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Olivier Fardel is a passionate photographer based in France, who takes photos according to his inspirations. Whether it is photographing in his garden, or finding those remarkable characters that add to those empty roads, on his walks, all by chance on the streets of Toulon. He reveals characters who seem to be very lonely but so visible at the same time. They parade in one direction, go in the other direction, come to meet us then move away and leave us.

Olivier in those fleeting moments immortalises his street scenes forever in a few hundredths of a second and shares them with us in this interview.


Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself.

I have a university education and after that I followed a very varied professional career without any connection to photography. I live in Toulon in the south of France but I am from Dunkirk in the north. I am therefore imbued with a maritime city.

What was that moment that sparked your interest to pursue photography?

A personal event made me want to walk around with a camera to occupy my mind and not let my thoughts wander aimlessly. I began by photographing the maritime coast before leaving for the West Indies and Africa, where I realised that I was taking pictures of the urban activity. This particularly interested me.

I did not show my photographs until I realised they had to be live and therefore to be shared.

What does photography mean to you?

First of all, it is giving importance to all things that interest me. It can be a particular emotion caused by a puzzle of elements, a contrast of colors or activity, a game between the different elements that make up the scene.

A few years ago, I had fun taking and sharing a daily photograph at 7:31 pm. Beyond finding what I could photograph at this precise moment, I imposed myself an additional constraint of always accompanying it with a title that had to be found in just a few minutes. I realised that titling or accompanying a photo with a short title or slogan allowed me to play with the image. This title is often a word game or a turn of word that echoes my photographic intention.

How would you describe your photography style?

It is quite difficult to describe it...because I am as well attracted by the color as by the black and white. I try to give the subject of the photo a certain particular closeness to the viewer. If I don't walk around enough in the streets to have material for street photography, I photograph the nature of our garden, for example. I often use the black and white in order to play on contrasts and minimalism.

Talk to us about your series "Lives in the City".

This series reveals characters who seem very lonely to me, too often but ultimately so visible. They parade in one direction, go in the other direction, come to meet us then move away and leave us. These men and women, who are they? I started this series in early 2019 with a quest for these remarkable characters, often in bright colors, with a particular background or foreground that sometimes seems to play with their charismatic silhouettes.

With a little poetry and tenderness, shadows and looks, this new episode of a dozen characters finally has a thirteenth because in this holiday season, particular in more than one way, it is important to not to be left alone.

In total contrast, describe your black and white minimalist series "Hello Alfred".

Have I thought about the stingy of expression to save color, or have I been stingy with my efforts by staying in the garden and watching the surrounding birds? Did I think of the monochrome livery of the penguin of Zig et Puce which gave its first name to the title?

Have I thought about the observation that 27% of city birds have disappeared in 30 years, sometimes summing up their presence to a simple silhouette?

Did I think of Alfred, that tall, slender man with the head of a piaf, who had lived 39-45 in Dunkirk and recounted those terrible years of war each time he came to say hello to my paternal grandmother. I wondered then what had become of the birds under this bombardment sky.

Did I think, finally, of Hitchcock's movie "The Birds", and their disturbing flights, when I started this series? I pursue it on good days and here is a small extract.

Do you have any favourite artists/photographers?

Harry Gruyaert is clearly my favorite artist. Probably because I find in the atmosphere of these Belgian, maritime and travel series, elements of my childhood and my life, but also because most of these published photos are taken during personal trips where his photographic research is permanent.

I also like the photos of Meyerowitz, Depardon, Erwitt and Jean-Christophe Béchet.

Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? (What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?) Do you spend a lot of time editing?

I have a Canon 6D that I mainly use for photos in the personal circle of the sea, the mountains, nature and a Lumix GX8 for urban walks. I often use a 20mm with the Lumix which forces me, for my series "The lives of this city", to move around a lot to frame the characters as I wish.

I don't like to use the phone because it is too old to take good quality photos and allow me to shoot in raw format and thus do a bit of post processing before editing fairly short in time.

The past year and a half has been tough on many artists. How have you been feeling through this time, both personally and as a photographer?

Personally, fine. Having a garden and being able to continue working or teleworking were assets to live through these periods of confinement. We had a travel restriction that made walks impossible and at this moment I fell back on the lives of the garden. The situation opened up new photographic horizons for me.

What are some of your goals as an artist/photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

I have no other goals than to continue to have fun and to arouse emotion, a smile or astonishment in the eyes of those who will want to look at my photos on my website. One day, it's true, I would like to exhibit to see those reactions and give more importance to messages that I sometimes try to convey.

Are there any projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?

I continue the series "The lives of this city" in which I try to reconcile charismatic silhouettes with particular urban backgrounds, therefore a very colorful series.

In parallel, I will continue, without leaving my home, the series "Le bonjour d’Alfred ". The series is graphically in total opposition as it is minimalist in color and detail, it deals with these city birds which tend to be less and less numerous.

“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…

I love to ensure that my wife and daughter can thrive and marvel at the beautiful things in life and what I see through the lens.

Thank you Olivier!

All photos © Olivier Fardel

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