Interview with French Photographer and Movie Director, Laurent Nivalle
How has your work as an art director and movie director influenced your photography?
I must disconnect my work as art director from my work as photographer or movie director. As art director, you have to choose the best direction for the project, and this direction is not always your style. It’s really interesting and enriching to experiment with new concepts, but I think my work is heavily influenced by this distinction.
How would you describe your style?
Difficult question. I don’t know. Some people say I’ve got a vintage style, but I don’t fully agree with that. I’m really hoping my style is more subtle. Another thing people point out is that I have a certain style of framing. More than anything, I just do what I like.
Has living in Paris influenced your style in any way?
I studied art in Ecole Boulle, an artistic school in Paris, and I visited all the museums and exhibitions I could every single week for 5 years. I experimented with painting, sculpting, drawing and had the pleasure of meeting incredibly talented and open-minded people. It was a very influential period in my life. There are other places in the world that are also rich in culture, but I don’t think there is anything quite like Paris.
Today, the internet is THE tool I use the most. I’m influenced by so many facets of art that I come across on the internet from all over the world. I also follow fellow photographers, graphic designers, movies and fashion designers.
How do you map out your concepts when preparing for shoots? Do you have everything planned from start to finish, or do you make it up as you go along?
It depends of the project. For a personal project, I like to have an idea in a separate area of my mind and work on that without any special preparation. I’m very comfortable with freestyle projects.
But for a commissioned project, you must prepare for every aspect of the job ahead of time, especially for a movie because you work with a team of 10-25 people. You need authorizations, equipment, bookings, etc. In all things, I always try to keep a small gray area, a blurred space with room for a spontaneous approach.
Though you photograph a wide range of subjects, your automotive photography in particular has garnered a lot of attention on your Behance page. What inspired you to begin photographing sports cars? Are they your favorite subject matter?
I’ve been working full time for the automotive brand, Citroën for 13 years now. I began as colors & materials designer and today, I’m the art director, so naturally, shooting cars was my first real specialization.
I don’t have a favorite subject and in a dream world I would like to be known simply as a photographer, not an automotive photographer. I can use my vision to capture anything from people, landscapes, cars to architecture, but if I had to choose just one subject, it would be people.
Out of all the cars and bikes that you’ve shot, do you have a favorite?
Porsche 917!!! It is so sexy and historical. I would like to have one for myself one day so that I can shoot my own series.
Capturing the right amount of light is essential to good photography. Could you give us some insight to your strobist techniques and equipment?
I mostly use natural light in my pictures because of the cinematic feeling I try to capture. Sometimes I use a reflector, and if I use light I use HMI to keep to the cinematic feel.
How important is Photoshop to the finished look and feel of your work?
The picture is ‘done’ once I shoot it. The Photoshop part of the process is only an upgrade. I don’t like to do a lot of retouching in my pictures, but I do a little bit of editing on the skin for fashion photography.
When I shoot commissioned pictures, it’s different because there are commercial rules to follow but I try to keep it to a minimum as much as possible. I like to keep it as natural as I can. I think it’s nice to have more organic pictures because I feel like people become bored with overly Photoshopped images nowadays.
How do you achieve the vintage/retro feel in your photos?
My workflow is really simple, without plug-ins or softwares. I don’t like plug-ins because of the cookie-cutter result that anyone can achieve and you can easily recognize them. I make adjustments to color to match the mood I’m going for with standard tools in Photoshop and then tweak it a bit more in Lightroom (contrast, light, sharpen, etc.)
Do you have any upcoming projects we should watch out for?
I’m preparing a personal fashion project, a photoshoot and maybe even a movie too, something very dark. I’ll be using black materials and shooting in the studio. I think the result will be totally different from any of my work so far.
I’m an artistic director, designer and photographer for the french car company Citroën in the design department for the last 10 years. I manage a CGI and graphic designers team as well as making art direction on various internal and external communication projects ( presskit, books, photographs, films, cgi ). With a spontaneous and creative approach to photography, my preferences are portraits as well as cars and fashion photography.
If you are interested in purchasing a print from Lauren’t amazing photography collection or would just like to see a better resolution version of his images, click here