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THE FINE PRINT: What was the defining moment that helped you choose a career in photography?
NICOLAS GAVINO: I moved to Paris after my studies, and there I met a bunch of guys who spent their days in the street, hitting on girls. We call them “pick-up artists,” a trend born in Los Angeles, as an attempt to theorise this concept. I started to learn this game of seduction with them, observing what worked, and what was best avoided. At first, the very direct and upfront nature of these encounters traumatised me. Your ego and your pride are reduced to nothing. It took me 4 hours before I was able to approach a girl in the street the first time. I did this for two years, nearly every day. I recorded myself with a handheld recorder, which I would then listen to in the evenings. I had many wonderful encounters with people, it was cool. But the problem is, you can very quickly become a kind of soulless social robot, and paradoxically, find yourself very much alone. This experience completely deconsecrated my vision of women, as well as my relationships with others. I felt I needed to translate this feeling with images. That was when I bought myself a camera.
THE FINE PRINT: You recently launched a book entitled “Grey,” where one can find an organised selection of your work. What does the word “grey” mean to you?
NICOLAS GAVINO: Sweet and sombre
THE FINE PRINT: Is there a reason why you work strictly with analogue photography? Is there something in the chemical process, or additional steps in the darkroom that complement your creative process?
NICOLAS GAVINO: Yes, the grain from analogue photography has a hopeless side to it, which I like. But in reality, I don’t know much about photography. I originally come from drawing. My camera is automatic, I click, and it’s done. I would be incapable of adjusting a Canon 5D, and I still don’t know what focal distance is… I develop my pictures myself in my little bathroom using DesTop – it’s cheaper. In an attempt to act professional, I bought a red light for 15 euros, but it burnt out that very night. Instead, I use the moonlight shining through my skylight – it burns my prints slightly, but out of laziness I choose to keep this working method.
THE FINE PRINT: Do you think the eye is more sensitive to detail and to the object in a photograph without colour?
NICOLAS GAVINO: I don’t think so, but the approach is different. Colour brings information about the image as an instant sensation. On the other hand, black and white is more silent – nt my opinion it allows us to enter a domain of perception.
THE FINE PRINT: It seems to me that most of your images have been taken in the comfort of your own home. Is that the case? I’m curious to know who all of these magnificent women are!
NICOLAS GAVINO: Yes my images are often taken in my small apartment; there is a blend of fiction and reality. I simply photograph my friends, lovers, and models etc…
THE FINE PRINT: Which part of the female body do you think is the most feminine? What reveals its true essence?
NICOLAS GAVINO: The face, or maybe the back of the neck. There isn’t really a precise part, but rather a whole. The essence of femininity would be linked more to attitudes, ways of expressing oneself, I believe we call that charm.
THE FINE PRINT: Your work reminds me of Bobby Chang’s work, an analogue photographer based in Hong Kong, who we’ve interviewed already. What do you think distinguishes your work from other analogue photographers?
NICOLAS GAVINO: I have no idea, that’s for the viewer to decide. I just produce images for myself, after that each person can appropriate them in their own way. If it moves you, then I distinguish myself slightly from other photographers. I did not know Bobby Chang but I like his images.
THE FINE PRINT: If you had to choose, is there an artist you would like to collaborate with?
NICOLAS GAVINO: I don’t have anyone that comes to mind, but it would be with an artist that produces something completely different, or an icon like Bjork for example.
Text by ESTELLE GERVAIS