Interview with Guillaume Tomasi
Guillaume Tomasi, Details of the everyday, family and memories
1. Thank you for taking part in this interview. How many years have you been photographing? How did you approach photography for the first time? Tell us more about your path.
Thank you so much for the invitation. I started photography seriously in 2016. Before that, I already had a digital camera but I didn’t use it too much. I considered photography at the time only from a technical point of view. In 2016, I quit my job as a front-end developer to go do a BFA in photography in Montreal (which I graduated in 2020). After discovering Julien Coquentin’s work in Montreal (“Tôt un dimanche matin“) I had an epiphany. It really opened my eyes to the way I look around me, to see photography from a more aesthetic point of view and to consider this medium as a language in itself.
2. Is there a recurrent theme in your photos? What do you want to express?
Yes, I would say several around which I gravitate and build my projects. My family and my fatherhood are often the initiating components of my work. The visual metaphors I use help me to turn a very intimate situation into a much more universal reflection. That’s what I’m looking for. To bring my audience to take a step back on itself, because my works speak essentially about us by using my gaze on my family.
3. What are your main inspirations? (movies/ photographers/ directors/ music/ artistic movements ecc.)
I am always attentive. It can be a line from a movie, a title from a comic book, a melody, an intimate event etc.. Each project takes its inspiration from several places.
For my latest project “A bloom in the eye of the storm“, I was inspired by the movie Take Shelter by Mike Nichols and by a quote from a Quebec author Nicolas Dawson.
In photography, I often come back to the projects made by Larry Sultan, Doug Dubois, Katrin Koenning or even very recently Nolwenn Brod
4. What kind of gear do you use? Do you think the choice of equipment is important to communicate the final shot? What is your approach with analogue photography?
I only use a Mamiya 7 with an 80mm lens. Kodak Portra 400 film is the only film I have used for several years. I recently bought a Fujifilm X100F to complete my equipment and allow me to take closer pictures (close to macro), because it’s still a weak point of the Mamiya.
I would say that the project suggests the equipment. 35mm, medium format and large format? Everything is possible, and each camera is a tool that remains consistent with the work in terms of rendering, aesthetics, relationship with the subject, comfort, budget or process.
I really loved film photography from the moment I saw my first print straight out of the darkroom. The imperfections, the physicality involved in the film or the process of making a print appealed to me right away. The film invites you to take your time to take pictures, and that was perfect for me.
5. Details of the everyday, images of family, nature and memories. This is what seems to prevail in your photos. What is your approach with these subjects? Documentarist or more intimist?
Exactly, I don’t really have very specific scenes to photograph. I let my instincts and often luck take over. I often work on foot, by bike or by car and as soon as something attracts me, I stop to take a picture of it, without knowing if it will be useful or not. This is less and less true where a part of me wishes I could find the scene I imagine in my head. So sometimes I force destiny and construct some pictures very quickly, without falling into a too controlled aestheticism.
The pictures of my family are more difficult. I am not the first and would not be the last to include my family in a project. I always have a little trouble finding the right distance between the father and the artist. Where do those boundaries end? Do I need to establish a collaboration with my loved ones to get their agreement in the way I portray them or do I need to capture an emotion or a decisive situation? I see myself more in an intimate approach, as my family is not the final subject. It is an element I use to carry my subject further and to evoke something in the intimacy of my audience.
6. We see a lot of poetic and silent images in your work “Chrysalises”. What is your relationship with this work?
Chrysalises is my first real project. I started this work in 2017 during my BFA. It followed a family anecdote where my son made me realize, without meaning to, that I wanted to know at what point in his life he would find out that the world I show him as a parent will be much different than the one he will see growing up. It made me want to know those epiphanic moments in the lives of complete strangers and after writing about 60 letters that I randomly mailed around the island of Montreal, responses came back to me. This formed the body of this project, and the photos arrived at the same time, nourished by a sensation of floating between the moment of in-between, a little before or a little after a visible, fragile or subtle break.
This is also my first photo book, self-published. It was quite a hard experience to sell it (the pandemic had just broken out), for it to make its way to its public. I am very happy with the result and I learned from my mistakes throughout the process.
7. What are your plans for the future?
I am currently working on a new project “A bloom in the eye of the storm“. A project that focuses on a latent tension that we all experience. How do we thrive in a society that reminds us every day that our way of life is leading us inexorably to our doom? I use my fatherhood to understand this conflict through the eyes of my children and their ability to develop an identity in the midst of this growing threat.
I’ve been working on it for two years, I still have a few more avenues to explore in the next few months and I’m still looking for a publisher who would be willing to advise me in my quest to make it a very conceptual book…in the long-term!
Guillaume Tomasi (b 1984, France) is a photographer and curator based in Montreal. Being sensitive to the small details of the everyday, his work revolves around floating moments and allegorical scenes. He combines a poetic approach with an aesthetic borrowed from documentary photography to express his vision of the world. Nature, memory and family are notions that interest him in their symbolic form and their narrative power. Analog photography, with its texture, surprises and slow rhythm, has shaped his creativity and allowed him to better understand his practice. This is apparent in his work, where walking in order to find a certain place, situation or mood is the foundation of his research process. His family also has an important place in his work. As a father, the photos of his relatives show his desire to find the right balance between the artist and the parent. His concerns about being a parent are often the initiating components of his projects, whether it is intimate or more distant. Through the use of metaphors and visual symbols, he intends to bring these thoughts to a more universal level.
Guillaume received his BFA in Photography from Concordia University in 2020 and in 2016 he created the collaborative project Fiiiirst, which still features anonymous image based discussions between photographers. His work has been exhibited in Russia, the United States, England, Switzerland, Canada and Italy. In 2020, he published his first photo book Chrysalises, which has been featured in numerous international publications such as The Heavy Collective, Fisheye Magazine, AIN’T BAD, Fotoroom, Der Greif, Urbanautica and GUP Magazine.
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