I've spent the last half year in absolute awe of his portraits (he's a test photographer in Paris and mainly contributes to IMG). I have his biography in the folder where I enthusiastically stick his images each time I come across one, but I have no clue as to its original source.
Jean-François Campos was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1966.
He embarked on his career as a photographer in 1988 during a visit to Berlin. He continued this photo report in 1989, before, during and after the fall of the Berlin wall and his work was shown in the "Berlin à coeur ouvert" exhibition at the FNAC in 1990.
The same year, he won two prizes, from the Fondation Angnénieux and the Biennale des jeunes créateurs de l'Europe de la méditerranée (Biennial exhibition of young creators from Mediterranean Europe). His work was shown in the "Vieille Charité" in the centre of Marseille and the "Espace photographique" in Paris.
From 1990 to 1993, he was a member of Agence Editing.
In 1991, he was commissioned by the Marseille public transport department to do a photo report on life beside the sea, which was shown in 1992.
The same year, he embarked on a long-term contract with the newspaper Libération, which continued until 1996.
In this capacity, he photographed Jacques Chirac during the seven months of the presidential campaign, and more recently, the critical situation of Rwandan refugees in Northern Zaire.
He joined Agence VU in July 1995 when he was covering the Avignon Festival, and a few weeks later his photographs of Jacques Chirac's campaign were exhibited at the International Festival of Photo-journalism in Perpignan.
In 1996, he was awarded the World Press Photo Foundation Masterclass prize for his work with Libération, and also the Centre National de la Photographie (French Photography Centre) Moins Trente (Under Thirty) prize.
"The possibilities can be infinite. Cutting reality up, organising. Acting like a journalist and making poetry too. Being serious, taking yourself seriously, making fun of things, mocking. Reporting the news is definitely a perilous exercise.
The news, I saw it without really being completely there. From the politics of the candidate Chirac to what was happening alongside that; strikes, the workers, I know it was all there, but I don't remember it that well anymore...
Finally, I was in an intimate space, the memory of which I share in these photographs, a space that was more personal than real: I was there, but also elsewhere"
Nice photos. I like the slightly surreal quality of the model's skin in these photos, and the overall color is great---very crisp. Also there seems to be a nice combination of hard and soft elements. Thanks for the photos
Though i still recognize his touch and his unsual sensibility... I googled him today and i found this interview on photographie.com
Here is the link ( With a lot of pictures ) http://www.mju.com/?pubid=103763&secid=2&rubid=8
I did a copy of the interview, unfortunatly without the images.
Forging Coherency :
/ The Path from Photojournalism to FashionPhotography /
An Interview with
(Nov 9, 2006)
PART 1/ From Photojournalism to Fashion Photography An Interview with Jean-François Campos
A series of fashion images in Poster magazine by Jean-François Campos aroused our interest. Action-packed modern chic combines with a classical otherworldly airiness to form images that are full of fragility, melancholy, suspense, and beautiful strangeness. A quick Google search revealed that he is represented by the Michele Filomeno agency, an agency that has offices in Paris, Milan, and New York. Michele Filomeno was founded by the eponymous Italian agent 25 years ago, who also happens to have Peter Lindbergh and Javier Vallhonrat on his list of photographers. Although Campos has been doing fashion work for barely more than two years, he is no novice in the art of image making. He was in fact a quite successful prize-winning photojournalist for nearly 15 years, and this clearly comes across in his fashion shoots in the style of “candid” street photography. What prompted a well-known photojournalist, who is supposed to be concerned with the tragic conditions of mankind (he was a war photographer, among other things), to enter the glamorous and ephemeral world of fashion? And how did it all happen? We called Filomeno’s Paris office to set up an interview with Campos, expecting the meeting to provoke more questions than answers.
After several phone calls back and forth, Campos’ booker and manager Alessandro responded positively, granting us an appointment at the Agency’s Paris office in an early afternoon. The address is none other than the legendary Rue de la Paix in the 2nd arrondissement. This interview took place in French –
Disillusion with photojournalism: I wanted to tell stories that were more intimate, personal
Photographie.com: Your biography shows great diversity in photography. Would you say today that you have left photojournalism behind for good?
J-F: “It’s photojournalism that has left me.” He pauses before qualifying this: “Photojournalism is a passion, not a career. We live vicariously, through others. I did photojournalism with enormous passion, and I learned an enormous amount of things: about myself, about photography. I was quite young when I started out, and photojournalism allowed me to discover the world through photographing others. But slowly, I began to be more preoccupied by myself than by the lives of others. I had the myth of the concerned photographer in my head, the mythical engagement exemplified by Gilles Caron or James Natchtwey. And at one point, my personal photographic vision did not correspond to that myth. Slowly, I became aware that I was unhappy in photojournalism, becoming more and more detached from what I was doing. I became more concerned by the intimate and the personal than by the lives of the others. It’s a profession where we cannot lie, neither to ourselves nor to others. I had to go out to the field and cover important events in a thorough manner, and I had more and more difficulty leaving home, or picking up the phone for assignments.”
This all came to you slowly?
J-F: “In the last few years. I’ve been in the profession since 1988, ‘89, so it’s been about 15 years or so? - Sorry, I’m very bad with numbers. In the last few years, I had come to the realization that I did not correspond to the idealized vision that I had of a concerned photojournalist (I’m an idealist). When I see Stanley Greene, who was my colleague at Agence VU’, I was very impressed by his energy, his passion, his desire to witness the lives of others, and I just couldn’t be that witness anymore. I also remember working alongside James Nachtwey in Northern Ireland in the middle of a war. There was a lot of shelling at one point and I ducked. When the shelling was over, I looked behind, and Nachtwey hadn’t moved an inch. That was when I started questioning the authenticity of my intentions. I think that when we do photojournalism of this kind of intensity, there has to have been a personal ‘wound’ in the past that propels one to implicate oneself, to witness first-hand, and I was not like that. I was too furtive, too subjective, and not a very good journalist. It took me time, but I slowly stopped. There’s no greater difficulty than stopping a profession that we succeed at, especially at that age: I was 33 when I started asking myself all these questions. I realized that I wasn’t meant to be the storyteller of other people. I wanted to tell stories that were more intimate, more personal.”
From advertising to fashion: the search for an expressive voice
What did you do when you stopped photojournalism?
J-F: “I stopped photography completely for a year to be close to my son, who was just born. I didn’t want to continue. I felt like that I didn’t have any stories to tell anymore and that something was broken - I was done with photojournalism. But then I started missing photography terribly. I took out a piece of paper and wrote down what I wanted and didn’t want.”
The tried-and-true technique!
J-F: “Yes, pen and paper. I realized that I wanted to actually enjoy making images, to work with a team, and to come out of the idea of suffering that I perceived in photojournalism, that anyway has become a suffering for me. That’s when I decided to do advertising photography for about one year and half, two years.”
Was it relatively easy to get into advertising with your previous photographic experience?
J-F: “Yes. At the end of my photojournalism career, I started photographing in large format and in color, which was much more marketable for advertising stuff. I also had an agent. It’s much easier to be represented by someone who has all the connections to the clients and who can bring jobs to you.”
Is this when you left the Agence VU’?
J-F: “I left VU’ when I stopped photojournalism, right before my one-year sabbatical. They still manage my archives, but from that moment on, I wasn’t available for assignments anymore.”
So initially, it wasn’t the attraction for fashion that prompted you to give up photojournalism?
J-F: “Well, I always liked fashion photography since when I was a kid. I liked press photography. I liked photography in general. I wanted to be a photographer when I was 6 year old. I have always been obsessed by the recording of the past - to note, to record, to photograph. There were two figures that guided me when I was a kid: Peter Lindbergh and Raymond Depardon – I think everybody has figures that guide their lives - more by their attitude than their photography. I saw Depardon on the television, and I wanted to become Depardon, and that’s how I became a photojournalist. And today, I think I’m fulfilling the second part.
How was the advertising stint?
J-F: “Very nice! I did campaigns for BNP (the French national bank), BMW, all the service industries. But very quickly, I realized that something was missing. A deeper fulfillment, a more personal way of expressing myself - I don’t like to use the word artistic. At the end, I was doing campaigns for Printemps (an important fashion department store in France). I started doing castings, using make-up artists, and of course, what’s supposed to happen happens, and I remembered that I wanted to be fashion photographer when I was a kid. At this moment I decided to stop advertising photography…”
Do you always feel the need to stop something completely before moving on to something else?
J-F: “I’m very obsessive – it’s all or nothing. When I decide to do something, I have to put in 800%. And when I found out that I was really attracted to fashion, I had to pursue it. I’ve always had an attraction for fashion, but I remember that when I was a photojournalist, whenever I talked about my interest in fashion, it was always met with disdain, as photojournalists didn’t take fashion photographers very seriously. If we were to talk to a fashion photographer about a photojournalist, he will have a look of admiration in his eyes. However, if we were to talk to a photojournalist about a fashion photographer, he would show total disdain. I’ve always found that irritating, because some of the greatest photographers of the (last) century – Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, were great fashion photographers. Guy Bourdin was a great fashion photographer…”
And William Klein?
J-F: “Yes, and William Klein, who supposedly did it for money, and who had revolutionized the pages of Vogue… I don’t like classifications. I like a lot of things in photography, be it Gursky, or Annette Messager, or Depardon, or Nachtwey, and I respect all ways of implicating oneself with images as long as there is sincerity.”
On your website, we see your photographs of fashion. But I haven’t seen your press photographs.
J-F: “Well, today I am a fashion photographer, and that’s what the website represents me as. But I don’t really see a break between what I did in photojournalism and what I am doing in fashion. In photojournalism, the moments are stolen, whereas in fashion, they are carefully constructed.”
How does the construction of a story take place? Do you do a storyboard?
J-F: “Well, it begins with an idea, an obsession. I have stories in my head that haunt me. We begin with a theme in clothing. That could be the color black or transparent, and I work as a duo with the stylist to tell a story inspired by a collection of clothes.” Which stylists do you work with? J-F: “For the moment, the stylist is not yet defined. It depends on the affinities that develop.” (Apparently, as Alessandro clued me earlier, Filomeno prescribes discretion in all matters concerning Jean-François’s fledgling fashion career with the agency).
Learning the trade: doing tests is the best school for fashion photography
How did you begin fashion photography?
J-F: “I shut myself away for 1 year.”
Again? For the second time!
J-F: “Yes, for the second time. This time, I did tests all day long, every day. I received models at home, and I photographed them in all sorts of ways. It’s not like the experience of an 18-year old assistant in a studio, who learns from a real editorial-in-the-making with a stylist and a photographer. Mine was a very intimate experience - learning what I wanted and didn’t want. I did the hairstyling and styling myself, with my hands (laughing, J-F showed me his hands).”
Were they professional models?
J-F: “Absolutely not, they were what we call new faces. Each day, there are hundreds of them who come to Paris. And these were some of their first shootings, which is what’s so interesting about these tests. I showed my photojournalism stuff (stuff that had nothing to do with fashion), and people thought it was interesting: a photojournalist who wants to work in fashion. They don’t see that everyday.”
Stanley Greene actually made the inverse transition from fashion to war photography…
J-F: “Stanley worked in everything, from landscape to people, and yes, I think he worked in fashion. categories don’t exist necessarily in the head of the photographers, but more in the head of other people. Labels are very reassuring for our society. I’ve met a lot of photojournalists who frowned on my doing fashion. But fashion is much more open, despite what society might think to the contrary.”
Open in what sense?
J-F: “Open in the sense that a photojournalist can go knock on the door of a model agency and say that he wants to try out fashion. The agency will send him models for him to do tests. I have trouble imagining a fashion photographer being given the same opportunity in photojournalism. I’ve spent a lot of time in photojournalism, and I think that it’s a milieu that’s much more closed than fashion, much more sectarian. Today, it is much easier for a photojournalist to work in fashion than it is for a fashion photographer to work in photojournalism.” So with the new faces, what are your obligations photographically speaking?
J-F: “There is only one rule: make them look beautiful. Photographers have to give to the agencies a series of images that they can use for their books… Beauty is something intimate and complex. People think models are beautiful, and they generally are. But what exactly defines beauty? And how can photography capture that? At what moment are they the most beautiful? I tried to create my own definition of beauty. I don’t think I can ever become a fashion/beauty photographer in the strict sense of the term. I do not conceive beauty in a conventional sense. What moves me in a woman is her fire, her intensity, her fragility, and her emotion. We develop obsessions for certain types of faces over time, but I look for beauty in the gaze.”
Did you have trouble having enough models to work with everyday when you were doing tests?
J-F: “No, because the agencies that I worked with were really pleased with my work. So they regularly contacted me to ask if I wanted to meet new faces that arrive in Paris. It was very stimulating.”
What about the role of clothes?
J-F: “Fashion is a part of life. That’s why I find the whole discourse on fashion being above reality fascinating. We are surrounded by fashion. The first thing we see in someone is how he’s dressed. The first thing that we notice in an old movie is the atmosphere, which includes the landscape, the architecture, but also how people are dressed. When I look at La Dolce Vita, or Breakfast at Tiffany, it tells the story of an era.”
Well, it’s hard to equate Fellini to reality!
J-F: “Fellini is not reality, but he is tied to an era. On the way to the agency, I watched passers-by. I’ve always loved watching people. And the way they dress gives clues to their era. If we were meeting in the year 1900, we would be dressed differently, and telling a different story. When I look at my photos from the fall of the Berlin Wall – it’s funny, today is the 17th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall – I see an era! I have always been fascinated by different eras, by the time that elapses. I’m working on the spring collections right now. Next spring, I’ll be working on the autumn collections. If I’ll be lucky enough to be working in fashion for the next 20 to 30 years, I’ll have the pleasure of capturing different styles and therefore, different epochs.”
So, one year of shooting tests everyday, including the weekends?
J-F: “Yes, almost every day. I don’t have weekends. My life is one long weekend.”
Everyday is a weekend…
J-F smiles: “It’s true!”
The apartment can become very quickly limiting, no?
J-F: “It all starts with a wall, and one flash. A beautiful woman with one flash, you can’t get any more essential than that. That was the portrait lighting that Irving Penn used. Today, when Steven Meisel photographs a woman, the most beautiful lighting that he can do is one light on a girl. The more complicated it gets, the more we move away from the essence of the story.”
You don’t even have backdrops?
J-F: “A wall is a backdrop. Many of my portraits come from that period.”
What about the street shots?
J-F: “Well, I was already a photographer, and I was learning to apply what I knew in photography to fashion. And one day, I wanted to take my shoots to the streets. I was very anxious because street photography is extremely fragile, and things can fall apart at any moment. I didn’t think I would succeed in recreating a mise-en-scène with the models in the streets, especially since I was by myself. But in fact, it’s something that can be learned and perfected. Even though the streets continue to be a menacing place for photographers.”
And the organization must be enormous if you have to do it by yourself.
J-F: “Absolutely. We simply can’t do everything by ourselves. But when we are doing tests, we just don’t have the access to a crew. That was also part of the challenge. I actually didn’t want to work with a crew right at the beginning. I wanted to learn all aspects of fashion. When you come from photojournalism, there are a lot of things to learn in fashion. Unless you are a genius, I don’t see any other way around it.”
Where did you find the clothes?
J-F: “I found them in the flea market, in sales, everywhere. Also, the same clothes can come back all the time. There is a lot of ways of wearing a top. You can tear it apart, put a knot on it, play around with it. That was what made it so interesting. I certainly made plenty of errors of style, and that’s how I learned. For me, doing tests is the best school for learning fashion photography. I learned what kind of faces I liked, what kind of hairstyle I liked, what kind of makeup I liked, what design I liked. Today when I walk down the streets, I know exactly what I like and don’t like, from hairstyle to clothing, which is a good thing to have. One of the greatest strength of Filomeno is also the team of artists (stylists, makeup, hair) who allow you to discover new territories and visual universes. But if I hadn’t done the work on my own, to get to know my own taste, I would have been lost.”
So now you can do the job of a stylist as well!
J-F: “No, not at all. I like to play around and create a certain spirit with clothes, but in no way am I a competent stylist. That’s a completely different profession, and I have no pretentions in that department.” It must have been difficult working without a stylist? J-F: “(Pause). I think that when we really like something, it’s never too difficult. My efforts were often outright failures. But I tell my son often that in order to learn, we have to make errors and accept failures.”
Getting an agent and launching a career
How did the meeting with Filomeno happen?
J-F: “At one moment, I started asking myself how I wanted to be represented, and if I wanted to be represented.”
While doing your tests, you probably didn’t make a lot of money, I imagine…
J-F: “I had savings from the advertising jobs that did.”
Did you talk to other agencies?
J-F: “No, not at all. I had looked around and Filomeno had always appeared to me as the most coherent and sincere. I liked the images that I see on their website, and it appeared to be the one that corresponded to me the most. I knew people who knew people who presented me to Michele, and I showed him my work. He really believed in my work.”
Alessandro says that it takes a long time and a lot of investment to launch the career of a fashion photographer. (Alessandro explained to us earlier that it takes in general from a year and half to three years to launch the career of a new photographer starting from the moment he’s taken in the agency.)
J-F: “Of course. That’s true of anyone who’s a newcomer. It took me a lot of time and energy to build up my career in photojournalism. I think it’s going to be the same in fashion. Especially since the policy of Filomeno is to launch the career of a photographer for the long haul, something that would last 10, 20 years and beyond, not just for one season. I think it’s going to be very exciting.”
What does an agency like Filomeno do for you?
J-F: “They give me a lot of advices. We discuss career options together. They contact clients for me. They organize and help me to choose the crew. And they represent me all over the world. It’s a very intimate relationship. We are like a big family, and we are very close professionally. It’s one of the best qualities that I find in this agency. Nothing is left to chances, everything is calculated, thought about in advance, in order to provide the best conditions for creative work.”
Is this the agency where you are the best taken care of?
J-F: “Oh, VU’ was a great agency. But the jobs are not the same. Christian Caujolle (artistic director of Agence VU’) gave me a lot of good advices. He was very attentive, intelligent, open, and sensitive. For me, VU’ was the most ideal agency for photojournalism. But photojournalists are a very independent bunch. I’m still very independent today, very solitary in a certain manner, but fashion photography doesn’t happen in the same way as photojournalism. You work with a team, and everything is planned ahead and highly structured. In photojournalism, you don’t need anybody. In fashion, you need the help of everybody.”
Born in Aix-en-Provence in 1966, Jean-François Campos began photographing in 1988, while on a trip to Berlin. He returned regularly during 3 years, photographing Berlin before, during, and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and held his first personal exhibition “Berlin, à coeur ouvert” (Berlin, with Open Heart) at the Galeries Fnac in 1990. That same year, he won the Prix Fondation Angnénieux, and was the laureate of Biennale des jeunes créateurs de l’Europe de la Méditerranée (Biennial of Young Creators from Mediterranean Europe).
In 1991, he became the permanent collaborator of the French newspaper Libération, covering the politics and society sections for 7 years. In this capacity, he photographed Jacques Chirac during the seven months of his presidential campaign. He joined the agency Agence VU in July 1995 and collaborated with important publications such as Geo, the Fortune Magazine, New York Times, Das Magazin, El Païs, Der Spiegel, and Globe Hebdo. In 1996, he was awarded the World Press Photo Foundation Masterclass prize for his work with Libération and the Centre National de la Photographie (French National Photography Center) Moins Trente (Under Thirty) prize. That same year, his work was included in the exhibition “New Photography from France” at ICP in New York. In 1997, he won the photography prize of the Foundation CCF and published a book “Après la pluie” (After the Rain), which traces his time at Libération.
After his work in Rwanda, he decided to definitively put a stop to his photojournalist career. Beginning to photograph in large format and in color, he turned into advertising photography and did a series of campaigns (BMW, Le Bon Marché, CCF, EPSON, La comédie Française, Paraboot, Mobalpa, Australian Ballet, Young et Rubicam, Tequila, Le Printemps…) It is then that he became fascinated with fashion photography and started experimenting and developing a very personal vision of fashion. He is currently represented by the Agency Michele Filomeno.
Interesting read, danke . It really irks me I'm no longer able to find some examples of his photojournalism era.
He recently started shooting for Italian Flair! Looks to me like journalism hasn't left him entirely.
Flair - September 2007 "Post Moderno" (pt 1)
Fashion editor: Mika Mizutani
Model: Marta Berzkalna
Hair: Damien Boissinot/Bumble and Bumble
Makeup Artists: Christelle Coquet for Callisté
Source: scanned by blackangel41999