Only really discovering photography three years ago at the age of 37, French photographer Jocelyn Calac gave up his job to become a full time photographer. Life gave him the opportunity to meet Balint Poreczi in their home city, who introduced him to the medium by lending him some photo books of old and modern photographers and by also reviewing his photographs.
Jocelyn shares with us his images from an upcoming book project that focuses on his beautiful home city of Rodez, where he was born and raised and still living, documenting it everyday and wanting to leave his mark in the modern history of his city.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where were you born, where do you live now. How did you become interested in photography?
I was born in Rodez where I'm still living now, a little town in France. I bought my first camera for making video blogs of my different trips to Japan between 2009 and 2015. Then, in 2017, when working with disabled people I had the idea to make video workshop with them and decided to learn the basics of still photography first, to be in control of my camera. That was like a revelation for me, and I slowly discovered the art and have been interested since 2018. I was in Japan in November 2018 for 4 weeks. And would love to go back for another.
Tell us about your series and first book "Tokyoites". How did the idea come about? What did you love about Tokyo? What was your motivation to make it a book?
The 'Tokyoïtes' project was born from my love for Japanese culture and more particularly Tokyo citizens, having always challenged me during my previous trips there. I took a ticket to stay five weeks in the capital from late November 2019 to early January 2020. My only motivation was to photograph the Tokyoites in their public space. Becoming in fact the main subjects of the project I understood that I was photographing their loneliness. The idea was simple, wandering the streets being present at the time, in non-judgmental observation, of what is around me. I did the editing every morning in a coffee near my hotel before choosing a spot on the map for the day. This immersion in the largest urban area in the world allowed me to take my 50mm lens to areas unknown to tourists. Luck often smiles at me, having the feeling of always being in the right time in the right place, because simply in the present moment, accompanied me all along. On returning to France, I locked myself up for 48 hours, still in Japanese time, to make a first selection. My Tokyo life routine always in mind, it was the time to give birth, to reconstruct the history that was written during the many photographs taken on the spot. The following days, my attention was focused on the construction of a photographic story served by a logical and dynamic layout to make a book of it, which is for me the final step of my work.
Do you have any particular stories or any interesting experiences or memorable moments of connection with people you met?
Thanks to Instagram, I met in Tokyo, a French guy who is living in Japan, first we connected by the photography and we ended up getting along well together, we saw each other three times and he took me to places where I never been. As an example, I had the chance to enter into the Comiket (a huge event about manga and cosplay culture, around 750 000 visitors in 4 days) with a press reporter badge. What a great experience it was!
In regard to your specific process, if you are embarking on a new expedition or just starting a new project...how do you get started?
I think it’s by making that discovery of what I am doing, as Pierre Soulages said before me. I feel the same, I don’t think so much and start making as soon as I can when I had the first idea of it. Then after, when looking at my work, I sometimes understand that I opened a path that I just have to follow.
Do you have a favourite quote/lyric/saying that especially resonates with you?
"Living in the present moment" - is my favorite quote because it involves a lot of things that resonate with me and my photography process can be resume in this quote.
Where do you find your inspiration? And do you have a favourite place to shoot? Describe your top 3 memorable photographs/place.
My inspiration is coming from a natural curiosity mind questioning the world around me. The better place to do it for me is the street. It can be a few meters away from my apartment like my home town of Rodez (Photo 1), in the streets of Tokyo ( Photo 2) or in Nepal (Photo 3).
Describe your style? What are some elements you always try to include in your photographs?
My style is candid most of the time and I love to have an human factor in my frame, many people who are walking alone. Maybe, as we see the world as a mirror, I prefer photographing the people that are living by themselves, like me.
Do you have any favourite artists/photographers? Who do you think has mostly influenced your style?
My favorite photographer is Elliott Erwitt, specially his sense of humour and his way of framing. The one who influenced me the most is Balint Porneczi, a great Hungarian photographer with who I had the chance to spend some time in my beginning as a pro.
Are there any books that you have read that have inspired your creativity and that you would like to recommend to us?
I want to mention 'The Power of the Now' of Eckhart Tolle. This book gave me the keys to be more present to the moment, more aware.
What motivates you to take photographs? Do you ever have any struggles in photography?
I take it as a mission, I do photography to bequeath memories, to the people that I work with and also to the history of my town and other locations that I document.
Describe what you love or hate about the camera you use? Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?
I am now using the Ricoh GR3 (that I won with the SPi awards 2020 as a finalist), this camera became instantly my main tool. It is way more discreet compared to the Sony A7III that I was using before and the 28mm fits very well the needs of what I do and like the most, street photography. I do prefer the Ricoh rendering with more character compared to the 'too clean' one on the Sony.
Have you ever been involved in the artistic world before photography?
Not that much, I did have my own rap group with a DJ. We did some concerts and I also was a dancer for ten years. Photography is my first real experience into the artistic world.
What are some of your goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself or hope to see yourself in five years?
If I have a goal it is to continue to make a living off photography and keep documenting the world. In five years I hope to be a travel photographer.
Are there any special future projects that you would like to let everyone know about?
I have three projects on the go, the first will be 'TOUR DE VILLE', a book with a concept in it. As Rodez is an ancient fortified town, there is now a long boulevard surrounding the city where every pictures in this book have been took. The concept is that each page you turn bring you some meters further in the traffic way, at the end you come back to the starting point, witch is the famous cathedral Notre Dame de Rodez.
“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…
...I like watching movies and documentaries, listening to music (mostly hip hop), play solo video games and gather with friends around board games. I’m a big Moto GP fan also."
Thanks to The Pictoral-List team for this interview.
Thanks so much Jocelyn!
All photos © Jocelyn Calac
Interview by Melanie Meggs