Florie Berger, photographer
Florie Berger is a photographer. She also works in the visual animation space and video. Her identity falls at the meeting of disparate influences like melancholy, contrasts, geometry, and delicateness; all aligned with her values as well as those of her clients. A form of poetry that allows her to work with brands such as Alexandre Vauthier, Atelier NA, Lancel, trade shows like Who’s Next and Première Classe, as well as exhibiting her own work that falls somewhere between commercial photography and fine arts photography. And since she considers that her specialty is fashion and product photography, it seemed to us that a portrait of this photographer -and more- should be an obvious addition to our pages.
Can you describe yourself in a few words?
Photography has become my preferred medium for expression and experimentation. After several years in events organisation consulting and communications, I decided to take two years off to travel and do something that brought some sense to my life. I traveled to Eastern Europe (the Balkans and Baltic countries) with my knapsack and my camera, looking to meet new people. I brought back thousands of pictures, portraits, and life experiences. Once back in Paris, it was clear to me that I was not going back to one of those “open spaces” which have become, in my mind, anti-imagination and anti-creativity. I started being asked to exhibit my work and then some record labels and concert spaces like chez Paulette asked me to do press photos for their artists and musicians, followed by commissions from digital magazines like The Blind Magazine.
I also worked part-time for a neighbourhood photography studio, in order to test lighting equipment and develop my own techniques.
Through portrait photography, I immediately discovered a desire to create scenes for my models, setting them in situations so that I could tell a story. Through that, I quickly arrived at the fashion world. Today, I work freelance and in late 2018 I founded the creative studio/workspace "Beaujour Bonsoir" above the Belleville park, in partnership with a friend who works in music.
I create personal series of images that I exhibit or that are published as editorials in magazines; alone or in partnership with people whose work I adore, like set designers, fashion designers, and makeup artists. I also work for several brands in fashion, cosmetics and lifestyle; both with models and still lifes.
You are not specialised only in fashion photography, but why does that space interest you?
Fashion has revealed itself to me as an experimental space where you can tell stories and create scenes from scratch using all sorts of media. I’m not a fashionista. In fact, all too often I have no idea who the brands are that contact me.
But I love materials, I love shapes, and I love the imagination, as well as learning about the history of a brand. Fashion allows me to propose a whole universe, and work with a team.
How do you work with your clients?
Generally, a client approaches me with a specific problem or challenge in mind like, “I have a certain collection, or a certain product, a graphic chart (or not), a brand book (or not), a theme in mind (or not,) a certain budget (or not, LOL) = What can you suggest?”
I often intervene before the shoot, because I live in a fairly dreamlike universe and I have to see if this can align with the client’s universe, and how. Artistic Direction is therefore important in this phase of the project. After a first client presentation, I usually propose a mood board with my vision of the shoot, which also takes into consideration the needs of the client. This mood board will include visual research that I have set up so that the images can communicate amongst each other (this can include photos, paintings, sculptures, sketches, colors, and ambiances / lighting / materials, etc).
After that, we decide and we see what is possible; then we discuss how to set things up.
In your eyes, what is the right balance between showing your universe without denaturing the spirit of the brand?
That is the big question!
The client contacts me because he or she has already seen my universe, so he or she is usually the one who has chosen the ambiance.
In my style of photography, sometimes things are out of focus, veiled or hazy. This is perfect for certain brands, but for others we have to find compromises to mitigate the effect. I’m thinking specifically about jewellery and fashion accessories, where a hazy effect can make the product seem blurry.
The client will always look at their product first, and see if it’s well lit, perfectly clear, doesn’t have a speck of dust, and so on.
I think this is a pity in the sense that what is going to form the identify of a brand is the universe it’s seen in (the general ambiance, the set design, the models chosen, etc.) I’m not saying that we don’t pay enough attention to a product, but the product should relate to the surrounding universe. Therefore, I often advise clients to do 2 sets of images: the ad campaign photos (the universe) and the packshot (product shots).
What types of shoots have been the most difficult to manage for you?
Shoots with children!
Actually, they are often brilliant because children are real little clowns. I love them!
But you find yourself having to manage kids that are running around in every direction, making sure that the decor doesn’t fall apart, making sure that the product can be clearly seen (for exemple, size 22 shoes are minuscule!), making sure that the styling is dynamic, and even managing the parents!
All of this has to be done in very little time because laws concerning minors are very strict.
What role does re-touching play in your fashion work?
The work of editing in general is essential. I believe that the chromatique research and framing should make up the final touches of a photo. I don’t do the type of re-touching that "transforms" a model or the color of the sky (I’m thinking of those posters that give the impression that someone stuck an arm in the place of a leg.)
I am a partisan of the natural! I like cinematographic texture; I sometimes do graphic work on my photos to continue their story.
Is there a type of material and environment that are better adapted to fashion photography, in your eyes?
I don’t think so.
I think that most people want fashion photography to transport us into a world of sensations.
Sensations can be anywhere, you just have to reveal them. So, lighting is precious in my mind. Whether it’s studio light or daylight.
What is ratio of shoot time/post-production time for you?
There are 3 stages in the creation of visuals: pre-production (discussing with clients, artistic direction and moods, arts articles, budgets), production (taking the picture, coordinating the teams), and the post-production (choice of visuals, re-touching, editing, whether it’s print or digital).
Each stage takes time, because you have to make sure that everything is in place. Most people think that once the shoot is over, the job is finished, but the post-production phase is crucial because there is a lot of work to make sure that the images stand out and that their identity aligns with the brand’s communication strategy. This is the phase that allows both sides to co-habit together.
Where do you generally position yourself in terms of selecting the models?
There are a few options: either I’m asked to do the castings, or I’m given a pre-selection.
It’s very hard to choose the person who will be the brand ambassador. I’ve already been mistaken and when that happens, the series takes on a whole other meaning.
Are there any brands you dream of collaborating with?
Because of my love of beauty, craftsmanship, and the organic: Hermès.
One day, maybe!
Where do you get your inspiration?
For inspiration, I always look to painting and cinema.
Hopper for introspection, Picasso for colours and geometry, Caravaggio and Da Vinci for light, Magritte for the imaginary.
In cinema, Sergei Parajanov for his shots that look like paintings and his symbolism (La couleur de la grenade/The Color of Pomegranates), Jean-Jacques Beineix for his colors (Diva), Leos Carax for his view of love and melancholy (Mauvais Sang/Bad Blood), Wong Kar-Wai for his slow rhythm and beauty (In The mood For love).
What role does social media have in promoting your work?
Let’s say that Instagram has more or less become my showcase... Especially since I haven’t finished my website!
But it’s almost ready; thanks to confinement it really advanced. If you want to see the work in progress version go to: florieberger.com / password: bonjour.
However, I do consider myself as only a moderate user of social media, as I don’t really like to post… I’m fairly difficult and I want everything to have a sense. So I take my time!
Photography : Florie Berger