However much we try and deny it, however much we push it down inside ourselves, human beings are undeniably visual creatures. We treasure and deify the beautiful, the attractive, the sublimely good looking. We revel in the well shot, the well composed, the fundamentally aesthetically pleasing.
We're bombarded with image, saturated by representations of the real and the unreal. We lose whole weekends to aimlessly flicking through photos of strangers. We crane our necks and break our backs at galleries. We sit silently in cinemas gorging ourselves in our scopophilc desires, turning the latent into the tangible. We buy big glossy books without words that sit amongst the skins and mugs on coffee tables the world over. We're obssessed with images, with pictures, with the ongoing attempt to capture something, anything, that gives life some kind, any kind, of structure.
Parisian photograher Hélène Feuillebois is no different. I first came across her work after meeting her in Paris a few months back. I was in France for Weather festival and to attend Teki Latex's glorious #10HoursOfTekiLatex Overdive Infinity spectacular. The night before Teki did his thing, I found myself in a resturant with Teki, the wonderful DJ Betty Bensimon and Feuillebois herself. After coming back to miserable old England, I realized that I'd seen her work before. Those photos — sunsoaked evocations of life on the French riviera — had beguilled me. I did a bit of rooting around and noticed that she was responsible for one of my favourite press shots of recent years. And, yes, sadly, I do have favourite press shots of DJs and producers. It was this one of DJ Haus.
The photo just worked for me. It exudes an air of slightly-studied cool that feels incredibly, oddly, disconcertingly contemporary. There's a flatness of affect that gives it a really disquieting edge, a kind of hemmed in, hermetically sealed strangeness that, for whatever reason, is incredibly appealing. The majority of Feuillebois' work takes the form of candid snapshots, intimate moments caught immediately and without polish. This is life as lived by people who seem to live life well.
Her photos take in Paris, LA, London and Mexico City with hedonistic aplomb — they scream reckless abandon and pure pleasure. I basically want to be everyone she's ever photographed, all at once and I want to be at every party simultaneously. I decided to get in touch with Hélène to see what makes her tick.
THUMP: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your photographic practice.
Hélène Feuillebois: I was born and raised in Paris where I still live today and I've been taking pictures for as long as I can remember. I have very early memories of holding my parents heavy film cameras and wanting to be a photographer. Then the digital era started and I tried for a while but I did not enjoy it as much and eventually went back to shooting film. I have been documenting my life on film consistently for eight years now. Most of my pictures are candids but I am trying to get more comfortable directing people and shooting portraits.
Who, if anyone, in the world of photography informs your work? Who do you look at and think, "yeah, this is great, this is the kind of photographer I want to be,"?
I don't think of anyone's work that way to be honest. Some people's work bring out emotions in me and some don't. I spend more time at modern museums looking at paintings than I do in galleries looking at photographs. I have this photo book by Marcelo Kracilsic named 1990s that's one of my favorites I own. Ryan McGinley is probably the only photographer whose work I really keep up with. I feel somewhat close to his protegee Sandy Kim's, she documents another scene but I used to hang out with bands so it does resonate with me. Meeting Ysa Perez last year and speaking about photography with her changed my vision a lot and her support means a lot to me.
What's the appeal of photographing parties?
I really don't consider myself a party photographer. I'm not out here posting crowd shots with a tacky watermark. It even took me a long time to accept calling myself a photographer and admit that's what I wanted to do. After I got a few publications, saw some of my shots on walls, had people asking me to shoot them I just couldn't deny it anymore. It's more so that I document my life and I guess intimate pictures of my DJ friends get more attention than my cat. The only time I have actually worked for a party was Betty's Bonus Stage but she knew what to expect and it was mostly family and friends pictures.
Generally speaking, is Paris a good place to party?
Paris has been slowly dying. Paris wants to be Berlin so bad. I don't get it. I am not sure how this happened but the most random kids are into techno these days. I wouldn't mind it if it wasn't dominating and crushing everything else. I've spent a lot of time in LA this year and at this point I'd rather hear EDM than techno.
How did you first meet Teki and Betty?
I have known Teki for what feels like forever now. I don't remember how it happened, probably at Social Club when it was still the most popping club in Paris. I think I was just always there and so was he and it just happened. Paris is pretty small so everyone knows each other. Then he started dating Betty and I embraced her as family too. I feel like I am their annoying angsty teen cousin. I think Sinjin Hawke and Zora Jones are equally sick. It's inspiring to see people lift each other up like that and guys not threatened by their girls success.
How did you get into taking press shots for artists? Or is it more of "I took a photo of a friend of mine and they wanted to use it for promo purposes" thing?
I've had friends use pictures I shot when we were just hanging out before and one day I got a call asking me if I'd be interested in taking press shots for DJ Haus and I said yes. I was really stressed out to shoot someone I did not know at all but it turned out being a good experience. It's always exciting to scroll Instagram and see your pictures posted by Rinse or NTS or Red Bull. I definitely want to shoot more UK DJs and it's in the works.
If you could spend a few days with anyone in music and you both had unlimited funds and unlimited free time, who would it be and what would you get up to?
There are so many people I would like to shoot, I actually started making a list recently. I kind of want to take pictures of Miley Cyrus and her 300 pets. But the number one would probably be DJ Khaled. I have no idea what we would do but I hope it would involve infinite pools on a paradise island. I just want to follow him for a week to see what his life is like and shoot everything. His life looks like it has unlimited funds.