Robin Cassiau is a young street photographer, whose hypnotic and colourful work is reminiscent of the greatest. His images, taken on the spot, are timeless; they are raw while keeping a certain softness, surely due to the artist’s generosity. Robin sublimates everyday life thanks to his sharp eye, always finding the right light, the right angle, the right color combinations. In his latest series, “Shadow Journey”, made during summer 2016, Robin explored Montreal. He photographs figures, often from behind, witness to his wandering.
Hi Robin, can you introduce yourself briefly?
Well my name is Robin, I am from Normandy, France, I studied filmmaking in Belgium for 2 years and then I moved to Paris to work as a camera assistant.
“You have to be on the lookout, because time doesn’t wait!”
How did you develop this taste for photography?
In Belgium, photo novels were to be submitted every quarter. It taught us how to frame, compose and make a story in about ten photographs. We worked with film, in slides that we projected on screen. It was a great exercise and then the result, the quality of the pictures was incredible. There were really beautiful colors, it was a pleasure to do this work. I continued the photo in parallel with my digital from time to time, I was trying to develop my style.
Then in Paris I started taking more and more pictures in the street. Then I took back my film camera and some Kodak and was immediately seduced!
What appeals to you about street photography?
What attracts me is all the possibilities that can be found on the street and everywhere else. You have to be on the lookout, because time doesn’t wait!
I really like people who dress colorful or who have a certain class. They have that something to mix materials and colors together. I also look for attitudes, moods. It can form a whole as well.
“There is no technique except to get closer…”
What’s your technique for approaching your subjects?
There is no technique except to get closer… No in reality you have to be discreet as much as you can, pretend to photograph something else. As we learn to take pictures without looking through the viewfinder, people can become suspicious and you lose a little bit of what you are looking for in their “aura” I will say.
“[…] I don’t like working in series […]”
So know what you want, don’t show too much intention and then act as if nothing happened. It is about capturing reality, the rest and the look of others do not matter.
The frontal aspect of some of your images reminded me of Winogrand’s work. What are your inspirations?
You brought that photographer back to mind. It’s true that I can have this frenzied side when I take pictures. I took the opportunity to browse through the book of these photos. It’s true that I recognize myself a lot. Like Winogrand, I don’t like working in series, but themes often come up.
I first discovered Raymond Depardon with his book “Errance”. Then the pictures in Meyerowitz’s room in Cape Code and then his incredible street work. The colors of the rolls were sublime!
Also, Josef Koudelka, Alex Webb, Willy Ronis, Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, Claude Nori, Bruce Davidson (Subway book).
What is your favorite camera?
A Nikon FM2. I’d like to try shooting Leica one day. And then I have other compact film cameras that I use from time to time.
“I evolved very quickly thanks to film.”
What does film bring to your practice?
I evolved very quickly thanks to film. You learn to better understand your picture, you pay more attention. There is a mental work to do on how your photo will render with such light, such movement, such colors, it’s really interesting. That’s why digital doesn’t make me want to do it. In any case for personal projects I will first choose film.
Did photographing Montreal help you get to know this city that is not yours?
I already knew a little bit of Montreal and I don’t know all the neighborhoods yet, but they all have their own atmosphere and population. I still have a lot to discover about this city.
“I want to seize all the opportunities that humans can offer in their relationship to their environment […]”
What did you want to bring out of this city through your photos?
I wanted to freeze it in time. I want to give another identity to the places I photograph, far from the clichés. I want to seize all the opportunities that humans can offer in their relationship to the environment, their behavior and their activities. There is so much to see and document.
What advice would you give to a young photographer?
Well… To take pictures all the time, all the time. Choosing the right photos is essential and I still have difficulty choosing the right ones because I want to show a lot of things…
You have to have confidence in your work, you don’t succeed all of a sudden. And determination.
Which of your images represents you the most?
I will take three examples of what represents me.
The atmosphere, the walking, the two people who surround the lady in white and the architecture form a whole that makes the image a little hypnotic. I was overlooking a crossroads and this lady came out of a building. She was the only one we could see and I took a first shot. I ran down the stairs and followed her. I take a second picture but I’m still not satisfied, something is missing…
I finally arrive in this street with a huge sidewalk, I take a little bit in advance because I have spotted these two people walking at the same speed and I hope that the lady will arrive at this place at this precise moment. Everything happens very quickly, but in the end, everything is assembled.
Sometimes it is necessary to focus on details in street photography. Wandering around the 8th arrondissement of Paris, I notice this corner where people pass through a completely surrealist light. I realize that they pass through the luminous reflection created by the headlight and the metal of the car. I’m exposing myself to a few other passers-by while waiting for the perfect character. Paris 2015.
A moment we haven’t been waiting for. His posture will then be different. Paris 2015.