Canon Explorer Quentin Caffier
Canon Explorer, Quentin Caffier is based in Paris, where he works with a group of professional artists under the name ‘Five Monkeys Studio’. Influenced by photographers and film makers such as Desiree Doiron, Guy Bourdin, David Cronenberg and Wes Anderson, Quentin works in advertising and fashion and has had several exhibitions in Paris (Artcurial, Galerie 13 Sévigné, Glaz’art, Salon des Miroirs). We asked Quentin about using colour in his work and using a studio to create his unique aesthetic.
Tell us about your influences and inspirations
“When I began shooting photos, I wasn’t trying to capture moments as such, but rather looking to create universes. I was influenced by a lot of sci-fi and 3D films and video games – and I still am. That’s why I use a lot of colour – it allows a lot of creativity and makes things visually interesting – especially with fashion photography. I also spent a year in Japan which was also very inspirational because of its mix of traditional culture, modernity and mythology. I also draw inspiration from dreams. I once had a nightmare that my whole body was falling into pieces of dust – so I did a series called ‘Explosion’ to capture that other-worldy moment.”
What are the benefits of working in a studio?
“Until now, most of my work has been shot in a studio as it gives me the control I need to create my work. But I’m also shooting outdoors a lot more now. When I spent a year in Tokyo, it was often difficult to find studio space – sometimes there was only a tiny room available which meant shooting things from many angles. So I had to find good spaces to work outside.”
How do you capture the most striking images?
“The most important thing is having a great team and keeping everything in order. A stylist and make-up artists are really important for my work. You could be the best photographer in the world - but without a good team you cannot ever create the best and most striking images. Communication is really important which is why there are a few key people that I rely on time and time again.
"When you start shooting the images you get the sense that something is happening, you feel you are doing stuff that you never imagined you’d be able to shoot. It’s a really great feeling. You begin to create images that just come naturally and get the feeling that you are doing something that is bigger and better than yourself.”
How do you use colour to enhance your images?
“Cultural choice plays a role in choice of colour. In Japan white is the colour of death so you have to be aware of that. You always have to bear these kind of things in mind.
"Creating images allows you to create a universal language, but you must understand what the reading of the images is. Some cultures read right to left so must remember that they will then likely read the image right to left also. Images are understood differently across the world.
"On the whole, I like to choose colours that have a clear visual contrast. I prefer to have cold shadows (blue or purple, sometimes green) because it gives more contrast. I use warm colours to highlight areas of an image. If I want to do something very modern I would try to use cold colours, or if it’s an old fashioned look, I’d go with a warmer colour spectrum. This is basic colour symbolism.”
Which textures can help add to an image?
"When I’m photographing skin I want it to look slightly shiny; it should offer volume and create a nice reflection. I also really enjoy mixing one or two matte elements to create contrast. It’s a point of interest that drives the eye to one specific element.
"I shot a commercial for Canon featuring a girl with freckles. Her skin was very shiny and her lipstick very matte. Her whole image was very soft - soft blue eyes, light hair, soft features - except for the striking red matte lipstick.
"Trying to create the background to a shot is also very important. I sometimes include paint, concrete or cement. When out of the studio I look for very specific places to shoot. I recently shot some fashion images by taking a walk all around an old industrial district in Paris. There were lots of old factories. I looked for what kind of background textures I could use based on the environment and took lots of images on different backgrounds and textures."
What has been your best moment as a photographer?
"There are a few that spring to mind.
"I first started shooting photos more than 12 years ago. I was looking through a magazine and remember seeing a picture and thinking ‘Wow, could I ever shoot that?’ It seemed so difficult to achieve. I saw an image of someone and then years later was asked to shoot that very same model!
"I also recently did a series about men playing women’s roles – they were dressed in more typically ‘female’ clothes and make up. I found androgynous models and shot them in kimonos. At the exhibition people were commenting that the women in the images were very attractive and then I told them that in fact it was a man, not a woman. I liked this response as it makes people ask themselves questions. I don’t want to tell people what to think but I would like to encourage them to think about things in a different way and realise that things aren’t as obvious as they seem."
Why is it important to stay on top of technology?
"Photography is a very technical art: you need to try to make yourself the top of all the technology available and really understand it as it moves so fast. It’s important to keep up as a photographer. With new cameras you can create new images, so I always need to be aware of what is coming out and what is going on."
What’s in your kit bag?
I've used a wide array of Canon cameras during my career. Years ago, I used an EOS 50D but found I was only able to shoot with soft light. Then I discovered the EOS 5D Mark II and found the higher dynamic range allowed me to shoot with harder lightning. Nowadays I mostly use an EOS-1D X because of its wide ISO range. It's superb for shooting colours, great for shooting in and out of a studio and in many other situations.
EOS 5D Mark II
EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
© Quentin Caffier - Canon Explorer. Taken using a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens; the exposure was 1/100s at f/5.6, ISO 100.
"In November 2013, during a TV Show, the French dancer, Fauve Hautot injured her knee. In the hospital, the doctors told her she must stay still for up to eight months, and that dancing was forbidden! She was made to wear a splint to stop her from moving around.
So in March 2014, as Fauve had just finished the first steps of her rehabilitation, I proposed to create a photographic series that illustrated her rebirth: "Stronger!"
Even bandaged, and crutched, Fauve just can't stop dancing! So, inspired by Helmut Newton and Romain Slocombe's style of photography, I created both a medical and a glamourous aesthetic, in which elements in the image reminded the viewer of the accident."
© Quentin Caffier - Canon Explorer. Taken using a Canon 5D Mark II with an EF 70-200 f2.8L IS USM lens; the exposure was 1/125s at f/14, ISO 160.