The art of Marwane Pallas is submerged in aesthetic pleasure, sacred art and catharsis. Each of his photographs tells us about past myths. He seizes classical culture and blends it with love and violence to create painterly-like photographs. 
In 2015, the name of Marwane Pallas started to circulate thanks to his series Doctrine of Signatures. The French, self-taught photographer was then quickly exposed to New York, London, Paris and Milan with his fresh and graceful approach of digital self-imaging. Despite all that, Pallas didn't quit his studies. Today he is based in London, working in finance. We talked with Marwane, to learn about his past and future.
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You are a self-taught artist – how did you first connect with art and later with photography? Do you define yourself as 'self-taught' because you didn't attend Art School?
I used to paint and draw as a child. I was fond of History and took my inspirations from there – in the books, prints of paintings, and reproductions of antic statues. I’d paint the lost cities I'd wish to discover, the castles I wanted to explore… I only switched to photography because I never had the patience to finish many drawings and it seems like photography was faster and immediately more moving and impacting. I kept the same inspirations. I did not attend an Art School or photography classes. My knowledge of the techniques is very limited.
The light in your photos reminds me of the scenes depicted by painters like Poussin or Delacroix – some bucolic scenes, an atmosphere of dark romanticism: Who or rather what art movement(s) do you associate with?
My work is very inconsistent; I’ve shot surrealist, painting-like images, minimalist nudes with washed out colours... I love the light in Renaissance Paintings, both Dutch and Italian (Caravaggio mainly). I can’t really say I admire a master in particular or that I associate with an art movement. I do not overthink what I do. Great manifestos are from the past, and they are done. I feel like a Muggle when I meet real artists. I can’t really connect. I’m not very interested in what is happening in the art world either; I may be missing out. I’m just an amateur. I sometimes borrow styles and imagery from the past the same way I thrift shop. I just bought a fantastic leather jacket for instance. But I’m not a Punk.
You mainly explore techniques of self-portraiture. Is there any particular reason why you do so? Why are you your own model?
There are so many reasons. I like acting, so there’s one. I also like shooting pictures like I used to draw. Growing up, my parents could take me anywhere; even where there weren’t any other kids my age, and they just needed to make sure I had a pencil and papers. For me, it’s the same with photography. I would not like to rely on anyone. It allows me to fail without consequences and to move at my own pace. I go out for walks with my camera and sometimes come back without ever having opened my bag. I like the independence and would hate the pressure of having to fulfil other people’s expectations on top of mine.
Your body of work suggests you live a solitary life – do you experiment with loneliness when practicing art?
I do live a rather solitary life. Some of my favorite photos of mine I shot at low points. They crystalized a soft sadness, and when I make something beautiful, it boosts my self-esteem, brings me confidence and allows me to approach others more easily. My photography is also what brings a lot of people to me, they remember it, they start conversations about it, etc. So Photography can be a good ally when I don’t abandon myself too much in it. 
I’ve been trying to be more sociable, and it means less photography. It’s the reason why I did not shoot anything last year. I struggle to have a job, a busy social life and a hobby that’s a career for some. I am open to operate in a more inclusive way with people, shooting friends for instance, documenting our time together. But I’m not yet comfortable being that one annoying friend at a party, and it forces you to live a photographic life... I’d rather stage a self-portrait than portrait a staged life.
Tell me more about your series The Doctrines of Signatures – this connection between the common objects of everyday life and the unknown structure of the human body?
Well, I don’t overthink it too much. The Doctrines of Signatures is a thousand years old belief that plants resemble various parts of the body, and can be used by herbalists to treat ailments of those body parts. They believed that for each illness God left a cure and it is Men’s work to spot the signs in Nature. But I only found that title after I shot the series, to be honest. The truth is that one-day I looked at an orange and thought it looked like an opened chest, not much more to it. I thought I’d do a series, so I changed my habits and tried to think beforehand about other similar ideas I could shoot in my small Parisian bedroom. You must show a series and not stand-alone incoherent pictures to get publications and exhibitions. It worked. But the only image I really wanted to shoot was this blood orange picture, and maybe I shouldn’t say that
How do you create? I've read that you work instinctively – you have an idea, then you shoot it – is this still true?
Oh no, I give up all the time. I’m rarely obsessed by an idea. I just improvise whatever works on camera. I’ve tried to copy other artists’ methods and also bought expensive looking notebooks that I’ve never used.
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What would you say you were, a photographer, an image-maker, a mind-agitator, an enchanter? 
I don’t know if my approach to the medium is instinctive or just simple-minded, but I really don’t overthink what I do. It’s up to anyone. I don’t really understand myself either.
You also work in finance at the same time? I was wondering what it was like to play a ‘financial executor’ during the day, then the artist after 6pm. Is it a little bit schizophrenic? Do you let these two universes impact/collide with each other? 
Yes, my colleagues know my photos, people are very open minded here. Last year I chose to abandon photography. I moved to London, I have no space here, no studio or privacy. I needed friends and a job. I could not get into a ménage a trois with photography. I wish I could make a job out of photography, but I went through many deceptions and disappointments. Chasing well-established collectors to get them to pay you what they owe you is disheartening when you’re a struggling young artist. And as I said, I always feel some form of disconnect with other artists. I’m less bohemian and more cynical and rational. I shot a fashion editorial for an Italian magazine in January, so I came out of retirement for this shooting. It’s not yet a commercial job, but I believe it gave me a taste of it. It would be very hard for me to make a living with photography in London and I don’t have an agent. I can’t really say I’ve made the conscious choice of not being a full-time photographer. Sometimes dreams fail. I do like having a ‘city job’ because I’m good at it, it exercises other parts of my brain and like photography, it brings me self-confidence. I used to be a stuttering French working class country-boy, now I’m in London, where I chair meetings with senior executives in good English, and I wear the best ties. I’m an artist more than I am a banker.
 You've said during an interview that you should “avoid portfolio reviews”. Or even “constructive criticisms.” Why so? It's pretty rare to hear that, when society tells us we should be open to critics and different opinions.
I didn’t mean it as any art is good. It was years ago, after I went to a portfolio review and the lady (I didn’t even know who she was) told me I should shoot stock photos for young adult books. A few years later and I’m shooting erotic art. With constructive criticism, people criticise, destroy and then construct, they build a new foundation to their liking. But it’s not yours. I’d rather collect harsh, expeditious judgments. I’m fully aware that my work will always be bad in the eyes of someone else. However, I really don’t want to have their input on what I should do differently because we obviously don’t see the world the same. Looking back, I cannot stand to look at most of my pictures. But I’m on my journey at least, and I decide it all.
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