Photographing artists in their studio is an almost classical genre of photography that runs through the ages. It is about creating a portrait of the artist in his personal environment as well as giving a glimpse of his art. It is certainly not easy to add something new to this genre of photography.
Ludovic Seydoux has chosen an interesting approach to this genre which can be found in some of the photographs in this series about the painter Julieth Mars Toussaint. He works with the relation of foreground and background to capture both the atmosphere of the painter's studio and show the artist at work. The focus in those images lies on the foreground, turning the view on certain materials and tools of the artist into a kind of still life. Slightly out of focus we see the artist in the background with some of the dynamics of his working style.
The photographs that follow this approach – 5, 6, 8 and 9 – seem to be the most interesting and also the stronger ones in the series. Images 1 and 2 somehow also follow this approach, while here forground could be more prominent.
On the other hand there are three photographs in the series – 3, 7 and 10 – that follow a different, somehow opposite approach: Here the artist is placed more prominent in the frame and it is the background, namely images in the background, that make the thing interesting. In one case – number 3 – there is a correspondence of the artist's head turned to the left in a kind of half-profile and the image of a woman on the wall, which shows her in full profile. A kind of dialoge between the two results from this composition. In number 7 we see the artist smoking in the foreground and there is a painting on the far wall in the background. The tiny cloud of smoke in front of his face and the way he slightly tilts his head somehow correponds patterns in the painting in the background.
The third one – number 10 – is a special case in itself. Firstly it is the only photograph in the series that shows the artist outside of his studio, while sitting in a café. Consequently he is not working and moving through the space, but calmly waiting, presumably for the drinks and meal to arrive. So the mood is different from the rest. Again we see an image in the background, which plays an important role. This time it is a black & white photograph, fully framed behind glass on the wall of the café. The canine creature – maybe a wolfe – baring its long, sharp teeth at the camera strangely contrasts the mood of the scene in the middle ground. This opposition creates an interesting tension in the photograph.
In several of the photographs across the entire series we see the painter in movement. This adds a dynamic element and seems to be telling us something about the artist himself and his way of working. Thinking of the music mentioned in the photographer's text we might wish for more such dynamic in the images. This might also enhance our impression of the mood in the artist's studio and connect with his art.
The abovementioned photographs with a focus on the foreground might need a little improvement, as the objects in the foreground are not always sufficiently in focus. Also do some images seem somewhat gloomy and could need a little readjustment by maybe one f-stop. This, together with adapting the white balance, would also do the colours of the artist's paintings more justice and allow them to play a more prominent role.
While the approach with foreground and background is clearly a good one, its strength and impact might be improved by slightly lowering the camera position and getting closer to the objects in the foreground, thus creating an even more interesting composition. Number 8 seems good in that respect, while namely numbers 6 and 9 could be improved that way. – Number 4 falls in neither of the mentioned approaches and might be left out of the series as being merely descriptive and lacking the depth-of-field of the other photographs.
All in all, an interesting encounter with an interesting personality, with promising approaches to the photographic problems and some potential for improvement.