It is in the context of the exhibition Alba which will be held from November 15 to 17, that we met Frédéric Forest and Quentin Simon. Comfortably settled in our workshop at 21 avenue du Maine, they tell us the genesis of their joint project: Alba.
G. How did you meet?
FF. Very simply, by Instagram. Pretty soon, I stumbled upon his account fairly quickly. In the infinite and continuous flow of images that circulate, his posts often resurfaced in my memory. They endured. Which is for me one of the values of photography. Photography should leave it’s mark on both memory and imagination.
I immediately enjoyed his very natural, direct work, which was quite far from the misapplication of filters and overediting. I sent him messages to tell him that I was fond of what he was doing. Then, we talked a lot about architecture (which I had hesitated to pursue in my studies) and photography. I also consider my work as manual photography. And then, soon enough, we talked about books. Very naturally, the idea of crafting a book together, came rapidly.
G. Quentin, what do you appreciate about Frédéric’s work?
QS. His purity, his simplicity. He manages for a black line on a white background to express much more than what others manage to with all of the colors and techniques available today. The efficiency of his lines is astonishing. I think that I always prefer less and less frills, whatever the art: overloaded music or photos that are “over-filtered” for example, and Fred’s work is the opposite of that. It goes straight to the point, without cheating, with a raw and natural elegance.
G. Frédéric, what do you appreciate about the work of Quentin?
FF. We have about the same perception of each other’s work. For me, Quentin’s work has this unique blend of sweetness and rawness. I mean raw in the sense that it feels intact, untouched, not transformed. I think it comes from his use of film instead of digital cameras.
This technical choice is important in his capacity of letting go all while maintaining his mastery of the technique. His images really express a vision. Something that instantly knew how to see and take the time. I often tell him that he makes cinematographic works with his images. We also talked a lot about Chris Marker’s film “The Pier”, which a key element for us in the founding of the Alba project.
G. This book project took more than 2 years to complete, why?
QS. The book project was not born right after our first meeting. It rose from several discussions of our works, our inspirations, and many more things that the project materialized. Starting with a vague idea, we then focused on architecture, then specifically Bauhaus architecture, and finally chose the pavilion of Mies Van Der Rohe in Barcelona, a building that I had already photographed myself. The concept around the resident of the pavilion – Alba – came later, during our exchange of drawings and photographs.
This long delay also comes from the fact that I cannot go to Barcelona every day, and also Alba is the first book by Grammatical and so many things had to be set up for this occasion.
G. Frederic, you never went to the Barcelona Pavilion, why?
FF. During my studies, we took a trip to Barcelona, it was part of the organized tours, but for some reason I forgot, and we could not get in. When Quentin would show me his negatives from the pavilion, he would often invite me to go back with him.
There were different reasons and excuses for not making the trip, certainly signs that I should not go there. But more than anything, I liked the idea that my drawing would bring the fictional aspect of the story. It is part of the exoticism too, of this fantasy that one has of a place that one imagines without having ever been there, of a place of which we saw so many images, films, floorplans, and models. I had imagined it so much that I did not want to betray the image I had made for myself of the place.
Moreover, it was very useful for editing the book that we really thought of as a short film. The scene of a day or several days of this sculpture, or rather of this resident, which we turned into a character: Alba.
G. What are your next projects?
QS. Perhaps another book, about my last trip in June in Buryatia (Siberian region), I am currently looking for a publisher (this is a bottle in the sea!). I also have planned a lot of fashion shootings coming this fall.
FF. Prints by Quentin, some paintings and original drawings that are part of this book will be exhibited on November 15, 16 and 17 at 78 rue de Turenne in Paris. We will also be signing the book at this occasion. Then there will be a series of small books thought of as stolen notebooks that are currently being worked on. The first part should come out in a short time …
Open from november 15 to 17
11:00am – 8:00pm
78 rue de Turenne