Interview Arnaud Montagard
How did you first become interested in photography?
I first got into photography during my youth, in 2006. I was doing graffiti at the time and thought it was cool to capture all those abandoned places where I used to spend a lot of time. At that time, I started becoming more and more attracted to street photography and ended up focusing 100% of my time on it.
Can you describe your creative process and how you approach a new project or series of photographs? Which key elements must be present for you when you are creating?
I can spend days walking and weeks on the road to find the right place and the right light. Once found, I compose my scene. An instinctive patience is required for all the factors to come together. Light is at the core of my work. I utilize geometry and the blocks of colors it forms, as well as the dynamics it creates around a subject. By playing with shadows and light, I capture details of everyday American life, providing a different perspective and angle to ordinary objects or scenes, always with the imprint of humanity. I also enjoy exploring the concept of time, creating a sort of timelessness that raises questions and invites contemplation.
There is also a lot of research involved. Most of the time, weeks or months are spent studying books and browsing the internet to learn more about my subjects. Pre-research on locations plays a significant part in my work. Places such as diners or specific geographical areas catch my attention, including socio-demographic factors.
Your work often references the work of American realist painters such as Edward Hopper. How do these artists inspire and influence your own photography?
It is true I am really inspired by realistic painters. I especially like how they play with the light and I try to use a similar technic in my photography to reveal everyday details.
Your photographs often focus on the details of everyday life that might otherwise go unnoticed. How do you go about identifying these details, and what do you hope to convey through them?
It is a lot of observation and I tend to observe what is happening around me in a much more meticulous way when I have my camera. I like the fact that we can’t see any humans on most of my shots but their presence can be sensed through their disappearance. Everyone can then, imagine their own story.
Do you have a routine when you arrive in a new place? If yes, what do you do?
As you can see, I spent a lot of time in diners across the country, once I entered one I walked everywhere to look for details that intrigue me. Most of the time, when strangers hear my accent, they know I am not from here and start the conversation, this lead usually to several photo opportunities, like going to their place afterward to take a portrait or just a recommendation of a place that can make a photo.
Which lens(es) do you prefer?
I use a medium format camera and most of the time a 80 mm on it. Recently, I like to be closer and closer to my subjects and this could lead to a new photographic approach.
You recently released a book of your photography, entitled "The Road Not Taken" Can you tell us a little about the themes and subjects explored in this book, and what inspired you to create it?
The Road Not Taken is a journey into the heart of rural America. It represents the American icons of our collective imagination shaped by music, photography, and American films. However, it is not about photographing the clichés of America for me, but rather revealing what appears trivial at first glance, which ultimately becomes the trigger for multiple images. Leaving the fast-paced city life behind and setting off on a journey into the American psyche.
What was the biggest challenge in making your book?
I released that book during Covid in 2020, so it was really challenging, wasn’t able to visit the printer and had to deal with longer than expected production time.
You currently reside in Brooklyn, NY. How does living in this city influence your photography and your creative process?
I have been living in NYC for a little bit more than 8 years. It was my biggest source of inspiration when I moved there. Right now, I feel less inspired by the city and feel the need to go to other cities/states to be creative again.
What is important to you in what you do?
Most important thing to me is to tell a story, for the past 3 years I have been working on a documentary series about Cowboy Poetry and feel privileged to be able to visit all those cowboys across the country, to spend time with them, and document their life.
How did you make the image below?
This was shot on a ferry in Japan, I did a short series about Japanese series as I felt very inspired by the nostalgia and esthetic of this way of transportation in Japan. The music they use in the waiting rooms, the colors of the ferries.