Two years ago, Sophie Ebrard left a successful career in advertising and turned into a passionate photographer renowned for her touching portraits and peaceful landscapes with clean geometrical lines. Vrag talks to Sophie about her emotions during the photoshoots, a current project on porno sets and how her advertising past influences her photography present.
Vrag: What brought you into photography?
Sophie Ebrard: As far as I remember, I’ve been always taking pictures. My dad is keen on photography, so I always had an access to a camera in my childhood. After graduating the university, I got straight into advertising. It felt like the right thing to do for me at the time. It took me almost a decade to realize that in fact my childhood passion for photography was what I wanted to do for a living. So, two years ago, I left my well-paid job in advertising and started a new career. It’s been a great journey so far.
Vrag: What does photography mean to you?
Sophie Ebrard: When you are a photographer this is what who are – from the moment you wake up till you go to bed. It’s not a nine-to-five job. It’s constantly with you.
Vrag: What equipment do you use for shooting?
Sophie Ebrard: Digital cameras never suited me. Getting an instant result takes me out of the experience. I love shooting on film because I like the surprise-factor and the whole process involved. It just feels right – the texture, the colors…There is a certain magic in it.
Vrag: We have a feeling that you always try to tell a story through your works. How do you see your works?
Sophie Ebrard: I believe I have a good eye for reality, an instinct for finding beauty in supremely ordinary things. Plus, I’ve a very graphical eye, so I am fascinated by well-worked lines and angles. I like to make normal things appear special with unobvious framings, and want my pictures to show the things people might not see. My photographs are observationally honest and sensitive with an emphasis on storytelling. After a decade in advertising, I think, storytelling got drilled into my brain! There is also something in my work that I would call “tenderness with the subject”, and, as a woman, I add a nurturing and caring eye to my pictures.
Vrag: Most of your shots were taken outside the studio, in the street. Do you prefer working outside?
Sophie Ebrard: Light is very important in my life and in my work. So, I prefer shooting outside rather than inside a studio. When I’m abroad, I usually do personal shootings. I like being in another country because it makes me look at things differently and pay more attention to simple details than I would do in my day-to-day life. I try to use natural lighting as much as possible because the sun is the most beautiful source of light you can ever find. I love playing with flair, contrasts, light and shadows. When I light a set, I always try and replicate the effect the sun produces and make it as natural as possible.
Vrag: How does it feel to be a photographer in London?
Sophie Ebrard: Ever since I moved to London 6 years ago, it feels like home to me. I love the pace of the city, the excitement and the energy that comes with it. London really inspires me and has a huge effect on the nature of the projects I work on, and on my style of photography. The downside is probably the lack of light! But hey – you can fly anywhere in the world from London in search for the perfect light!
Vrag: Is it difficult for you to find the balance between what you want to get from the shooting and what your clients want?
Sophie Ebrard: The most difficult thing when you take on commercial work is to embrace the values of the brand you are working on without losing your own personal style and vision. I guess having insider knowledge – thanks to my past career in advertising – helps me understand and anticipate everyone’s needs – creative, clients, ad agencies – and not be intimidated by the entire process. I have managed to work on really inspiring brands so far producing great images for them – Stella Artois, Vodafone, Match.com, Roksanda Ilincic.
Vrag: What inspires you? What photographers inspire you?
Sophie Ebrard: It’s a difficult question because there are so many talented people who I admire and who have inspired me throughout the journey, and continue to do it! These are not only the photographers – from Stephen Shore to William Eggleston, Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier Bresson and Irvin Penn – but also the painters (Frida Kahlo), the film directors (Jean Luc Godard), the poets (Charles Baudelaire). I’m also lucky to be surrounded by very talented people who really inspire me everyday.
Vrag: What was the last thing that made you smile or cry, or just made you feel something?
Sophie Ebrard: It feels like an obvious thing to say, but emotion is one thing on the top of my list while shooting. Most of my photographs are not too staged or set up, so emotion is a key factor in them. When I press the shutter, it’s because I feel something happening in front of my lens. So, I guess the last time I felt something was the last time I pressed the shutter of my Mamiya 7II.
I think photographers are like hunters. They operate on adrenaline. They like being on the front line. It’s hard to slow them down, stop shooting for a moment and look at their work, edit it. I get really excited and I have this craving for taking shots when I go somewhere new and I feel the light or the moment is special. I love that feeling. That’s what keeps me going.
Vrag: What are your current projects?
Sophie Ebrard: I am currently working on a personal project that got me across the Atlantic – in LA – to take pictures on porn sets. It’s a long-term project that will hopefully lead to an exhibition and a book. When I talked about finding beauty everywhere, even in tough and bleak places, that’s one of the key aspect of this series! It was not always easy to make beautiful images with what I was seeing in front of my camera! But so far I’m very happy with the result. It’s been an inspiring project and it’s fascinating to get to know an industry that is so closed. There is a lot to talk about!
Interview by: Kristina Voytovich