sell yourself if you want to go higher. Well apparently some people are very good salesmen. I’m not…

What’s your thoughts on today’s street photography landscape?

I have mixed feelings. Street Photography has never been so popular. With Facebook and Instagram, it’s fairly easy to discover some really stunning photographers from all around the world. But the drawback is that the social platform have changed our way of sharing our work. As you need to feed the beast, people share more than they should. The goal is to be popular on Social Media. And to achieve that, you need to share frantically. Quantity over quality. No need to say, too many crap shared.

The current trend is clearly color photography with vivid colors. I feel like a weirdo shooting Black & White. I remember a color picture made by a friend. I immediately see the potential of this picture in monochrome. I told him that he should try to process it in Black & White. You know what he answered to me ? “Man, this is 2018 !”

Whose work do you find inspiration from?

Lately I’ve been trying to work differently. To have a more straight approach of the Street. I study the work of Trent Parke, Garry Winogrand, Robert Frank or Michael Ernest Sweet. But not only. I’m also inspired by some photographers I follow on Facebook like Yiannis Yiasaris, Vasco Trancoso, Elizabeth Char, Alex Coghe, Don Springer, John Harper and even you (I know it’s hard to believe… Not saying that because you’re interviewing me!)

What are you most proud of in terms of your work?

Some people measure their success with awards, popularity, the glory shots they were able to capture. I will never be an award winning photographer nor will I ever be a popular or famous photographer. For me , it’s not about the photographs I have made, but the recognition of my pears.

Name three contemporary photographers you really admire?

Trent Park for his mastering of the light, Michael Ernest Sweet for his raw approach and Martin Parr for his sense of humor.

If you can have dinner with one street photographer past or present who would it be?

Garry Winogrand for sure! Who wouldn’t want to meet the legend!

When you aren’t making pictures you are doing what?

I wear my pantyhose and my cape to save the world ! Seriously, I have a boring life. I take the kids to the school, I take them back home, I cook the dinner, I go to work. But there’s nothing to feel bad about having a boring life. Most people have a boring life. Look at Superman and Spider man, even superheroes have a boring life. It’s not a big deal.

Any advice to those about to get their feet wet in street photography?

People say that Street Photography is pretty easy. Get a camera, go in the streets and shoot. There are rules in Street Photography. Study them, learn them, then break them if you wish to go your own way, but make sure to know them first. There’s a literacy in street photography as well.

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 Keep Up With Jeff Chane-Mouye’s Work

Website – Jeffchanemouyephotography.com

Follow on Instagram @jeff.chanemouye

World Street Photography Profile

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