Axel Morin, a Parisian photographer and director, has recently published a remarkable book that offers a unique insight into his creative process. Titled GSM 2015-2022, this series of photographs straddles the realms of fine art and commercial work, portraying the essence of everyday life through the lens of a phone. Morin collaborated with author Theo Casciani and art director Jade Lombard to bring this project to life, which aims to reveal the poetry in his work.
The book's images are not arranged in a linear or geographical sequence, but rather they flow organically, capturing fragments of  the artists memories and allowing the reader to create their own narrative while exploring his emotional journey. Through his lens, we discover a world of vibrant emotions and personal journeys captured through the prism of a phone - an everyday accessory that has become a symbol of modern times. His work offers an exceptional opportunity to observe the thought process of a highly skilled photographer and director, and to gain a deeper understanding of the role technology plays in contemporary art. By transcending the boundaries between fine art and commercial work, Morin exemplifies the significance of artistic expression in our daily lives.
To start off, would you mind introducing yourself to anyone who may be unfamiliar with you and your work?
Axel Morin, I’m a French photographer and director based in Paris. My work straddles the fine art and commercial worlds, and includes photography, collage, painting and video.
Can you describe the inspiration behind the excerpt from your new book?
The book was written in collaboration with Theo Casciani, a great author, a novelist of the young generation, with whom I wanted to collaborate for a long time. We had the desire to highlight the poetry in the work, where the thoughts are directly related to my philosophy and vision of this series. We worked these texts as romanticised thoughts of a moment, while following a thread with a beginning and an end, like a logbook of my urban itinerancy.
I then wanted to translate that same poetic essence into images. Throughout the book, I created with the talented art director and friend, Jade Lombard, visual sequences of everyday life in a dynamic, organic and sensory way so that the reader is totally immersed in the story. The book was not built in a chronological or geographical way. The idea was to make the images live freely - fragments of my memory, the images respond to each other in their own way. I wanted the reader to have the sensation of traveling inside my emotions and my journey while building their own story. It is important that the text and the images are linked.
GSM 2015 - 2022 is an artistic work in which I wanted to give my poetic retranscription and vision of the city and the countryside, evoking vibrant emotions that can be felt through personal journeys. This series draws a sensory stroll of a poetised daily life, all captured through the prism of a phone, an everyday accessory, the snapshot of modern times.
Behind this series, I draw my world as a living painting, always in motion, where we can capture stories through our personal sensitivity due to the elements that surround us. An image is above all a story, a moment of reflection of our daily scenery, captured and immortalised. An image reflects the truth of a moment, I like to look at things from different angles, to question myself on what I see, the look has no price, the feeling and the emotions are subjective. In this series my images are neither anticipated nor constructed, they are collected instinctively, as close as possible to the raw and personal emotion. To finish, I would say that it is a sincere and sensorial photographic series.
Your writing in the book is very poetic. How does your writing influence your photography?
We imagine words and translate images. They are intertwined and always will be. In a picture sometimes I see words and through words I make pictures.
In your new GSM, you mention the city resembling the countryside it infected. Can you expand on that idea and how it influences your work?
It is contextual. It is linked to the story written in the book. At this moment of the story, the urban mass has regained its calm, to the point that it strangely resembles the nature that it has constantly vampirised. This is how we translated this moment with Theo Casciani.
Can you walk us through your process of capturing a fleeting moment or image on your iPhone camera?
It happens very naturally, I work by instinct, listening to the emotion of the present moment. The city is in constant motion, painting the daily life of each citizen. I capture with my phone stories of moments influenced by how I translate my vision of life.
I like to look at things from different angles, wondering about what I see.
The iPhone is a bit like the compact camera we used to have back in the day, always in our pocket and allowing us to take snapshots of every moment with authenticity. I love going into the depths of the images, zooming in until they become abstract like a painting. I have no rules when it’s time to take pictures with my phone. I push it to its maximum capacity. I don't look for settings in advance, I experience things naturally and sometimes visual accidents create beautiful and unexpected visuals. I like to use the iPhone as a paint brush, I don't have any predefined rules, I just do what I feel in the moment.
What role do you think technology plays in modern photography, and how do you use it to your advantage?
Technology has an important role in modern photography, it allows us to have a faster creative process and gives us more latitude on the effects! But it’s not necessarily always positive. I think you have to be very careful with that, it can be a trap, it can get in the way of creativity in some cases. We live in a world where everything is fast and we want everything all at once. Technology has adapted to this rhythm and reality, the black mirror life.
In my opinion, before using technological tools that facilitate your speed of work and thought, you should master your subject by going through more traditional work methods. Then, once you've reached that comfort level, have fun and play with the technology. You have to understand your camera with all its technicality surrounding it. Play with the light, create shadows and shapes and dance with it to find your signature. Analysing and learning how your subject lives and moves will help you create images with authentic essence. Take the time to compose and create images that speak to your soul.
Today, it’s easy to make beautiful images with technology. But making an image that has meaning and transmits emotions is more difficult. As far as I am concerned, I play with technology for pleasure. Luckily for our generation, now we have access to a wide range of cameras to create films and photos that are visually breathtaking. It's exciting! You just have to understand what you are holding in your hands and use it wisely. For me, a camera is like a paintbrush for a painter, depending on the result I want to achieve, I select the right tool to use to push my creativity further.
If we talk about the tool I used to make this series, an iPhone, what I find fascinating is that phones were first designed for basic oral communication and now they have become a multidisciplinary tool creating new languages and a new grammar for dialogue. The iPhone is a great tool to work with, it’s practical, light, intuitive and always in your pocket. The quality of the images is incredible and can be immersive! The iPhone allows you to do a lot of artistic things, it's perfect for experimentation. I find that filming with a phone allows you to be more intimate with the characters by erasing barriers and bringing lightness. I don't have any predefined rules, I just do what I feel at the moment.
Your extract deals with the notion of time and memory. How do you try to capture these elements in your photography?
My photographs have a sense of time because they are freeze-frames of my life, saved moments that I have captured during my journey and therefore moments I remember.
My images are fragments of my life, my work and my memory.
Can you talk about your experience of photographing light and its effects on your subjects?
The light dances on my subjects and my subjects dance with the light depending on the organic and sensory elements that surround us. In this series, each photo reflects a personal emotion or thought and light plays a big role in the process.
How do you choose your subjects and locations?
I didn't choose it, they came to me inadvertently at different times and moments throughout my journey. Nothing is predetermined.
Your excerpt also touches on the concept of time and memory. How do you strive to capture these elements in your photography?
I like my photographs to tell stories. The GSM series reveals personal emotions that I romanticised in my own way. The line is fine and sometimes blurred between reality and fiction. I think everyone's perception is subjective but I like to imagine that all the elements I photograph are alive and organic. And each shares a certain emotion with the public.
Your work has been described as capturing the essence of urban life. How do you see your photography contributing to the conversation around urban spaces?
It helps to bring beauty sometimes to things around us that we don't necessarily pay attention to in our daily lives.
Can you tell us about a particularly memorable photograph or moment you captured?
This black billboard in the middle of a bright blue sky is powerful. The image looks still, but it was shot in motion when I was in the chaotic urban traffic. I like the visual poetry that links these two elements. There is a contradiction and it gives me a sensation of the black out in the matrix. Like a another world, without advertising, as if time was on pause, for a moment.
Finally, do you have any upcoming projects? Is there a particular direction you aim to take with your work?
I am starting to work on the continuation of this GSM project, and I am already thinking about creating a new book including a new series.
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