Photography has become a bond to the world for this Paris-based photographer. With a growing curiosity for people, Florent Vindimian uses his hybrid fashion-documentary style to unveil the complexities of the world through his camera lens. Breaking out of an introverted persona, his work has allowed him to discover new surroundings. With an open-minded attitude and an empathetic approach, the multitalented artist uses photography as a way to communicate with those around him. Aspiring to share his recognition for the uniqueness of the human race, Vindimian is working to manifest the multiplicity of the world. From Benin, Ivory Coast, Nigeria to Morocco, where will photography take him next?
First off, could you tell us a few words about yourself and your work? Where did you grow up?
I was born in Lyon then moved to Chantilly, a quiet city surrounded by nature in the Parisian suburbs. I grew up there, then I moved to Paris at the age of 19. I am doing photography, in (I like to say) a fashion/documentary way. I also direct short fashion and lifestyle movies and music videos.
When and how did you first get into exploring photography? What is it about taking an image to convey a story that inspires you to create?
When I was 3 years old my family and I went on vacations around the United States, from New York to Los Angeles. That was the first time I took a plane, and it is kind of my first memory of that early age too, my dad put into my hands a disposable camera. I still have those photos at home. So, I was introduced to photography through trips and I’ve always seen photography at its prime interest, to me, to keep memories.
Now I always try to create stories that would stay realistic, even if it’s fashion. I feel like so many people are not showing who they really are nowadays, and I like to try to let them be free to show who they are through my lens.
Do you have a personal connection to your work? How do you use photography as a form of expression?
Growing up I was always a shy person, only following my closest friends who were obviously the opposite of me. Photography brought me to force me to go to meet people and listen to them. These are my pictures but it is their stories in the first place.
Photography has become my bond to other people. That’s how I communicate with other people. The people that are seeing my pictures and also the ones I have in front of my camera.
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How would you describe your own work? What are some of the messages or emotions you are hoping to convey to your audience through your photographs?
I’m hoping that by seeing my pictures, people will travel in their head and discover human beings they haven’t been paying attention to or just couldn’t reach. I hope that it can get people to be more acceptant and learn about other people’s cultures. That’s why I always try to get positive shots, with smiles and funny actions. And I hope it makes people feeling more empathetic because, in the end, we are all the same…
Many of your photographs centre around an individual or group. What is it that interests you or captivates you about photographing people?
I think that, in the first place, I have been really impressed by the people I have photographed. I also like to see and show a variety of people. We human beings are so multiple and unique.
You’ve been to Benin, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Morocco. Are there any special or memorable moments about these places that you wouldn’t mind sharing with us?
Every one of those pictures and movies has a story behind it, but let me try one.
We were finishing this singer called Jurist's music video on top of a bulldozer, and I wanted to take a really iconic picture of him when a gang of men arrived trying to collect money from us and interrupting the shooting pretending they were the bulldozer guards. That got me really mad. These street hustlers started to threaten me and that got me even madder because they were going against Jurist’s opportunity to have a music video, plus their bulldozer was complete rubbish. Then, when they saw that I was really angry they calmed down and left. They ended up coming back to me asking if they could be in the picture, which offered me my iconic shot!
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Your mom was born in Morocco, do you have a personal connection to it? How did this translate through your work?
My mom was born there but also my grand-dad has been living there for more than 45 years, so I grew up listening to all these stories about this place. That got me really curious about this country and I have always had an emotional connection to this place because of this.
The fact that she grew up in this place where there is a lot of misery and oppression made him teach me about discrimination at an early age. She taught me about respect, being open-minded and empathy. That’s a big part of my approach when I take pictures of people.
With Nigeria being an ex-British colony and Morocco being an ex-French colony, what were some of the political barriers you noticed in these places? What are some social or political issues that your work addresses?
In Nigeria, much of the time people didn’t want to get photographed by a white man as they felt disrespected because of what Western countries did there. However, they also have some interest in the unknown so some of them were really friendly too.
I saw a lot of pictures from these places through old documentaries and in a way, they were always sad pictures showing the struggle and the misery there and I don’t think that it's fair.
You previously created your own brand, Fou Clothing, inspired by your trip to Ivory Coast. Would you ever get back into designing again?
It’s not on my current diary to start to design again but my girlfriend is launching her own line, so I would like to bring my experience to her and help her in any way I can, from the designs to the photo visuals.
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Do you have a favourite place that you like to photograph? What is it about that place that intrigues or inspires you to create?
Morocco is one of my favourite places, it has everything. Many people there are really open-minded and welcoming. The culture is impressive, not to mention their food. But also the places that I haven’t been to yet are my favourite ones!
How has looking through a camera lens given you a different outlook or perspective on the world around you? What have you learned about the world?
Looking through this medium got me to be even more curious about people, and it challenged all my thoughts about where I was going. I met so many different people with diverse characters when we always try to stereotype people from this country or another. I learned that every little place and every different being has it own story and particularity, we should never forget the beauty of all that diversity.
What are your plans for the future? Where will your photography take you next?
I want to go back to Morocco when Covid calms down. Also, I dream about exploring Congo. And my girlfriend, being from Sri Lanka, we have a plan to go there and make a documentary about her, make a fashion shoot with her creations and her people.
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