Whenever talking about Paris, “capital of photography” is on everyone's lips and it’s not without reason. We asked seven foreign professional photographers why they decided to come and work in Paris and to share their views and experiences on how to make it in the City of Light.
Home Is Where Your Heart Is
You’re a photographer full of dreams and expectations. Fresh out of college, bored to hell in a town of 1000, or just so eager to see the world… Search no more, Paris is the city for you. Or so it seems, listening to our panel of professional photographers who have found their way serendipitously or deliberately to the French capital. But is leaving your nest and going through the hardship of settling abroad worth it?
“It was never a ‘decision’. My heart decided it.” — Edyta Lizakowska
Settling abroad is often motioned by intuition and maybe, yes, fate. And Edyta Lizakowska, lifestyle photographer, sure didn’t know what her long-term plans would be 10 years ago. After hitchhiking her way from Poland to France, the fearless artist decided to try her luck in Paris … and just never left. She had no money, knew virtually no French at all, nor English but somehow felt good, she felt at home.
“Here, my dreams are not dreams anymore, they’re plans. Everything is possible in Paris. I have the freedom to reinvent myself as I want to.” — Edyta Lizakowska
Passionate about creating worlds and impacting the world positively, she cherishes the “in betweenness” Paris imposes on its resident, as if one was forced to lead a full life. Art is found at every corner, observed our foreign photographers, and it really drives artists to overdo themselves, between commercial projects, personal work, exhibitions and publishing books.
While working hard is instrumental in a successful career as a photographer, where you invest your efforts will also matter.
“A really extensive art scene as well as a huge advertising and fashion industry. Also, good cheap wine.” — Kourtney Roy
We couldn’t agree more with Canadian fashion photographer Kourtney Roy who left the wilds of Ontario for Paris just after her studies in Beaux-Arts. Coming from a remote background, the emerging artist found in Paris the ideal scene for her autobiographical photo and video-based work with cinematic aesthetics playing on ambiguity. Ola Rindal, also a fashion photographer, shares a similar story. Growing up on a farm in Norway, he found Paris offered a space where “lot of different ideas exists at the same time,” making the city a conducive place for creation. So much so that his last exhibit, at Hotel de Ville de Paris, featured his vision of Paris through excerpts of a book published in 2017.
The Means To Create
Paris is undoubtedly inspiring with its “romantic streets,” tons of exhibits and French art de vivre, but the city also offers the dual advantage of supporting creativity with often unrivaled resources and organizations. Nicola Lo Calzo, corporate photographer, stresses the fact that photography benefits from a different status in France compared to Italy.
“The places to exhibit photography are not organized like in France, which has a strong photography tradition dated back to the nineteenth century. The most important festivals, fairs and galleries for photography are based in France.” — Nicola Lo Calzo
Creative photographer Anna Malagrida from Spain agrees with her counterpart nothing that “Paris is both historical and cutting edge, it’s a megapolis where cultures intensely intersect. Paris has a deep interest in art and always welcomed foreign artists.” In the field of photography, what makes Paris so ideal according to our foreign talents is the excellent coverage, the sound infrastructures, the interest and resources invested in photography, its iconic venues like Jeu de Paume and Le Bal, and its prominent art fairs like Paris Photo and FIAC. Malagrida also highlights the contribution of Jeu de Paume made to women photographers through high quality exhibitions of contemporary and historical works made by women.
The strong institutional framework for culture in Paris is relatively well-known, but what about independent structures such as brands working with content creators? British cinematographer/photographer David Foulkes shared that Parisian brands often follow a different workflow in which the artist is closely integrated, which is to him nothing but positive.
“The one big difference I’ve felt is the relationship between the director and their producer. They are, generally speaking, much closer in terms of creative decision-making, throughout all stages of production.” — David Foulkes
On the other hand, Sandra Rocha, a Azores native, do believe that the photography industry is the same everywhere.
“State-specific styles are a thing of the past. Photographers have gone global.” — Sandra Rocha
To which Edyta Lizakowska adds, she doesn’t see any differences in today’s fashion photography between Poland and France and that she’s happy about it. Liberating artists from their national context can therefore switch modern-day creative process from a local perspective to a more global one.
"I believe the next step fashion photography needs to take is towards a place where there are no aesthetics without ethics.” — Edyta Lizakowska
For Edyta Lizakowska, European photography leans towards a more eco-conscious approach in its process, but also in its subject. She believes the next trend will be to convey natural beauty with less retouched, fake-looking images.
Dreaming The Good Dream
If settling abroad is your dream, or if you intend to leave for a gap year, art residency or personal project, the following tips may help you get ahead of the curve.
From her experience, Edyta Lizakowska strongly suggest you learn the local language. She now laughs about it, but it hadn’t been easy to adapt, especially in regard with the French administration she declares the “craziest and most absurd” in the world. Kourtney Roy advises hard work, perseverance, discipline and a mono-focused approach to whomever wants some recognition in photography. She adds a thick skin and obsessive behaviors also helped her establishing herself in Paris. Nicola Lo Calzo warns that building a good network is essential when settling abroad as you will need all the support you can get. Ola Rindal reminds us to stay passionate about our work as it it may take some time to make it in Paris.
We wish you good luck and success in your journey, should you decide to leave. They say Fortune favors the bold so just go for it and don’t forget to enjoy the ride while it lasts.