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Denis Olivier
Denis Olivier
Member of juryExplorer status
Geographic location Citizen of the World, Bordeaux, France
25M image views


When and how do you start to create?

My family used to take and print photographs before I was born, and there was a dedicated darkroom in the house which was always ready for anyone to use. However I didn't start with photography. I started drawing and painting a lot. Maybe because I wanted to express myself in a different way. The first time I really discovered photography was during the first month at fine arts school. It was on the program and was a required skill to qualify. I became so enthusiastic with it that I ended up doing my first exhibition at the Gallerie Rivaud in Poitiers.


How do you learn and work your skill?

Although I can't be sure of this, I think that having been in the company of photographers from an early age some of their knowledge washed off on me. Also because of this I wasn't in awe of the medium, so learning wasn't really that difficult. I studied chemistry and physics before going to arts school, so that made understanding optical theory and the principles of darkroom processing easier. I started on artistic interpretation and history with Alain Fleig, and pursued this, over the next few years, alone or with my father and a friend of mine. I read a lot about it and then had the great chance of spending a week with Philippe Salaün who was printer for Robert Doisneau at the time. His technical skills influenced me a lot at the time, especially with regards to film and the development process.


What do you like in this art, your motivation?

When I started studying art I thought I would be a 3D hyperealistic scene creator. With 3D you start from an totally empty universe, dark, without any light or point of view. You can do what you want but if you don't place a referring point to set reality in the scene, the spectator will be totally lost or will think that you were on drugs or delirious. I was creating empty places, with water, ice, snow, fog and mist, reflections, refraction, subtle lights and soft shadows. I'm was always fascinated by places empty of people with weird atmospheres. It makes me believe I'm privileged and have my very own universe. Perhaps I think while I'm doing it that I'm the only human conversing closely with the world, using my camera as a translator between us. Exploring is fascinating. I think in photography I found the medium I need, a combination between time to achieve result, travelling, technical skills and visual representation. Anyway, I don't shoot black and white because I'm colour blind, which is what a lot of people think. With a static representation of the world, you loose 3-dimensions, perfume, time, sensation that can be felt on the skin, sounds feelings. With B&W you loose one more essential information : colour. So you are closer to suggestion than assertion, and there is abundant place for sensation and imagination, in a elegant nuance of grey shades.


How do you prepare a creation or project work?

The project I prefer it the one that grows slowly in my mind, I can see the final pictures in my head and find places and technics to get them out. For long exposures you need to know a little where and when you will do it as it needs a lot of equipment, especially a big tripod to compensate vibrations and wind. It also depend of luminosity, the weather, how is the moon, the ocean, the sky and the overall scene. I'm a visual human being, creation always comes from what I see. It could be a logical next step on an existing project, an idea might come when I see a place or experience a specific artistic situation, it might be a derivation of another photographer's work, just attempting to find out how it was done or to give my own interpretation of the subject when I find it interesting. Once I have reproduced it by myself, I can go further and explore new ideas and I have new tools at my disposal.


What are your prefered moment(s) when you create?

Each part is interesting and is a specific creation process. From the idea to making it all possible to have the raw material to exploit the way I feel my interpretation. Travelling is always a pleasure, you are out alone or with a friend, having a good dinner in a place you select because you love it. Shooting moment is also important, especially when you have fed your mind with the result. Although there is almost always a post processing to do, the instant when you know you have it is amazing, having the inner and the outer fitting together is a great source of enjoyment.


What equipment and/or technic do you use?

Yes I would be able to, but I think this is not essential. You have it listed on my site because I have many requests about it, but there are many cameras, lenses, pods, films, chemical and what so ever that are used to create so you should be able to find your own creative tools.


How and why your work as changed since you started?

When I was young I just shoot what I saw, rarely with any specific underlying idea, just because I loved the light and the graphic. Now I try more to put my sensations, my life feelings, something that connects me to the universe, natural elements and how human needs to fight against them. I observe and think more, I like nostalgia, solitude, see the time passing, the imperceptible movement we can't see because we are always on the run. I like also places with histories, many time for example I look at the ruins and thinking of these forgotten guys who has working hard on this piece of rock, or sculpture. He lets his signature creation, but we don't know anything about him, his life, his doubt.


What does the Internet media give you?

Through the internet, a much larger public can be reached, very quickly and with similar interests; it would have been much more difficult in the past. The new means of communication are a definitive plus for all isolated people involved in original projects.


What are your plans in the future?

I don't have any particular pressure on me to create, I'll see how things turn out. I always enjoy the process of an idea moving from my mind to the final print. This can entail many months of reflection, travelling, by day or night to wild places. As long as I'm getting satisfaction and feel that I am getting something out of it I will pursue with the motivation.

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