In an age of opulence, of “always more”, minimalism is more than welcome. Laurent Castellani’s work is like a breath of fresh air, a moment of calm in the constant hubbub of social networks.
We talked to him about his relationship with social networks, his vision of the body, his desire to approach his lens as closely as possible to his models…
Hi Laurent, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m a man first of all, that I’m pretty sure of. Certainly an artist, and especially a thinker, I often wonder about my childhood, where I go, why such and such things are so important to me. I have always found the world a little too harsh and often ethically ugly, I counterbalance with my images, it is my way of embellishing the world, my world.
I have been artistic web director for 15 years for the biggest communication agencies in Paris and I have worked for all the known advertisers, my communication is globally luxury-oriented, I started expressing myself quite late in life with video and photography. I needed the means to perfect my image and I only had some after 10 years of work.
What is your first memory related to photography?
I didn’t really have any, that was done mostly by making my first films. My first film for Bose is certainly my greatest memory, I made it with a friend of mine, Alexanne, we were not expecting anything. A 50€ Airbnb, for her first film, for me too.
My Bose headphones on and we did what we could on January 2nd after New Year’s Day… As a result, the Vice President of Bose Europe saw the film I had sent her and communicated it to her teams in France in Paris (Edelman). We made 220,000 views in the week.
A lot of production contacted me at that time and everything got out of hand. Since then, I have believed in my potential to make quality films or images. Shooting with a reflex camera, the photo finally imposed itself.
“[…] to produce images, it’s vital, it’s my expression and my “therapy””
My best photo memory or “trigger” is my shoot done in August 2018 under the Cheviré bridge in Nantes, France called “Mulholland Drive” which got me contacted by Netflix.
You work with images in different forms, video, and photography. Is your creative process fundamentally different depending on the medium?
Creating a video requires a lot of work and resources, which is why, perhaps because of “frustration”, the photo has also become self-evident.
I made a maximum of 3 videos per year, while I can make 5 shootings per month without too many difficulties. I always need to produce images, it’s vital, it’s my expression and my “therapy” also if I don’t create, I get depressed quickly, my brain needs to function regularly and I need to be stimulated.
From a purely creative point of view, nothing changes on the image but it just requires more video contributors because everything must be alive. This implies better management of light and subject.
I use images to create my videos, and I give them meaning by enriching the post-production, editing and sound experience.
“Feminine beauty is my main driving force.”
There is always a person in your creations, usually a female character. What role does the model play in the construction of a project? Is it an element equal to light, color, or does it have a more central place?
Feminine beauty is my main driving force. I like to deeply magnify women, they are the driving force of the world I think, and more humbly mine.
First of all, there is a woman, her beauty, her character, her universe, once I like a profile, I stage my vision of her which is the closest to my ideal.
It is central, everything follows from it, everything else is just a way to put it forward. Often the natural predominates.
Men also fascinate me but in a more cinematographic and raw (hard) register, I am more attracted to suburbanites and mafia people, I have an “Olivier Marchaled” eye.
I am often contradictory. This relationship between men and women in my work is the symbolic one. I have also chosen to communicate on my female images for aesthetic reasons and as a beauty customer target.
“[the fact that] everything happens in Paris and nothing in the countryside has unfortunately influenced my work.”
But I’m thinking of eventually opening another account on a video work with men exclusively. I start my first short films with a Tarantino or Klapisch spirit. This takes a long time. I currently have 3 in preparation.
You have a lot of pictures of body details, close-ups of faces. What inspires you in the bodies?
For me the body is essential, I like the way it expresses itself, the curves, the light and the purity. The skin texture is decisive. I filmed with 2 very experienced dancers; movement through the body is a universal language. So I found my way in minimalism, leaving only the essential to the eye.
Framing is the very essence of my work lately. I realized one day when I sent the pictures to a model after a shoot that one of the pictures seemed more interesting to me cropped I did the test and this one seemed completely modified, almost another picture, it took a new dimension.
“[…] when I see the success of all these applications that smooth the skin in one click it worries me.”
So I had a “click” and re-opened most of my shoots to play with them while cropping them as much as possible, some of them were revealed. It’s like going from DVD to Blu-ray, you want to see all the movies again.
They take on a new dimension, I had the impression I had taken a decoder, an amplifier, a new eye that allowed me to get the essence of my photos without frills.
It doesn’t always work, but when it works, it’s magical. I’m used to integrating framing into my workflow now. Besides, I specify that I no longer touch up my photos except the chrome with Lightroom presets that I created myself 2 years ago.
I’ve seen too many retouched photos that distort the person, when I see the success of all these applications that smooth the skin in one click it worries me. We smooth everything, everything must be without “defects” and to quote Brian Molko (singer of the band Placebo) in his live Unplugged of 2015, “for me perfection is in imperfections”. Dark circles are there, let’s leave them, they tell something. If you don’t want it, you change to another person but you don’t change that person.
Speaking of inspiration, where do you find yours?
I draw my inspiration from films (Lynch, Refn, Villeneuve, onirism often predominates), series or my peers.
You gather a lot of people on Instagram. What is your vision of social networks? What place do they have in your creation?
Only Instagram interests me, we communicate on the image and only the image. It is made for me because I like to alternate the abstract and the subject, the photo and the video.
In my first films, I noticed that there were too many shots with the subject and not enough sets or details that are just as important and serve to highlight the subject, so I found my films “indigestible” and not “airy” enough. As a result, Instagram allowed me to post an abstract and a subject alternately and that must have pleased me. I have influenced a lot of creative people on this concept from what I have seen.
I insist on the sound, Instagram has allowed video posts certainly, but above all the fact that there is sound, especially in storytelling, it allows an increased visual experience, it’s really seductive.
The concept of “Snack Content” immediately appealed to me, making an emotion pass in 15sec. Sometimes stronger than a 2-hour movie. People don’t have time to spend even a minute in front of a post (there are no cases to look at the statistics of a video post and a photo post), everything goes fast, you have to digest information quickly, have everything right away. Instagram allowed this.
The “likes” are beginning to disappear from Instagram. How do you see this change? Do you think this will have an influence on creative people?
I think it’s the best news of the year. Being mainly on Instagram I am very sensitive to changes made to the app. I think this will make the media healthier and less ego-centric. To put things a little flat and allow the creation and not the “likes” as the common denominator. That is a very good thing.
“Being mainly on Instagram I am very sensitive to changes made to the app.”
Instagram has become a real business, I am thinking in particular of the influencer market, advertisers are beginning to realize the vacuity of ads based on the number of followers and likes. They are beginning to turn back the clock, leaving room for creativity rather than numbers.
It is safe and we can understand the advertisers, that when we can divide by 10 the advertising investment by paying influencers rather than making a TV spot, then we might as well do it, without throwing stones at them.
I don’t think I’m being impacted at all, or rather in a good way. Namely, I admit it, I have sometimes withdrawn a publication because it did not generate enough likes, not because I did not assume it artistically but more by telling myself, what will the person on the post think? Will she tell herself that she is less “pretty” than the others or that the photo is less “successful”?
While sometimes the algorithm is hard to break through, it is important to know that a post on a Sunday at 5 pm and another on Tuesday at 10 am will not have the same impact on likes at all. While the quality is the same. This will always keep quality as an intrinsic value and not the number of likes that obviously do not depend on it.
Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Exhibit in Italy and make a book. For the rest, at the moment, I cannot talk about it, but many other things are on the table.