Photography has allowed me to lead the life I hoped to lead. Each day is different.
I have been privileged to travel, to learn, to meet ordinary and extraordinary people, to photograph ghosts and artists, super-models and still lives, factory workers and royalty. With photography I have consulted the oracle at Siwa, fished in lake Hövskul, Mongolia and visited the temples of Angkor Wat. Photography has taught me to evolve.
“A picture is worth a thousand words”. It is an extraordinary privilege to be face-to-face with someone and take their portrait, to capture something unique in a split second. I like the idea of transmitting the eye contact I made with the subject to someone who will see the portrait at a later date.
Portraits: For me black and white photography remains eternal. Most of these portraits are commissions. However some come from my will to meet people I admire and respect.
Reportage: Often my portraits are taken within the larger story of the subject, a reportage around their lives.
Smith & Proud: Smith is the most common family name in England. It is my name. Smith is also the term for an artisan working with various metals. This is an ongoing project, portraits of people who are a artisans in their various fields and who are called Smith.
J-C D : I was bowled over by the extremely powerful performance of Jean-Claude Dreyfus as Marie-Pierre in “Le mardi à Monoprix”. He accepted my proposition to follow his transformation, in the dressing room, before and after the show. I realised at what point the actor’s metamorphosis in such a role, and then back to being himself, is gruelling and exhausting.
India 2006: a trip to the holy city of Varanasi with Italian artist, Rosenda Arcioni Meer, tracing silk woven by muslim craftsmen to make hindu bridal sarees and sacred buddhist ceremonial cloth. A heaving mass of humanity where many religions intermingle peacefully.
India 2012: a return organised by Rosenda for her project, Kamalan. A wonderful discovery into the healing art of Indian Ayurvedic well-being, from Gokarna, via the Andaman islands, to Chenai and Pondicherry.
Japan: since 1987 I have spent over three years in Japan at various different times and seasons. This is a small selection including portraits of Kitaro, Monsieur Kamayatsu, Noboyushi Araki, Yoshi Oïda, Jun Miyaki and Kikuchiyo Kokontei, one of only a few female Rakugo (story telling) artists.
Jordan: an opportunity presented itself to visit Jordan, and opportunities are not to be missed.
From Amman to Aqaba via Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea and, of course, Petra I discovered this extraordinary country with my friend Zahia Hafs, for a company organising travel for women-only groups. My prior idea of the place, associated with Lawrence of Arabia and Tintin, was transformed by the focus on women’s interests.
Mongolia: in 1995 my friend Mako Yamazaki, proposed a trip to Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia to shoot a Japanese Mongolian friendship festival, where the main guest was Japanese fashion designer Zucca. I fell in love with the country and the people and returned three summers running.
Russia: of several trips to russia, including a two week trans-Siberian train ride, I have chosen a trip to Saint Petersburg during the white nights of summer.
These are photographs from various shows; long running, pop-ups, real and virtual.
50-fifty four: I had the chance to exhibit in one of Picasso’s old ateliers on the Boulevard Raspail in Paris. Louise Brody and her husband Charles Poisay are the current occupants and they asked for something new and “not in black and white”. Looking at my telephone I realised that I had a colourful 3000-image archive in my hand. 50-fifty four is the result. An homage to my sister and brother, they are bright optimistic nuggets inspired by friendship, desire, hope and love.
Cambodia: in the same vein as the 50-fifty four exhibition I wanted to make vibrant collages to accompany the publication of The Cambodia of Mr Rathanak book.
French Mosaic: over several years I worked with Naeko Ohta on her project “French Mosaic”. Living in Paris with her French husband it is a Japanese woman’s personal enquiry into what it means, today, to be French or living in France as a foreign national. Graphic designer Hiroshi Nakayama, scenographer Léa Saito and sound engineer Isaac Callot all collaborated on the project for which Naeko interviewed friends, well-known or not, she admires. It was an energetic pop-up event.
Miao: every twelve years the “buffalo sacrificing” festival is supposed to take place in south western China. Zahia Hafs and I flew from Paris to Kaili via Shanghai and then several hours by mini bus into the mountains. On arrival we were told that the ceremony wasn’t happening this year because the full moon had not been auspicious. Sometimes information on the internet lets us down. However we participated in “Recalling the Dragon” another Miao festival. These photos were exhibited at the biennial “Carnets de Voyage” festival in Clermont Ferrand. This thanks to Michel Renaud, who died at the Charlie Hebdo offices on the 7th January 2015. Merci Michel.
Tylz: this is the fruit of a collaboration between Tomer Lanzman, Florence de Tugny and Yves Taralon. They have brought several artists together in this virtual gallery.
My good friend Nicoletta Santoro once said to me: “Justin if no one sees your photos, then you are not a photographer.” From A to Z here are some traces.
akg: This is an independent family run photo agency based in Berlin, Paris and London. A lot of my images are available in their archives and circulate in the press, book publishing and advertising worlds.
British Legion: I am proud to have contributed to the extraordinary work accomplished by the British Legion. These photos were taken over several years at different events and commemorations. They have been used for educational packs in UK schools nationwide, helping students to understand the implications of war.
Clan Campbell: these are pictures from an internet advertising campaign. Shot in Scotland for a whisky manufacturer, they were used as animated still images.
fa: this is a job for a japanese hair and beauty product company. Shot in the French countryside, it is inspired by the portraits of August Sander, but with a twist obviously.
potomaq: akg agency have a fine art division, offering a selection of high quality photographs in varying formats and printing techniques. These are a few of my images available via potomaq.
scarves: I wished to continue the “50-fifty four” adventure, which had started as a photographic exhibition. In the digital age, where photos exist only on screens, I wanted to create a lasting object from my images, something universal. I chose scarves. I have used small ateliers to provide the cloth, to print them, using the latest technology, and to hand roll the resulting scarves. They are entirely “Made in France”, my home for over 30 years. The collection offered 8 limited-edition models, for both women and men.
Zucca: ah Zucca. I first met Akira Onozucca in Budapest at the international fashion photography festival. When an opportunity arose to photograph his initial menswear collection in Mongolia I couldn’t refuse. A friendship was formed which lead to various collaborations including the factory shots for his 10th anniversary book Travail.
Further traces have been left with books.
Ghosts: it’s a long story and one about seizing opportunities again. I met Michel de Grèce at a party in a converted lunatic asylum in Aleppo, Syria. After several months of working together he asked why I always took black and white pictures for myself in parallel to the colour shots for the magazine. On seeing the prints he said he had been “waiting two years to work on a ghost book and would I be interested?”
Five months of extraordinary adventures in twelve countries later the book Ces Femmes de l’au-delà was the result. This was later published in America as Living with Ghosts.
Zanzibar & Cambodia: these photographs are the result of a collaboration with my friends Elsie Herberstein and Damien Chavanat, both French illustrators; Under the banner “Les 3 Moustiquaires” we travelled to Zanzibar and Cambodia publishing two Carnets de Voyage travel sketch books that were part of a publishing phenomenon in France. In 2001 Zanzibar, Carnets de Voyage won the Lonely Planet prize for best illustrated travel book at the Clermont Ferrand Biennal.
St. James's: To help sell a unique property opposite St. James’s Palace in London, a public relations company commissioned this limited-edition luxury publication.
Mr Rathanak: to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Krousar Thmey the NGO at the centre of the original Cambodia travel sketch book, Benoit Duchâteau-Arminjon, aka Bénito, invited Elsie, Damien and I back to Cambodia to re-offend. Guided by the enigmatic Mr Rathanak we were asked to choose our 25 Greatest Hits of this remarkable country. This is our story.