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There’s not a sound in Night Flares. As if out of another world, the landscapes of Eléa Perrin are directed by the lights of the night and the fog. They invite us to rediscover places which, once asleep, give way to a new universe transformed by the photographer’s gaze. 

You have been taking photographs since you were 16 as a self-taught photographer. What made you want to go down this path?

To tell you the truth, I started photographing my cats at home. I was completely gaga over these little guys! I could spend hours taking pictures of them. I had even built a small studio in the garden shed. Later, I started photographing my friends and going out into the street to capture everything that was aesthetically interesting to me. At first I hadn’t imagined photography as a professional path, I was a bit afraid to spoil this passion. It was only after high school and several trips that I decided to take up photography. I started to get many small contracts, so I decided to do a three year training at the MJM Paris school. This allowed me to consolidate what I had learned on my own with professional training. From being a self-taught photographer as a teenager to finally working as a professional after my courses, my view of my work and images greatly evolved … of course!  For example, before school I didn’t work in series, that’s when I learned the importance of finding a theme and working around it. My relationship with my images has also changed: I always want to go further, both in terms of meaning and aesthetics. Night Flares was my very first serial subject, which was built over several years and I continue to work on it today.

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You directed Night Flares at Le Pecq. Do you have a particular affection for this town?

I live in Le Pecq. The advantage for me to photograph in this town is that I know every nook and cranny! Little by little the series spread to Le Vésinet and Rueil-Malmaison. But beyond its convenience, a city such as Paris doesn’t interest me. There are too many people! The atmosphere, the coloured lights in the darkness, the landscapes empty of any human presence. Your photos have something almost surreal… Night Flares was born by pure chance. I was coming back from a club at 5am and there was fog all around my house, on the deck, on the Seine… I thought it was beautiful. Anyway, I went home, took my camera and went right back out to take pictures. For two or three hours, I had fun walking around the city. The most amazing part was that I hadn’t practiced landscape photography before and yet from that moment on, I felt in my own world, as if I was one with my camera and the environment around me. As soon as I got home, I exported my images and started working on them right away. A real revelation! Since that day, I go out when I see fog, snow, or as soon as I detect a dreamlike atmosphere. 

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Some of your photos are on the edge of the cinema set or even the drawing. What were your inspirations?

Fantasy is anchored in my work. I want to reveal and highlight reality through imagination. I’m passionate about legends, tales and especially the work of Claude Ponti. He makes albums for children and is known for his surrealist style. Another is Benjamin Lacombe, an illustrator who works around dreams and whose aesthetics I like very much. And speaking of beautiful drawings, I would like to end with the whole universe of Studio Ghibli and more precisely Miyazaki’s work, which remains for me an inexhaustible source of inspiration. His stories shaped my childhood and continue to feed my work today.

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Do you have a special protocol for making Night Flares footage?

First, I need to be inspired and feel like going outside. Then, I wait until after midnight to avoid crowds. The empty spaces give more impact to the surrealist side of my pictures. Even if you feel a human presence, it has to be in small doses so as not to disturb the reading of the image. Finally, you need special weather conditions, rain, snow or fog. Otherwise,I know in advance that the rendering will be flat. In terms of material, I only need a tripod, a wide angle for long exposure, and above all, a good coat! Today, you’re a freelance photographer and I saw that you’ve done several projects for Air France.

Tell us about this experience…

I was chosen to do my work-study there in my 3rd year of school. I was part of the company’s in-house photo team. My job consisted of taking most of the photos for Air France, including product packshots, reportage, portraits, aviation photography…

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When you work for a big company like Air France, is there still room for creativity?

From my first day I was given a camera without any special instructions. Of course there were times I had to respect certain instructions, as in any job, but I was free in my approach.  What was nice was that I had a boss who had total confidence in me. From a professional point of view, it was the most enriching experience of my school career.

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You exhibited in Paris, in Arles too during the Rencontres. Is the exhibition space your preferred means of dissemination, or are you considering others?

I would like to see Night Flares published! I’m very interested in publishing! I love beautiful books. But for the moment I’m a little bit on guard. Like many photographers I have very little confidence in myself and my work. It took me a long time to accept that my photos are attractive and that it is not only my friends who find my pictures attractive! I am very hard on myself and I still wonder why people would buy my book. But I’m going to get over it one of these days!

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What’s your next news item?

Since last year, I’ve been developing a project called “Is there someone?… Here is space” which brings together photography, painting and sculpture, all in a science-fiction universe. I’ve  already exhibited this project which sparked a lot of  interest. It made me want to continue along this path. I’m in the process of putting together a collective of artists around the same theme, with the aim of exhibiting in Paris later this year. 

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Can you advise me on an Instagram account to follow?

I have been following Benoît Paillé (@benoit_paille) for years. He’s an artist who at the beginning would take screenshots of his computer to show incredible landscapes he came across in video games, like GTA. He’d even wait for good weather while playing to get the best image. Today, he continues to capture landscapes, but with flash and colored gel. His work really inspires me. 

Follow Eléa Perrin’s work on Instagram @elealafleur or on her website.

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Photo credits: ©Elea Perrin / Written by David Agrell