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Vincent Fournier

Fantastically Real Photography
H3DII-39 Helps Fournier Capture His Complex World View.

BAF Room 65 (Final Assembly Building), Guiana Space Centre, French Guiana, February 2007.

General Boris V. Naidyonov wearing the Russian Space Suit, Yuri Gagarine Cosmonaut Center, Russia, November 2007.

The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) project was a global exploration of deserts in the American Southwest (Utah is shown here), Australian Outback, Canadian Arctic, and Iceland, July 2007.

Brussels, Belgium-based Vincent Fournier is a commercial and fine-art photographer whose photographs of rockets, moon landscapes, and cosmonauts have enjoyed worldwide appeal since 2006. The winner of a bronze award at the Cannes Festival and Gold Clio, Fournier has a distinctive style that merges fantasy with reality, leading the viewer through a colorful journey into the unknown.

Vincent Fournier offers a photographic journey through the most representative utopia of the 20th century. From his images of "Tour Operator," revealing an ironic and aesthetic vision of our world with its domesticated landscape, to the retro futuristic space odyssey of "Space Project," to the upcoming "Underworld" project, his photographs are allegories of childhood dreams, where reality mixes with science fiction. He interprets stories of travels around the world, to the moon, under the earth, in the bedroom, and to the end of the street with a sense of irony and an aesthetic akin to an encounter with Jules Verne and Jacques Tati.

Represented by seven international galleries in Paris, Brussels, London, Milan, Tokyo, New York, and Los Angeles, Fournier also has attracted industry heavyhitters, such as Wallpaper Magazine, BETC, and TBWA. He’s the author of two books, Tour Operator, AD2 Editions, 2007, and Space Project, Verlhac Editions, 2008. Here, he explains how his Hasselblad H3DII has helped him capture his complex, futuristic images.

My niche is building complex images that possess a natural fidelity. I am curious, patient, passionate and happy about my work. I want people who view my work to feel as though they’re inside this world that I’ve created through photography, which forces me to experiment with my craft as much as possible.

Hasselblad in Action

I started using Hasselblad equipment, an H3DII-22, in 2004. Now I shoot with an H3DII-39. Previously, I used a GW690 Fuji camera. Film may be more romantic, but I don’t miss the stress of spending hours in the darkroom developing film, only to find that it hasn’t been correctly exposed. For the work I do, the H3D is the perfect solution.

I am stunned by the color softness the H3DII-39 yields. It seems to me the larger the spectrum, the more color you get. Shooting with the H3DII, the color tends to be subtler and softer than with other digital backs, which capture too much color-contrast and are harder to flesh out in post production. I also love the H3DII’s high-resolution files - which are quick to process - and sharp detail. Combining these elements is perfect for me. Last week, I received an email from an art school student wanting to know what film I was using. The color softness and image fidelity I achieve with the H3D threw him off the track of digital.

When I shoot for an advertising client, I save my images directly onto my laptop, or, if I have time, I save to a media storage card. For my personal work, such as “Space Project,” I use the Image Bank. I don’t work with assistants on my art projects, so I need a camera with a simple user interface, one that allows me the freedom to experiment and work creatively. I don’t need feature-overload, where there are too many things to play with - just the basics. I do a lot of research to prepare for a photo shoot. It can take me a year to get authorization sometimes, yet I may only have a few hours to capture the photographs I need. Because the H3DII’s interface is so easy to work with, it’s one thing I don’t have to worry about in a crunch.

To create my ideal lighting situation, I use a tripod and natural, ambient light. I like the softness of the light at sunset and dusk - sometimes just a few second after the sun rises or sets. To find these pockets of light, I explore the area in advance, focusing on angles, shapes, and time of day. In 2006, I was one of the photographers chosen by the Mars Society to participate in the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) project, a global exploration of deserts in the Canadian Arctic, the American Southwest, the Australian Outback, and Iceland.

While shooting for the MDRS project in Utah, I needed to scout out areas the day before, so I wouldn’t waste time searching for light the day of the shoot. This kind of preparation is key to determining what to photograph. I wanted The MDRS images, which are part of my “Space Project,” to look like paintings - historical landscape paintings with a sense of science fiction. My scenes always need to look real even if they’ve been set up. For the majority of my work, I use a 80mm lens to bring the background closer to the viewer. For wider spaces, I’ll use several images then stitch them together with Photoshop Photomerge.

My “Space Project” exhibit opens at Christiane Celle’s Clic Gallery in New York October 7 and runs through November 1. The 20 large-format photographs, 39”x 51” to 60” x 79”, capture scenes from The Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia, The Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, the Guiana Space Center, and the Atacama Desert Observatories in Chile. I will have another exhibition at the Step Gallery in London, a solo show with Step Gallery at Miami Photo, and London Art Fair.

I am not a techie, and with the H3DII I don’t have to be. The camera system is rugged, safe, versatile, and convenient - that’s all I need to know. The base of the camera is very secure, so I can do more experimentation, which is essential to my craft and to every photographer looking to go new places with their photography.

For more of Vincent Fournier’s work, visit www.vincentfournier.co.uk.

Photo credit: © Vincent Fournier, 2007

Text by Alice B. Miller