Artist Interviews: François Madelin

It's Friday, it's Artist Interviews time!

This week, I had the pleasure to talk to François, a film photographer from Paris, France. He shoots mostly black and white, both 35mm and medium format. And he has a very interesting (and unique) way to give his images a title.

All images in this post were made by François Madelin.

My name is François, I'm 27, I live in Paris.

I'm from Paris but my parents where from different part of France; mainly Normandy (Sea) and Savoy (Mountains), which led me to spend all my holidays in those regions when I was young. I've also worked in Savoy. I've lived several years in Lyon and almost a year in Shanghai. I work in online advertising, basically I am a mathematician / statistician...

I've been taking photos since the age of 14 or 15 and I've been through many different channels to display my work as a photographer. I've used Tumblr (even founded a collective named grey matters at the time), Flickr, WordPress, then my own website coded by myself but it turned out to be a considerable waste of time, so when I saw first online portfolios websites such as Format or Squarespace I signed up and this is saving me a lot of time.

I have two places where I display my work: my website and my Instagram.


Most of your work is in black and white, I love that. Everyone has a different reason for choosing their creative tools though. What’s yours? What makes black and white more compelling for your work?

At first black and white was for me a way to hide my photography defaults (to my mind). Then it became a trendy look I wanted to produce and since many years, especially since I am using film, it became my most demanding format and the most technical and permanently challenging.

I find it so beautiful when it comes to the right balance between the multiples factors you may have. But I also find it so hard to get the black and white that I want, I am chasing this without even touching it, but I always start over and over again.

Black and white is simple; we already see things in color, it brings a new persepctive.


Your photographs lack a title, but they come with the geographical coordinates of the place you took them from. I love this idea! It might look like a small detail at first, but I believe no detail is small enough, and those coordinates are part of your work. Where did this idea come from?

First it is really nice from you to notice that because I find it one of the most important things to me in my photography since I am passionate about geography and this is a way to make them unified.

Secondly, when I started shooting film I wanted to have a nice and logical way to order my pictures. Geographical coordinates seemed to be the most agnostic and impartial way to name my pictures. Moreover, as I scientific guy I find it pretty cool. Plus, it allows people to check out where I stood to take my photos and I like the idea of sharing the place so they can go up there and see what I saw but differently.


Who (or what) inspires you and influences your photography the most?

When I shoot I am always confronted to bigger than me, I mean What I photograph, people, nature, etc... Everything seems to me so beautiful and so bigger than my own person this is the very first feeling I experience before firing the shutter release.

I try to stay humble when I photograph, because photography for me is about questioning space and time and this won't last forever, so I think we must stand at our right place and enjoying every moment, landscape, person...


Name one photographer / artist you would love to meet, from the present day or from the past.

You haha!

I would have loved to meet Jacques Henri Lartigues. The guy had an extraordinary life, he was a painter he was also a wealthy man but seems to keep it simple, he almost never lived of his photography, he as never been a professional, I find his recently highlighted color work simply beautiful. I am not even close to his technique, but the rest is so inspiring.

No seriously, I'd like to meet you for real one day!


You live in Paris, a place that must have been photographed by millions of people. Still, you have an on-going project about the city. How do you try to offer your personal, unique vision of Paris?

I used to walk in Paris for hours since my early age. Now I try to get out there with my camera, but Paris is a very complex city to capture.

Everybody in Paris got a camera in his hands, I tend to trust the art singularity, but I must admit Paris has been the subject of thousands of photographers and finding singularity in this context is not that easy. But Paris is a wonderful place where history and modernity are weighing up each other and where people like all those cosmopolitan cities are a new source of inspiration at every moment.

I am trying to overcome my personal perception just by going to places where people and tourists don't go as you can see, or to find occasionally an unexpected way to photograph a touristic place, but this is rare.

The fact that I display this project as a sort of journal is also a way to contemplate Paris as a trip in a short lap of time.


Do you have a subject matter you pursue with your photography?

Thousands, that's the problem.

If I must summarize my projects I would say there are three: Space, Time, and Women.

Space because we are running out of place to live, everything goes so fast, we have forgotten to slow down I think.

Time because time is mysterious, scientifically, and humanly. It is also very fascinating.

Women are also a subject for me. I've been struck by stories from lonely women, I am also fascinated by the miracle of life and bringing life to a child. I also find women particularly brave in general and this also fascinates me.

I am also a loving husband. A French author unified the two last thematics in one sentence: “Aimer un être, c'est accepter de vieillir avec lui.” (Albert Camus) its means: Loving someone is to accept to grow older with him/her.


What’s your favorite photo you’ve ever taken? (note: picture above)

There are not many photos I took which I am satisfied with, but this one really comes up. I would not hang it in my apartment, it's not even a very artistic photo. It reflects to me one of the best allegories of life in all the meanings and mysteries it has. More generally Normandy is one of my favorite page in my website (and place to go).


Let’s talk about camera gear for a second, what was your first camera and when did you first pick it up?

My very first camera was a point and shoot plastic film camera black & white won at bridge by my grandma, I still have it. My first shoots with it are a trip with my classroom when I was 8. Then I got a Sony DSC P-9, I started to discover photography with this.


What about your current camera setup(s)? Do you only shoot film?

I shoot both digital and film but mainly film for now since I just sold my digital gear.

I have two set ups:

  • Nikon F3 + 2.8/55 mm Micro Nikkor, for my daily use, family photos, street photo (when I go up to work)
  • Hasselblad 501 CM + 80 mm Lens, it's more and more my main camera in fact, I really learnt to appreciate the camera, it took me a long time but now I feel comfortable with it.

What’s your favorite film stock to shoot with?

I've been through many different films.

Chronologically: Ilford PAN 400 (perfect to learn film), then Ilford Delta 100 (love the grain of this one), then for a long time Kodak Tri-X, and now both Kodak Tri-X (for my Nikon) and HP5 (for the Hasselblad, since Hasselblad lenses produce higher contrast pictures I needed to reduce the natural contrast of the film and HP5 fullfills this perfectly).

I do a little bit color, essentially Fuji Superia 200 (my favorite color film but they've stopped producing it) and going for the Portra is a cool equivalent but expensive.


One camera, one lens

My trusty F3 with the 55mm. It's basically followed me everywhere, I've never been disappointed with this camera.


Thank you so much, François, for taking the time to answer to these questions! Remember that you can follow François on Instagram or visit his website.

Check the Artist Interviews page for more interviews like this one.