7 Questions for 5.6

by HRM on April 27, 2011

An interview with Parisian photography collective

The latest exhibition of Collectif 5.6 was somewhat haphazard. There were no signs posted and only a crowd of young Parisians gathered around the building indicated that something was happening. Inside a variety of pictures had been hung up with no indication of which member of the collective they belonged to. Intrigued, I contacted them for an interview and three days later I sat down with Laurent Nalin of Collectif 5.6 in a quiet courtyard in Saint-Germain-des-Prés to discuss the exhibition.

Collectif Cinq-Six Portrait

Untitled, Louis-Marie du Perray

Interview by Rachel TonThat

HRM: How did the five of you meet and why did you form the Collectif?

Laurent: I first met Louis Marie at primary school, about ten years ago, and the others met at a different art school in Sevres. Together, we started the Collectif almost two years ago when we realized we were all involved in analog photography. We were spending a lot of time together and were already exchanging ideas and points of view, so we thought it would be easier to share a lab and to exhibit our work together in order to have more of an impact, to create a synergy.

It’s important to remember that we’re an independent collective: we don’t want to sell anything or to prove anything or to explain anything. We just want to create something. We’re very lucky in a way to allow ourselves to do exactly what we want, not having any pressure, any deadlines. That’s important.

Collectif Cinq-Six

Untitled, Martin Plagnol

HRM: Is the Collectif interested in digital photography?

Laurent: Not really. We’ve never worked with digital because it’s better for us to have direct contact with the picture and to work directly with the light. I consider digital photography to be a flat image, something that has no staying power because it contains no depth, whereas analog photography has a tactile quality. Light hits the film and you can see the physicality of the exposure. When you look at a digital image you don’t know what to look at because every part of the image has the same amount of information.

HRM: If you take a picture meticulously, using the light, do you think that the image exposed onto the film is the photograph, or do you believe that it needs to be printed in order to become a work of art?

Laurent: Of course, the most important part is taking the picture but printing is an essential part of the process because it allows the photographer to refine his image, to create certain tones and to strengthen or soften contrast. A picture isn’t finished until it is printed.

Collectif Cinq Six

Untitled, Adrien Casalis

Collectif Cinq-Six

Louis-Marie du Perray

HRM: What are your interests outside of photography?

Laurent: Laurent: I study French literature and poetry at the Sorbonne. Adrien works in cinema- he wants to direct movies. Louis-Marie is a graphic designer, Martin is a full-time artist studying at Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and Vincent studies Business and Ecology in Sweden.

HRM: Despite these different backgrounds, do you all share the same aesthetic sensibilities?

Laurent: More or less. Our styles are very different but we agree on the essentials of photography. It’s hard to describe, but sometimes we understand each other without talking about it. We see a picture and without discussing it, we share the same feelings about the picture.

Collectif Cinq-Six

Untitled, Vincent Fremont

HRM: As a collective are you interested in photographing the same subject matter?

Laurent: We are going through different stages. At first we were very close, but we are all trying to explore new things and everyone is going their own way. But this is a good thing. For a long time I was fascinated by the human body and shot nudes, but even that’s changing. I don’t know what’s next. It could be anything.

Collectif Cinq-Six

Untitled, Laurent Nalin

HRM: How did you set up the exhibition on the 19th?

Laurent: That was unusual. An art association that wants to develop artists and give them a space squatted the building. At some point they owned the building and ran a gallery but it now belongs to the city of Paris. So we had this large gallery space on the first floor. It was only up for two nights, though- the cops came on Saturday. But it’s all part of the game; you never know what will happen if you exhibit in that kind of space. It was empty for four years and it’s going to stay empty from now on.

Collectif Cinq-Six

Untitled, Martin Plagnol

Collectif Cinq-Six is comprised of Laurent Nalin, Adrien Casalis, Louis-Marie du Perray, Vincent Fremont, and Martin Plagnol. They share a laboratory in Versailles and named themselves after the F-stop 5.6. More of their work can be seen at http://collectif5-6.tumblr.com

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ISSN: 2116 34X