Interview with fine art photographer Elsa Leydier

Elsa Leydier was born in 1988 in France. After studying languages, she entered the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie in Arles in 2012. After graduating in 2015, she came to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she currently lives and works. Her work has been shown in numerous shows like in Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie (Arles, France), in Le Réverbère Gallery (Lyon, France), Chez Agnès b. and Les Filles du Calvaire Gallery (Paris, France), among others.

Braços Verdes e Olhos Cheios de Asas © Elsa Leydier

How did you get interested in photography? Do you have an educational artistic background?
I have always been interested in arts in general, but I didn’t really think I would work with them. For that reason I first studied languages. Later, I realized I couldn’t help making pictures and expressing my perception of the world through photography, and this is when I entered the École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie in Arles, France (the French National School of Photography). I graduated in 2015.

Where do you get your creative inspiration from? Is there any other artist or photographer who inspired your art?
Many photographers inspire me, I really appreciate the work of photographers who have a political approach of photography, like Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, or Taryn Simon for example. But I also like photographers that inspire me in a more plastic way: I am really fond of Viviane Sassen’s work, and also of many collage artists, or photographers who experiment plastically with photography. Litterature is also a huge inspiration for me. The project I am working on at the moment began after reading Edouard Glissant, which ideas inspire me a lot.

How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph or series of photographs? Do you have any preferences regarding cameras and format?
For me, a photographic work takes a lot of time to exist. Even when the images of a series do exist, when they are visible on my website or Instagram for example, I don’t consider the work as finished. I consider that the work’s final destination is the space, would it be of a book, a room or the street. An artistic work really makes sense for me when it inserted in space, in real life context. It can be in a classical way, like in a gallery, but also in public spaces, like in the streets (as I did for example for my project Esgotados, which images were printed into posters and then spread in the walls of the city I was living in at the time, as a form of protest, and to spread the story I wanted to tell through the images to a high number of people).

About technic and cameras, I don’t really have a preference. I really like to mix (even in a same work) different picture qualities (from cell-phone pictures to medium format). I also use indifferently digital and analog cameras.

Braços Verdes e Olhos Cheios de Asas © Elsa Leydier

Can you talk a bit about your approach to the work? What did you want your images to capture?
My approach of photography is a lot about being sceptic about photography itself, and not trusting the photographic medium as a way to retranscribe reality of territories or places. That said: photography and images in general are very powerful when it comes to create a visual imaginary about a place, but it often creates stereotyped and limited visions on places. I don’t believe in photographs as relevant to translate the “reality” of a territory or identity. So, my work is about exploring those images that describes places (often iconic places) and to de-construct them, to reveal their paradoxes, their weaknesses.

Secondly, my artistic work also allows me to reveal lesser stories and images, that often remain in the shadow of dominant ones. This is the, kind of, political use I try to do with photography.

Where is your photography going? What are you currently working on and do you have any photographic plans for future?
I am currently working on a contemporary reinterpretation of a very ancient Indian myth of Brazil, and I am also gonna be flying in a few weeks to Colombia to do a project in the Pacific Coast of the country.

What are your three favorite photography books?
Casa de Lava – Pedro Costa
Holy Bible – Broomberg & Chanarin
A Living Man declared Dead and Other Chapters – Taryn Simon

What do you do besides photography?
Besides being a photographer, I write (but mostly about photography!), work as a translator… and try to enjoy life as much as I can!


Braços Verdes e Olhos Cheios de Asas © Elsa Leydier
Braços Verdes e Olhos Cheios de Asas © Elsa Leydier
Braços Verdes e Olhos Cheios de Asas © Elsa Leydier
Braços Verdes e Olhos Cheios de Asas © Elsa Leydier
Braços Verdes e Olhos Cheios de Asas © Elsa Leydier
Braços Verdes e Olhos Cheios de Asas © Elsa Leydier
La Couleur de la baie de Rio © Elsa Leydier
Esgotados © Elsa Leydier
Esgotados © Elsa Leydier