François Guillaume is not a street-style photographer who seeks the most fancy, Instagram-worthy handbag in a person’s outfit. On his independent blog, This is Not a Tie, François presents his photographs of people through the lense of his Leica.
By looking at your photos, there is this very Parisian mood about them. In a way, your photos translate the amazing aura of Paris, but not in a literal way. Could you describe your feelings towards this city?
I didn’t grow in Paris, but in a really small town. I dreamed a lot about cities and Paris when I was a child. After my studies, I began to work there, it was 11 years ago… Even after struggling for years and walking its streets tirelessly, I still feel like a stranger in Paris. When I work on a manuscript (I’m a book publisher now) in some café, I enjoy the view, the constant agitation, the passerby, the noise, the grace, the lights and the dirt…
How is your street-style photography style different from all the others?
Well… The outfits are completely secondary for me. And “This is not a tie” is a personal project… I try to shoot something real, beautiful, funny, or powerful, well composed, or even blurry if it makes me feel something. In the end, it’s a lot like an exercise for me, and it’s liberating because I get to work oustide. To be honest, I don’t believe in “street-style photography” as a genre in itself, It feel it’s not that interesting. It’s more of a way to get a pass at shooting total strangers, when they ask “why do you take my picture ?”, You have the “street style” alibi, and it makes it OK every time. I remember the words of Robert Capa when he was talking to Cartier-Bresson : “Never say you do Surrealist Photography, they’ll never hire you ! Do what do you want but label it as photojournalism”. At this time, it was the best thing to say to be able to work, whatever your style really was.
Other than that, obviously, contrary to other photographers, I shoot only with analog cameras, most of the time with black and white Kodak TriX. I also allow myself to post a lot of out of focus and underexposed shots!
What do you search for in an outfit, person or a situation when you take a photo?
Sometimes I see a good background, with a beautiful light, an interesting pattern on the wall, a striking contrast, and I just wait for a character to pass by. It can take some time, but I’m kind of a patient guy. Every photographer want some life, a lot of action, dramatic gestures, but most of the time you’re stuck with a discreet movement, a fading shifty look, people simply walking or looking at their phones. But even in these moments, you can sometimes find something worthy of a shot.
When you take a photo of a person, what makes you want to photograph him or her? Is it an impulse or something further?
It’s sad you cannot stop a stranger in the street, a man or women, a kid or and old grand-pa, and tell him you find him or her beautiful. Taking a pictures of them is my direct way of telling them I find them radiant or graceful or stunning.
Could you tell me about your personal style, “finds” that you were, want or collect?
This week I have bought a red Filson trucker hat, a vintage Batman T-shirt with a drawing of Gene Colan, looked up a black or grey Arc’teryx Veilance jacket, and stole a book from my wife (The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov, I bought a copy 14 years ago but I loaned it to a friend who ended up killing himself. As you might imagine, I never asked for the book back, even if the irony might have made him laugh in his tomb)… And I also want to buy new running shoes for my weekly 45 kilometers, but I’m too broke for that right now… Wanting to buy sneakers and having an empty wallet, It’s like being 15 years-old again! In a way, it’s absurd and that’s a good feeling.
More of François’ photography on thisisnotatie.com