Intimate, raw, sincere – those are the words to describe the work of French photographer Yannick Fornacciari. His last project, Exposed, touches on the momentous topic of Montreal's transgender community. In order to portray real individuals and their stories, Yannick decided to follow a dozen transgender people for nearly eight months, sharing intimate moments with them: transitions, difficulties, joys, rejection. The artist has talked to us about analog photography and how his psychological background helped to confront human’s sufferings.
First of all, please tell us about your background. How did you get started in the world of photography? What shaped you as an artist? 
I was born in the eighties to a modest family in the south of France. None of the people that surrounded me practiced or had an interest in art, so at the very beginning there was not much guiding me towards a career in visual arts. Although I got my first camera from my grandfather, so I guess he was the one to introduce me to photography. After this important event in my life, I became interested in looking at the world through the lens. I naturally started taking photos of my closest ones, mostly of my family and friends during our teenage years. Looking back, I realize that even though my parents did not have an artistic background, it is certainly down to them that I have such a sensitive outlook. Photography for me was a way to express inner feelings, and people have always been the main focus of my pictures.
You're a self-taught photographer, but you also studied Psychology at university. How do you explore psychological issues through the lens of your camera? Could you please talk more about the connection between both disciplines?
Psychology and photography are both incredible ways to understand what humankind is. Being part of one sphere allows you to have an insight in the other one, and this is great because you can interlink your knowledge and tools. But I think those two practices can also be contradictory on several points. First of all, psychology, in its practice and in therapy, involves results: we confront a lot of suffering, we must do something about it, we must help. On the other hand, in photography there is no demand. The photographer's work consists in reproducing what he has in front of him, in the fairest and most personal and sensitive way. No results needed, we must tell a story.
If there is one lesson psychology taught me as a photographer, it’s to intend being as objective as possible. Throughout my work experience I try hard to stay away from projecting myself on my models and their stories. The difficulty lies in the duality: what is subjective and what is objective? I guess this is a constant challenge for me. 
You have worked a lot in documentary photography. Does this influence your vision and the way you portray your subjects as well?
Documentary for me is just a way to represent subjects in a realistic way. I am not that interested in producing conceptual or commercial photography – shedding light on people's life, and even more on those who are ignored, is what interests me. And what I enjoy the most is when my portraits honestly reflect the truth.
The majority of your images are in black and white. Why did you make this choice? Do you believe it helps to uncover the deep feelings of your characters, emphasizing the important and leaving the rest behind? 
Analog black and white is the technique I first learned. I felt connected to its severe nature. It gives depth and softness to the portraits, and I just like how light harmonizes with the analog monochrome. It's a sensitive choice, I think, very classical and very traditional in a good way. Photographers who inspired me the most were always shooting in black and white: Raymond Depardon, Josef Kudelka, Hervé Guibert. It is not very popular nowadays, unfortunately. Young photographers seem to have a preference for color at the moment, but I have never felt like going with a trend. 
"I questioned what transgender people were going through in today's world."
Some photographers also shift to a more commercial approach nowadays; what do you love about shooting in analog? 
Analog is different. I think I like the physical aspect of the procedure. I don't like shooting with numeric cameras, it's like shooting with a computer – I'm sure it's fantastic but I don't know how to use it! So many buttons and settings... When you use analog technics, you learn to treat films differently, depending on what you want. It's way easier.
I do not modify my images, I do not use photoshop or whatever. If the image is good, it must be good from the beginning. That's why sometimes I need a lot of time between each shot. Every picture comes to life with the concern of perfection.
What brought you to the topic of the transgender community? What is your opinion on this contradictory question? 
For a while, I'd been wondering about the reality of transgender people. I questioned what they were going through in today's world. I've done a lot of work on gender and marginalization, and it just made sense for me to focus on the daily lives of trans people. So I signed up on forums, on Facebook pages, and I simply posted my work. I let the audience come to me, and I got a lot of positive responses.
In society, in the media, in art, and in culture in general, we don't really hear much about trans identity – who they are and what life do they live. We treat the topic in a very "cliché" way, with many stereotypes. That's pretty unfortunate, especially the fact that governments are not interested in facing this reality. This is even more true here in Canada. I produced this series in a real context when I felt the government acted in a very ignorant and discriminatory way. (According to the Quebec Civil Code, civil status change is only recognized for people that have undergone surgical treatment, discriminating transgender community and questioning gender designation).
What are your relations with the subjects behind the camera? Do you need to get to know them first? Do you remember their stories, or is it just work that connects you? 
I don’t really need to know my models in advance. Most of the time they are strangers I meet through social media or in real life. I like to be introduced to somebody while taking pictures of him/her. I think it’s a way for me to break some important social frontiers. I'm a shy person, and it seems that photography helps me to hide behind the lens to get to know someone. If my work looks intimate, that's because I am not very directive with my models: I do not ask them to do things, to act in a certain way, like professionals. I want them to feel they can be themselves, because that is what interests me as a photographer. Sometimes they become friends, but that is not usual. For my series Exposed, for example, I have been following some models during a whole year, seeing them once a week.
Have you had sensitive moments during your work? Something special that touched you.
A lot! Especially during my work on this documentary, when I was meeting transgender persons and following them through transition. I could clearly see the struggles they had to confront, like family-life or intimidation at work. I went to the clinic with those who had been operated... Those experiences forge bonds, of course. I saw one of them being kicked out of a shelter because he was trans, I saw a trans girl becoming a sex worker because no one wanted to employ her in a basic job.
Your images are strong, especially those focusing on social issues. For instance, why did you become interested in feminism?
I started to follow the feminist activists of FEMEN when I arrived in Montreal, at the end of 2013. I had been in Canada for one year, and I’d heard about them after one of their protests in France, where they interrupted a Christian march against gay marriage. Their courage and boldness reawakened my taste for activism.
I was born in a very patriarchal area. Due to the Mediterranean mentality, I've always realized that equality was not being achieved, not even nearly. I've always been very close to my mum, and I have been a witness of her struggles as a mother, as a wife, and as a woman. I realized my father, and men in general in the south of France, had a lot of privileges. I believe I've always been a feminist and wanted to fight for equality and against injustice. FEMEN brings feminism to the streets, they act straight daring to change things in a way we've never seen before. Being a man, I could not participate as an activist, so I decided to help them taking pictures. Today, I am totally involved in the movement.
And finally, do you have some future projects in mind? Some ideas you want to explore, places to go, people to shoot...
I would like to investigate the sex industry going on in Montreal, and meet the sex workers. The city is the number one destination for sex tourism in America, mainly because you can find whatever you want for the cheapest prices there. So I think my next project will be another documentary!