Luckily for the fashion world, Eric gave up Paris and music for a life of models and photography.
By Bianca Posterli
Some people can pick up their lives and start fresh, ending up with a different outlook on life and a brand-new goal for their future. Eric Guillemain is one of those people. He started off as a musician in a band in Paris, but moved to New York and got a job as a photographer’s assistant. Later, he moved on to work with Peter Lindbergh and began to photograph models, including the great Tanya D, with a fresh look at fashion. With a few years of experience and an award from the 10th Avant Guardian Contest he was on his way, and now is one of the major pros to know.
Prior to your work as a photographer, you were in a band in Paris.
I was in love with the band. Music and singing was my life—not much room for anything else. And when I came to New York it was just to take a break and for finishing up some songs, and, well…I fell in love with the city.
How did you make the transition?
I quit the band a bit later and found a job assisting David Ferrua. I was more a digital tech than a photographer’s assistant at that time. To be honest, the transition was kind of harsh, but I felt I had to go on with my new life whatever the pain and the doubts. When I started assisting Peter Lindbergh, I found the link—the logic between the ancient life and the new one.
How does your music influence your photography?
I shoot quite fast, like a five-minute song. Sometimes longer. Let’s say 15 minutes like a good progressive rock song. But yes, it is all about rhythm and vibrations. I feel like being onstage again and sort of behave accordingly, just having a camera instead of a microphone. Speaking a lot of nonsense words just as if I was improvising a song right on the spot. Some models like that very much and ask for more.
What did Peter Lindbergh teach you about fashion photography?
First of all I would say he is a very cautious person and extremely precise in the process of making pictures. One could say it is easy to go and shoot on the beach with a black solid backdrop. But it takes a lot of awareness of everything that is happening in front of your eyes. That requires you to take the good artistic options and decisions depending on the mood and the situation. Without this kind of ability, you may happen to become a fashion photographer—and even a famous one—but not a master like Peter is.
Individually speaking, by seeing Peter Lindbergh at work, I learned how not to be afraid anymore. For somebody like me who took, let’s say, 20 pictures in his whole life before entering the fashion world, I could have been impressed and incapable of going on with my own work. By just staying in his close environment I gained much more confidence. He never stopped. He performed with this never-ending flow of energy and empathy. You didn’t need to take notes to be taught. Just keep on being a child no matter what and feel good about it.
Do you have any favorite memories of working with him?
If I had to quote memories, curiously I won’t mention work, but rather unnoticed moments like him shaking hands or chatting with the person that nobody ever pays attention to. I mean the cleaning man or the messenger or whoever stays always in the dark. Peter always takes time to make that person feel valuable and important.
What are some of your favorite memories working with models?
The day Tanya D came to my apartment, I was supposed to shoot four or five Polaroids of her. But she told me we could go on for more pictures if I wanted to. So being really inexperienced at that time, I didn’t know what I was doing. She didn’t even know what she was doing too, but we ended by making all these memorable pictures. I realized that quite afterward. It was like she was just sent as an angel to show me the way. I feel like I was born as a photographer that day.
How would you describe your style of photography?
To paraphrase what I heard here and there, let’s say pureness, simplicity, poetry, and sacredness. I would say in a more simple approach: My pictures are 100 percent organic and with no artificial flavors in it!
Do you have a model muse?
I have ideas of whom I would like to have. But she doesn’t know about it yet. I love to think my real muse would come to me one day. There is no need to ask her. And also I promise not to put any embargo on her.