Photography experiments during a global pandemic | Interview with Baptiste Hauville

A global-pandemic and a whole world locked in quarantine is definitely an unprecedented experience. None of us was prepared for this. It feels like somebody took us out of our comfort zone, and threw us hundreds of miles away from it. Our calendar is full of cancellations and indefinite postponements. Our routine is gone. We get less social interaction and keep battling the urge of snacking all day and watching Netflix, versus being productive and working on business related things.

We’re not here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do during your quarantine. The amount of information, guides, checklists and articles is abundant and overwhelming. Today, we’d rather focus on the fun and creative side of the coin. Photography. And while we’re not allowed to practice taking pictures the usual way, we see so many creatives conquer unexplored fields, from self-portraits, to photo manipulations, FaceTime photography, product or stock photography, and so much more. Exploring new ways to express yourself, treating limitations as an opportunity for new angles and perspectives, can have a stimulating and healing impact on your mind. We approached Baptiste Hauville, a talented wedding photographer from France who recently started a daily self-portraits challenge, to chat about the purpose and effect his experiment has had on him, so far.

Baptiste, how are you spending the quarantine?

I’m currently locked down in my parents’ house, in Brittany, France. I didn’t want to stay all by myself in my small apartment in Bordeaux for these long weeks…

Well… I must admit that I don’t do much. I guess I have something that I could call a routine now, which is made of coffee, cigarettes, sport, listening to a lot of music, replying to emails, dealing with postponed weddings ,online aperitifs with my friends, Netflix (almost finished Ozark, great inspiration), Instagram, Facebook, red wine and yeah, that’s quite it…!

You started a self-portrait experiment. Has it been helpful or impactful in any way, given the Covid- 19 lockdown?

I started doing self-portraits since March 17th, which was the first day of quarantine here in France.

Oddly, a few days before the “official” lockdown, I was struggling with some ghosts from my past, and didn’t feel quite right, to be honest. I was still at my apartment in Bordeaux, and one morning, I woke up crying… I don’t really know why, but that morning I decided to take my camera and take a photo of myself at this particular moment. This is something I wanted to try for a long time, but it’s a difficult exercise. It’s hard to be completely honest with yourself, to see yourself vulnerable and to accept it. This photo turned out to be really out of focus. That’s why I didn’t share it, but kept it, just for myself.

So, anyway, since that first day of quarantine, I try to take photos every day (or two days actually), but I keep sharing one photo every day on my Instagram stories.

I think it is a very good exercise for many reasons. Firstly, it keeps my mind awake. I’m forced to find something interesting in a place where I know every single corner (my parents’ house). Secondly, I find it interesting because it allows me to step back from my own image. I’m not really comfortable in front of a camera and I’m definitely not a model ! I guess it helped me reconcile with myself and to accept that I’m that guy on the photos, with his own complexity, and I’m ok with that.

It’s been a long time since I wanted to do portraits. Don’t ask me why I didn’t do it before. The fact is that I have time now, but I can’t shoot somebody other than myself, obviously. So, I take it as a training ! This year will be a tough one, with less weddings than usual, so I know I will have the time to do different things, including portraits. I will take the time to try new things with my couples. This period will definitely be a game changer in my photography work.

You’ve rebranded and redesigned your website recently. It’s majestic, we fell in love with it! What’s the concept behind the “Electricity or Nothing” and the “Soyons Fous”?

Thank you very much!

I’m not sure that there is a concept, really, behind these words. For example, “soyons fous” literally means “let’s go crazy”. It’s more a state of mind. I realized that my wedding photography evolved with time, with more movements, more energy. “Soyons fous” is my leitmotif. The idea is not to do things rashly, but to let yourself go even if you have doubts or fears. Actually, I tattooed these words on my arm.

Same applies for “Electricity or nothing”. It’s something that I try to express through my work and something that can define the state of being in love. It’s about passion, energy, movement. That’s how I see it. | Site built with Lyra

I wanted this new website to be more personal, because I think I know myself more than ever before. I wanted to show my future clients who’s the guy behind these photos. I’m not here to sell them an experience (what the heck the “Baptiste Hauville experience” would mean anyway ?), I’m here to explain them who I am so they can understand my work and my approach more easily. It’s really important for me to be honest because my photography work is 100% made of who I am.

You describe yourself as a feminist on your homepage, among other things. Do you think photography can help put an important message forward? Can it be a political act in the context where it highlights a certain issue?

Yes, I am a feminist. Thanks to my mum I guess ! Actually, everybody should be feminist, men and women. It’s not normal to see social differences between men and women. Why the f*** women are still considered as less important by some people, or with less possibilities than men ? I really can’t understand.

I’m sure photography in general can help put important messages out there. Before doing weddings, I worked on several photo series. There is one series in particular that I started back in 2011 (and that I’d like to start again). My idea was to take portraits of workers that seem invisible most of the time for the public. To support this statement, I decided to make them transparent, almost invisible. But I didn’t want to use photoshop to change reality. Instead, I just used long exposure to make them translucent.

So, yes, of course I think photography can be a political act in itself. It’s just another medium to express thoughts, beliefs and to highlight things.

Lastly, images or words? Which are more powerful?

Ah. Tricky question ! Personally, I love both. But I don’t think it should be the one or the other. It should be the one AND the other. Words can complement photography, and vice versa.

If I had to give an absolute answer to this question, I would say images. Because for me, it’s a good way not only to show things, but also to suggest things to the viewer.

Images are more universal than words, they don’t need translation. Everybody can understand a photo, or at least imagine something from it.

As creatives, we are often more susceptible to emotions and passionate reactions towards certain factors or situations. That’s the trait that allows us to understand and capture people and feelings in such a powerful and authentic way. It can also be a curse, if we allow ourselves to dwell too long on self-doubt and fear (thanks Coronavirus). There’s no handbook on how to survive and flourish during a global-pandemic crisis, yet finding ways to motivate yourself, keep your mind occupied and excited, is the key to walking out of this, healthy and sane.

If you’ve been experimenting with self portraits or FaceTime photography – show us! Tag us on your photos, and we’ll feature you in our weekly Sunday inspo posts! If you want the same Baptiste Hauville looks for your self portraits and couple galleries, check out his recently launched presets pack.

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