Leo-Paul is a photographer working in his native Paris, who loves nothing more than traveling through France and the world for his work.
In this interview, Léo-Paul gives us great insights about his work. Don't miss his PhotoDeck website : www.leoridet.fr.
As a young photographer, I think my style continously evolves, I don't take anything for granted. I focus more and more on telling stories. A portrait has to tell a story, just like an editorial gig. I try to read the person in front of me and to highlight a certain trait, through a setup or an accessory, to make the difference between a simple still portrait and a story-telling portrait. My personal work is much more minimalist, I focus on the message, the concept, I try to forget about aesthetics and to shoot from the hip, like in my series on the Cannes Festival, or my "Good Morning" series.
Pre- and post-production usually take up most time. I work quickly, I have trouble staying focused for a long time, and I assume it's the same for the people I photograph! So I do my homework and try to know about them and the location, I usually come in in advance to get familiar with the place and setup my lights comfortably. After the shoot, I immediately process the images and deliver them, I don't like having the images hanging around for too long.
I am a polyvalent photographer and proud of it. I've often been advised to choose between portrait and editorial. Today I practice both, enjoy both, and it doesn't prevent me from doing both well. My clients are the French and International Press, but also numerous companies for my activity's corporate side. I also work with French and US agencies.
Year 2009, after an internship at Le Monde as a photo editor, where I had tried to demonstrate my competences as a photographer, a journalist asked me to follow him on an assignment on jails, I had to make portraits of a few former inmates. A few weeks later, it had become "The Jailed Body", a web-documentary, the very first in France to be both produced and directed by the same media. It went on to earn an award at the Visa pour l'Image that year. That was my first job!
I use all the tools I can. Meetings, newsletter, greeting cards but also social media, especially Facebook and Instagram. I also have a Tumblr where I sometimes publish short texts, narrating a shoot, or discussing a certain aspect of my job. I try to keep it lightweight and funny, it's too easy to take oneself too seriously in this line of work! It takes a lot of time and impact is hard to measure. At least it allows my friends and family to know where I am and what I'm doing, that's already something.
Indeed, clients have specific needs that match their activity. My multi-competence is not a technical or artistic advantage, it's purely commercial. I can reach a wider client base. So I adapt my marketing or my portfolios depending on the clients. My website is a window for everybody, so there I've chosen to limit the images to portraits and editorial work. This work evolves constantly and competition is every year harder, if a photographer can live from a single specialty, good for him. Personnally I've chosen to be competent in different areas.
Renting an office. Separating professional and private life had become essential. My billings tripled the first year and I believe that the office had a lot to do with it. No only do you work more, more importantly you work much better. Photographer is a solitary job, it suits many colleagues but I get bored quickly if I have nobody to exchange ideas or joke with. I share my office with designers and a communication agency, we chat about work, some of their friends are now my clients, and vice-versa.
I never regret anything, bad decisions often help more than good ones! I think I should have been more professionnal earlier. I lost time during the first years, thinking that people would come to me, out of shyness but also out of lack of confidence. I think that a beginning photographer should grow professional habits as soon as possible.
No idea! Paris is my city but I may move. Ideally, I'll keep working with people full of new ideas and eager, in advertising for example. But I would also grow my body of personal works, create my signature.
First of all, make sure you understand what it is about. Photographer is French people's favourite job, but surely also the less understood, I'm often surprised by the vision people around me have about my job, and I think that many beginners have an incomplete or simply false understanding. It's a work that takes a lot of energy, one needs to be strong and never give up. Unfortunately not everybody makes it, and it's not the best photographers that get most work. Communication is very important, as well as not believing that you're an artist until somebody tells you so. And if it well possible to earn money, it's also a job that costs a lot.
I try to climb steps continously. My challenge is to find an approach that is both artistic and commercial. Out of necessity, I've developed the commercial side over the past five years, but I don't forget where I come from, I studied Art, I like painting and spending time in galleries and museums. I would like to find some of that freshness while keeping enough income to stay warm and secure. Major challenge.
It's first and foremost my website, my window. I wanted it rather minimalist, there are many tools I don't use as I don't sell images directly from my site. I also use it to deliver files.
They haven't, which is a very good sign. A website you don't notice is a good website.
PhotoDeck's potential seduced me, the opportunity to group the website, the delivery platform and statistics tools under the same roof. The quick and friendly support is obviously a plus.
I think the designs could be expanded, more minimalist and modernized. I'm also thinking about a more complete newsletter tool with elegant layouts.