Remi Noel’s Photography
Rémi Noël is not one of those people who started photography at age 6 with their grandfather’s Rolleiflex. He was already 30 when he felt compelled to create images and shot a few still lives in his Paris apartment. As someone who trained in advertising and masters the language, he enjoys concision: in literature, he tends to prefer short stories – in cinema, short films. As a photographer, he tries to tell brief stories captured at a glance.
He quickly left Parisian interiors behind to embark on annual ten-day expeditions to the American West, where – in black and white – he explores the archetypes of American mythology: motels and their neon signs, desert expanses and the highways that crisscross them.
Noël often includes a picture in the picture, sometimes borrowed from art history’s glorious achievements (say Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde) or from Z-movie and airport novel culture (Le Secret des Antarix or the jigsaw puzzle pinup girl). All of these visual references are remixed in Rémi Noël’s photography, resulting in fun images full of tongue-in-cheek references.
“I started in an ad agency as a copywriter. I didn’t really have a visual culture, but rubbed shoulders with art directors, photographers, and understood that my main interest was basically visual, even though I had no technical skills whatsoever. As a copywriter, I was denied access to images; I started taking pictures to compensate for the frustration. And in adworld, where things always end up with a logo in the corner, photography allowed me to create more freely. I was probably around 30 when I got started, and soon realized I was really keen, almost obsessively in fact.”
He’s travelling a lot in search of inspiration for his photographs. Mostly he’s working in USA, where he spend about 10 days a year making photos. He enjoys a great landscapes of southern and south-western states of USA, like Texas and California, much more than urban environments.
“I always prefer pictures where something’s going on, where there’s an idea. In my work, I always try to tell a little story and keep it simple. Which may be why I have chosen to use black and white to focus on the idea, to be more concise. When I do colour, it feels scattered and confused. When I place an object or a Batman figure in a landscape – as I have often done – it serves as a kind of excuse for me to stick my tripod in a beautiful landscape that would otherwise be difficult to shoot just for itself.”
Rémi still works with film, using the same camera and the same 50mm lens. He works in daylight or ambient artificial light without using lighting, flash etc. “For Flying Saucer, for instance, I had planned everything, and then this car drove by with its headlights on, which was just perfect. There are always happy little accidents that can make an image lively and magical.”