Francois Boutemy's fascination with photography has grown into a daily occupation, a natural conclusion arising from a childhood interest in the use of imagery as commentary on the World around him.
In particular, becoming 'graphically literate' has perhaps evolved from Dyslexia, the aptitude and development of expression through visual images came far more naturally than translating meaning through written words, in this sense it is Francois' first language. Based in London, in residence at Simulacra Studio, which has continued to grow since it's 2006 launch, he is never short of subject matter and stimulation. Drawing on life experience, he has always been particularly taken with the challenge and inspiration of street photography in addition to controlled studio set up's - the beauty of capturing fragile and temporal moments, and portraying them through an abstracted lens never fails to satisfy.
Evidence of the inherent diversity in his work can be found by looking at clients & co conspirators alike, ranging from Ralph Lauren, National Geographic, Quintessentially, traditional men's shoemakers Cheaney & Sons, award winning Bridal wear designer Sanyukta Shrestha, Asian Dance company Akademi and front line festival Boomtown Fair plus an entire chorus line of performers, sculptors, designers, retailers, party organizers, video makers, Burlesque dancers and even the occasional Dominatrix !
Furthermore Francois continues to act as tour photographer for Punk band Inner Terrestrials, having already chapter-ed over 15 years on the road, including a tour of Japan in April 2010, there is a wealth of material which will inevitably culminate in a well overdue book.
Over the years Francois has also released several photographic books; 'The Fetish Cookbook' (2009) and 'Words and Pictures' (2008) 'Lomosexual: A Tribute to L.O.M.O. Cameras' (2007). Another collaborative publication 'Photo Strip' is currently in long suffering development. Previously released titles in print are, 'Made in England' (2000).
More recently Francois has featured as a guest photographer in two books by Quintessentially Publishing, Gentleman (2013) and 100 Most Iconic Wine Estates (2012).
Finally Francois continues to run regular photographic workshops from Simulacra Studio, aimed at rising professionals and experienced amateurs alike. These are portfolio builder sessions, staging shoots on varied themes, past workshops include Contemporary Circus, Extreme Make Up, Photography Meets Choreography, High Speed Photography and Art Nude.
A luxury guidebook for the sartorially savvy man from Quintessentially Publishing.
100 Most Iconic Wine Estates.
An insight into the world’s most desirable and prestigious wines estates from Quintessentially Publishing.
'Recipes with added PVC, The Kitchen Kink!'
How do you like your eggs? Whisked, whipped and served with a wink?
The Fetish Cookbook offers delicious, tantalising recipes to tease & allure your loved one. A dozen ready-to-serve flirty feasts, coupled with vivid, sexy imagery.
The perfect 'cherry on top' for any night in!
Lomosexual A Tribute to L.O.M.O. Cameras.
A close up look at the revolutionary Russian camera and its bag of tricks. A collaboration of several photographers featuring a gallery of images, interviews and modification tips; with contributions from Jon Wyatt, Ricardo Ventura, Jeansman Lee and Francois Boutemy. ON SALE through this website and an independnt network from November 2007.
Words & Pictures
A collection of photographs and contemporary verse, from the roots of urban living, festivals and protest. Pictures by Francois Boutemy & verse by Miss Print, third self produced publication.ON SALE through this website and an independnt network from November 2007.
'Made in England'
In 2000 I published a book of text (French) and Photographs, "Made in England" about travelling around Great Britain. This book is available for £8 including postage.
Why do you think photography is an important medium ?
The most important thing is the freedom that there is within photography. There are no rules really, you can explore and take the medium wherever you want, in your own way.
When I first started learning with photography I joined a kind of old people’s photography group, which was very restricted in terms of encouraging me to use the techniques in a perfectionist, accurate way. It wasn’t until I met Eric, a professional photographer who lived in my home town, who really taught me how much more you can do with photography, if you break through the boundaries that a conventional understanding of the camera really enforces.
This freedom of the medium carries on as far as you can really practice photography on your own, so you are not bound by relying on other people. I find it quite hard to work with other people, I much prefer to work alone, where you have the ultimate decisions over practical and creative aspects that affect your work. It makes things much more flexible!
And in general ?
Well it’s a medium that is used in newspapers and books, I think why I really liked it is because it’s in books, and you can show a picture to somebody who doesn’t speak the same language as you, and they can understand it, the whole visual bit, and everything… and its everywhere, it’s being used. You get a bit of text and there’s a photo to illustrate it, it’s in advertising, it’s everywhere. It’s a cool medium, and it’s cheap medium as well, because you can reproduce it quite a lot, and give it to people, that’s why I like it.
Where would a typical exhibition of your work be held ?
They could all be in squatted places, in reclaimed spaces, that would be great, I would prefer that, because now, at this time in London, most of the artists are doing exhibitions in places where they need to pay to do an exhibition, and it seems so silly to have to pay to show some nice things to people! Yeah I would like all my exhibitions to be shown in squats, even if I was really famous, I think a squat would be better. I do get offered exhibitions in regular places, and I do take some sometimes, but I prefer for them to be in reclaimed spaces, just for the thing that, you know, not only the elite come to it. But then by having it in a squat, then we get a more narrowed down public, who already know this sort of circuit, but I think we can bring the general public into squats… I like it because usually if we do an exhibition in a squat it’s followed by a party, and I like that vibe. I like people who’ve been drinking or taking drugs to see my work. It’s nice when you’re somewhere on drugs to be able to see some nice art work… I like bars as well… yeah I’ve got a problem with normal space, you know, a blank white wall!
Is that a political choice or…
Maybe, I don’t know.. normal exhibition spaces, are quite frightening, and they’ve got rules to them, like people are always quiet in an exhibition space, you’re not supposed to be doing this or that, you know? I don’t like that, so much etiquette about an exhibition, it’s elitist ..
Do you think how your work is seen is affected by where you choose to display it ?
Of course. But I guess that, it’s nice to show a piece of work that is well framed in a place that’s quite random, sort of makes it stand out a bit more…
So in response to that you’d have your work presented in quite a professional way ?
No, not always, but I like to have photography well framed, for one big reason is that they keep well, you can show them again, but I’ve done it other ways. I like projection, projection on the floor, with slides, or with a projector, or with, like when I used the box, when we did the peep show… I really liked doing that… and recently I’ve been printing stuff on cheap paper, and trying to leave it everywhere, sort of gluing it to the wall. If I had a bit more money I’d like to print stuff to just leave it on the street for people to be able to take it… or they could just rip it out of the wall..
Do you find that there are a lot of limitations, between what you can do and what you’d like to do ?
Well money! Of course is always a limitation, but you find ways to get around that, when I’ve got money I do stuff, and when I haven’t I do other stuff, take the cheaper option..
How do you arrange your exhibitions? Is it mainly through people that you know, or… ?
Yeah, I go and look for exhibitions as well, I ask people for me to work with them… or work on collaborations with other people, erm I used to do exhibitions quite a lot with a group of people called the TAA, Temporary Autonomous Artists, it’s a group of artists who take a squat, squat it for a couple of days, and do an exhibition in it. I have quite a few connections in London, and in Europe, where I do different shows.
Is the exhibition of your work, would you say it’s the main target, to have it shown ?
I love to show my work, I like to share it with other people. An exhibition is great because you can show stuff to people for free, you know. It’s getting harder and harder to be able to see nice things for free … but I like the printing medium. I love to see things in print, so my main aim is to make books, I love books, I love the feel of them, and they stay around for a long time, people can carry them about. I like the idea for people to have a bit of artwork in their pocket, for it not to be too expensive for them… if I do an exhibition I like to have post cards with my pictures on, people can take a bit of it away with them..
And you’re working on a book at the moment, how’s that going ?
It’s finished! We just need money… but it’s going to happen soon, maybe we’ll get some help with the money, someone’s going to lend us the money, and then it’s going to come out, we’ll have an exhibition, do a night, do a book launch, have a big party …. Probably in a squat..
So where did your interest in photography begin ?
I was twelve, my mum brought me an instamatic camera and I got the liking of it straight away, loved it. I took a lot a lot a lot of pictures on the instamatic camera, snapshots, but I tried to.. I just really liked it, and at the age of fifteen I got a proper reflex - a semi professional camera - and I liked the photographer who sold it to me. I started to get more technical with it, and started to know it a bit more. I was at design school at the time, so there I was pushed to explore further with it.. the design school was more drawing based, but since I was interested in photography, I just worked more on it. This photographer was really good to me, he helped me a lot, he put me in the direction, of how to use the camera, what the extent of it is. I used to carry the manual a lot and got to know all the techniques of the camera, and in the first few weeks of having the camera I took a long exposure shot of a break dancer and that photographer thought that photo was really nice, so he submitted it to a newspaper, and it went out in the newspaper, and that was, after that it was a big snowball and I never really stopped …
How old were you then ?
I think I was maybe fourteen, or fifteen..
So that was your first published picture ?
Yeah, yeah, and after that, I mean, this photographer was a bit strict and, I wouldn’t say bogged down, but he had some sort of rules as to how photography should be. That was really good for starting because, you know, you need guidelines, when you don’t know something. But after that I met with this other photographer who I started learning darkroom with, who’s still a photographer now, and he was the one who taught me that photography was really free. I started doing more what I wanted, rather than what was ‘proper’ photography, or nice… And I took quite a lot of pictures in this town, started to do my first exhibition. I was promoting a punk night in a bar, I was taking a lot of shots for the band, and organizing the night, which was once a week, every Friday. By doing that I met with the band, the Inner Terrestrials, who sort of give me the idea to come to England. I was trying to find how I could combine a travel to England with the evolving of my photography, and I came out with the idea of the book on my travels around England through friends and squats and, you know, it’s sort of punk family. I got some money from like a young people’s association to help me to do the travel, and quite a lot of advertising in the newspaper, and from there it’s sort of never stopped… until I got my camera robbed two years ago, where I went for one year without a camera, so I was printing old stuff! I was still using a dark room and printing old stuff …
So since the beginning it’s really been a life journey through your work … would you say that being a photographer has almost facilitated other events and decisions in your life?
Yeeeeaah … well by coming to England, it was kind of a, after I did the book I went back to my home town, which is quite a small town, and the way I look was quite a problem to people, you know, they recognized me. I don’t know if I was having trouble with the police at that time, but they were just on my case all the time because I looked different, and often, spending the time, six weeks, a month and a half on your own in England, traveling and taking photographs, and discovering a town like London, you know, coming back to a small country side town, there was a bit of a back lash. I went back to school and ah wasn’t good enough in the general sort of, what you call it, I wasn’t good enough in Maths and French, I had to either do another year, or leave, so I decided to leave, got a shit job, I was about seventeen, got a job, made a bit of money, and came to London. Since that I’ve been here … I had a camera, I was continuing taking photographs, I didn’t do many shows, but I was quite active, taking pictures of bands, going on tour with bands and stuff, did a lot of documentary photography until I went back to college, then I did a bit more studio. Documenting a lot, what’s happening in the squat, in protests, and doing a bit of fashion photography for lots of upcoming designers.
So between those things, photography as, say, documentation, and then studio based photography, and fashion photography, do you have a preference?
Well for a long time I really liked documentary photography. I liked it because it’s sort of real, and, I like being there in what’s happening, and being part of it. But studio photography’s a real challenge, getting in the studio with an idea, and trying to create something to how you want it. That’s where my inspiration comes from, a person like Saudek, a Czech photographer who used a really run down studio, it’s probably part of a derelict house and he uses, he retouches photographs with colour. Saudek really inspired me because he can recreate scenes, sort of prepare scenes, where he’s got an accessory with .. he’s really careful about the light. I really like that, I like to go into the studio with an idea and try to do this idea. It’s quite an inconvenient thing because you can’t … sometimes it doesn’t work, so then maybe you go onto something else and do it, or maybe you’ll have to redo it, or maybe you won’t do it at all. But I like that you got control, of the lights, of what we’re going to do… I like that… I think that that’s something that’s really come to me when I discovered digital, cos before I wasn’t using studio much, I used studio, maybe with, I don’t know, ten people, the other work I would do all the time. Now I do quite a lot more in the studio
So with digital photography, as opposed to classic photography, do you tend to manipulate your images?
Well, I’ve only learned Photoshop recently, in the last three years, and I’m tending to, but I’ve got this sort of restraint from when I started photography, and I was printing my own stuff. I like the ideas of Cartier-Bresson's where he like, he prints what’s on the negative, and that’s what you’ve got, you can’t change it. I’m quite keen to play around with pictures, but I’ve got this thing that worries me that manipulation in Photoshop is going to age really badly, like an old seventies title that we watch now, you know what I mean? And so what I do would be really subtle … I’ve got some projects that I’ve been thinking about where I’ll probably use Photoshop but it’s going to be black and white and look quite old, it probably won’t age as much as something that’s going to be cutting edge, and using the latest font or filter, which might just age really badly. I’m quite worried about this, I think I’d like to, I like my work to be a bit timeless. I think it can be, because I work quite a lot with portraiture, and I like to be really close to people who I take pictures of, I hate telephoto lens, I think the closer you are, the better ..
What, you mean physically ?
Yeah, if you’re not inside the face of someone, then you’re not close enough. I think this is really important, in terms of the quality of the image, in terms of the intimacy you’ve got with the person you’re taking the pictures of, or the thing you take the picture of, the closer you are, the better you get. That’s why I really like portraiture, that’s why I like using this fifty millimeter lens. It’s not a zoom, it’s quite a wide angle and you need to get close to people.
So you mentioned Henri Cartier-Bresson and Jan Saudek, have you got any other photographers, or other people, who you feel have really inspired your work?
Well I’ve got photographers who sort of make me want to do stuff, I don’t know if you can say inspired, because I don’t do the exact same thing that they do, but what they do is really nice and it just pushes me to do more. Cartier Bresson is one who was a really talented photographer, he’s dead now. He’s always captured really intimate moments between people, and it’s always really funny, that’s one thing I really like, I like my photographs to be funny. Sometimes I like them to be sad but I think they, most of my photographs make people laugh , and I like that, I think that’s great .. Actually I did an exhibition on a Cartier Bresson theme, and uh it was the Bag Lady, you know the one with the old lady with the bag on her head, that was exhibited as part of the Cartier Bresson exhibition. It was a group exhibition with a group called Photodebut, it’s like a London based artists group. Apart from Bresson is Saudek. Saudek’s photography is really great, I just like to look at his book over and over, the images are just really challenging to me. I never tried to do the same type of photograph because they’re just so narrowed down they would look really similar, but I like to look at them, and see the technique, see how they’re done.
Coming to this idea of what the purpose of a photograph is, whether for documentation purposes, or embellishing the truth, where do you stand on this idea?
I quite like the way, it's like, people believe that photography is a true representation of something, you can't hide it. I like that, I like the way that, when you take a picture, a second afterwards it becomes historic, and, you know, it's what really happened ...
Is it what really happened ?
Well .. no, it's not what really happened, because I can make it look like the way I wanted it to happen, and people can see it, and interpret it how they want. That's a good thing .. I think the way I do photography, why I do photography is to show nice stuff to people for one, but as well to sort of take them on a journey, you know, and maybe they can ask themselves questions about this photograph. You can point something out, or interrogate them ... yeah, challenging the public is really a thing I like to do. I'd like to do it more, I don't know if I do it well enough, I'd like to do it as good as people like Claude Baillargeon done it. Baillargeon a French photographer/illustrater who really, his work is really political. I'd like my work to be more political, but it's hard ... It's hard and it can .. at the moment when you start doing political stuff you're gonna have another baggage. People gonna judge you in a certain way, and they'd probably be right to do so, because if you portray this sort of style and you want to pass it round, you need to live by it. That's the hard thing to do, it's a hard thing, someone like Banksy will probably be facing all the time. I'd like to do political stuff by using collage, I've been working on collage at the moment, with all my own photographs. I’d like to put a new series of photo collages soon out, I've been working on them, both in Photoshop and scanning, taking photographs and ... remembering punk collage, I think collage has been used over the years in a political way, because it's cheap to make, for people, and it's always been a sort of dethronement of what the reality is - advertising changed to make a political statement. You've got people like john hartfield, a guy who I was really inspired by, a person who was doing graphics during Nazi Germany. He did stuff a lot against Nazi Germany, that's still really striking now. And Baillargeon, the French guy, he done quite a lot of political montage, I really like them, that's why I'm gonna work on some montage now ..
Ok, off the subject now, I wanted to ask you what you like living in England, as opposed to France, and your views of the two countries ..
I think this is all related, it's always been. I like the little things in life, and I think a lot of my pictures sort of portray that. I like little differences, and looking at a culture from the inside. I'm really influenced by a lot of the different cultures in London and what I know of them. How I feel small, and compared to ... I dunno, it's like drinking real ale, or .. by being a foreigner in this country I think you probably see those little things a lot more. You see all the little details and differences, and I use them in my photographs. They make me happy, they make me feel good about where I live, and .. by being living in England for these years, when I come back to France I stand out and see these others little differences in France. They make me really like the way I live, and learn new things all the time by learning this new culture .. It also sets me back from what happens in France, when I go back I think ‘oh, wow, I didn't see that before’, and I think I've been a lot more interested about what comes from France by being in England. Language is something I've never portrayed in photos, its why the new book is really related to that - words and pictures. I like to have texts with the pictures, because I'm really interested by words, and the different way people talk, and you can find out where they come from, what sort of background they're from, and all these new words, slang and so on, it's a really interesting thing ...
Can we look through some of the photos on the sight and get you to chat about a few of them in more depth ?
Well it’s called Small Change, and it was taken here in this living room. I asked Andy to empty the contents out of his pocket, and it was just some badges and a bit of change and some dog ends. I really tried to get in the scar he’s got from when he fell off the roof … It’s just how it was, a lot of my pictures are not made up, they’re just taken on the spot, that’s really what was in his pocket, we didn’t work on this … this was maybe two years ago, something like that.
This one’s something I made up, it was inspired from a magazine. It was worked on in the studio, and I took quite a lot shots of it. The can was especially chosen because it’s a different can from the English can; I made the splashes with some different paint, yeah it was worked on quite a lot. I had the idea and did some drawings on it, that’s how I work if I want to do something in the studio, I take a few shots and change what I don’t like about it. Other than taking a lot of different shots, all different angles, I didn’t put it into Photoshop or anything like that. In the end that’s how I wanted it. This again was taken, what, two years ago or something..
This one was an I.T [Inner Terrestrials] gig in Bar Lorca. When I take pictures in gigs I really like to be part of the crowd, to be in the crowd, and take pictures of the crowd, because, you know, you’ve got, people have really nice pictures of gigs, but you never see if there was anybody there, it could have just been the band! Most importantly in a punk gig, I got to be in the mosh pit, and dance with my camera, taking pictures of people. I think this picture really symbolizes the mosh pit, and the rage of people
That’s a picture I was asked to take for my friend, she wanted a picture for a flyer, and I said look I know a broken down pub in Norwood Junction called The Goat House, why don’t we go there. And there was all these bricks there, and I said to her ‘what about we get you under all this wall, an I’m gonna get these bricks and put a load of them on you, and we’ll have the clown face expression like ‘what happened, the wall just fell on me’’. So I just piled so many bricks on her that she couldn’t move, and I asked her to try to get out of it while I took the shots. I’ve got all different shots of it, but I think this is the best one … this one’s really recent; it’s been done in the last few months.
This one’s some work for Baseline Circus, it’s a squatter, traveller type outfit. This is a girl called Scarah, and it’s one of her acts, I really like it because I tried to capture the back ground shadow of her body, reflecting on the screen behind … I really like the Big Top as well, and the move … it’s a film picture actually, as in it’s not digital
This one is a photo from a practice clown swing from Baseline Circus as well, I really like this move. It was published in the Hackney Gazette …
Really! Do you get a lot of your work published ?
Yeah I do! Well it depends, what I’m doing, what I’m working on. I’ve got something coming up called The Big Dance, and there should be quite a lot published, well if I do some good work!
Ok, so aside from work, what’s important to you as a person, what really makes you tick?
Well I’ve got a weird way to work, I think I get bogged down quite easily by what I’m doing, so if I go out partying for a couple of days and then come back to the work I’ve got so much more ideas. I can’t be tied up to one thing, I need to go and meet people. I think I come up with a lot of ideas when I’m out, and I take a note book with me where I’m writing stuff down in it all the time … I think that’s where I get new ideas and new challenges. I work with a lot of different people, I always find new people to work with, models, or performers, you know, I’ve done photo shoots with people who do woodwork and stuff … I’ll take on any subject if I think it’s a good idea. I like meeting people and telling them what I’m doing, maybe we can get to work together, I think for two people to work together on the image can go quite well, say the photographer and the model. At the moment I’m trying to organize a strip poker photo shoot with three different girls in The World’s End in Camden. It’s gonna start out that they look a little bit boyish, then little bit by little bit they’re going to lose their clothes and I’m, obviously, going to take the pictures. But that’s been really hard to organize logistically because we’ve got three different models, we’ve got all the props to come across, you know this is going to be a completely made up shoot. We need make up artists and people to do hair, quite a lot of people are going to be involved, maybe ten, ten twelve people for one shoot, and this is a shoot where no money is going to be involved. We’re going to do it just to make some nice photographs … So, yeah, I think I just get inspired by looking at other people’s work, getting new books, going to exhibitions, and just talking to people really. I think London’s been generating quite a lot of this, and a challenge as well. I’ve met a lot of really prolific and active people.
So what are your plans for the future, do you feel you can see where you’re headed or do you just take it day by day?
Well, I’d like to get a bit of money and get that book out, and there’s a lot of different projects; maybe I’m gonna be helping on a gardening book, with another friend, where we’re going to go and visit different permaculture places to see what techniques they use. He’d be doing the writing, I’d be taking the photographs. The other thing is a book that’s been in progress for many years now, which is a D.I.Y book, including photography, about squatting and plumbing and gardening and cooking and repairing cars, sort of like cheap tricks to sort our world. And I’ve got quite a lot of work lined up with different people, with the band, we’re going to work on a CD ROM to go with the next album of Inner Terrestrials where there’s going to be quite a lot of information and photographs for people to see, so it’s a more interactive way for people to look through they can go and see different photographs. There’s probably gonna be music, and a sort of tour and maybe an inside to the European scene. We can put contacts and addresses and a guide to what’s going on, maybe festivals; and more information on the politics as well. I’ve also got plans for several photo shoots, with models, the main project at the moment is something that’s going to be really dark with people with mutilated heads, cut out eyes and scars. This is something I’m going to try to work on in the studio and in Photoshop. It’s going to be completely made up and it’s going to be in black and white. I wanted to give it quite an aged look so I’m probably going to use film and the dark room, so, yeah, there’s always more things to do!
Interview by Emma Grant in 2006
Second Interview by Hannah Mayo in 2005
What inspired you to become a photographer?
I was bought a compact film camera for my birthday at age 12 and immediately got involved with it, documenting my surroundings. I took pictures non stop using roll after roll. A few years later I went to Ireland and quickly discovered the limitations of the compact model, after this I worked and saved to get my first film SLR. I then started using a dark room, getting taught by a local wildlife photographer and also the retired photographers club! They were strict about the ‘right’ way of doing everything, often telling me off for experimenting! I saw the end of the tunnel after meeting a photographer who told me he loved his craft as it meant he could do anything. From then on I was doing my own projects and making my own decisions on what I wanted to photograph and how I wanted to develop. That idea of photography being a free style medium still lives in me.
Have you been influenced by any other photographers?
Yes of cause, a lot. The first being Henri Cartier Bresson for his simplicity of masterpiece! The people who surrounded me influenced me early on and a friend who’s a painter. I was obsessed by people like Jan Saudek and Weegee.
What camera/equipment do you use?
For the last 10 years I use film cameras mainly Nikon and a cheap Russian film camera called Lubitel which was a medium format camera overproduced for the Russian army. In the last three years I’ve been using digital as well, both SLR and medium format. I’m an extensive user of both the digital darkroom i.e. Photoshop and the classic method, hunched in the dark smelling of chemicals!
Do you manipulate your images?
I’m getting into it, I was taught the old fashioned way where you shouldn’t touch or alter anything, but now I’m trying to overcome it with my knowledge in Photoshop!
Is there anything you try to convey in your photographs?
I like to make people laugh, intrigue them and maybe unveil a situation. I’m still deeply into taking pictures that convey a political statement. Even if I’m in a studio doing a fashion shoot I’d still like to challenge the viewer,
What do you find best about being a photographer?
I love the magic of it, either in the dark room, or checking your negs on a contact sheet or even uploading your images onto computer. I always get stressed and palpitate! I see myself as living in the past really enjoying capturing the present. Every time I press the shutter present becomes past. I find this fascinating.
Interview by Hannah Mayo in 2005
Photograph by Pariah Image