Charles Fréger, Vatican 6, from the series Empire, 2007 / courtesy of the artist
Joanna: You’ve grown up in analogue photography, now you work with digital. How does this affect your work?
Charles Fréger: It’s a question of editing. The main problem with the analogue is that the great producers like Fuji or Kodak are not experimenting anymore. So they are not improving the quality of the films anymore. So I found it pointless. It’s more difficult to find the lab to produce some analog prints of good quality, there are less and less labs. They still do that, but still often the solution is to get the scan of the film. (…) I work in series so I have a lab-series, interactive lab. I’m more flexible now about…
J: A quantity?
Charles Fréger: Not about the quantity, because when I was working on films, I had the same quantity of pictures. It’s more that I’m the only one to interact with my pictures, only one person decides how to print my pictures. And this is really difficult, it took me one year to find the way how to print my pictures.
Charles Fréger, from the series Water-polo, 2000 / courtesy of the artist
J: Because of the control of the material?
Charles Fréger: The picture you get, the RAW you get from the digital camera, a very high quality camera, the picture is very average. You neet to – kind of – optimize the colours, with greys, blacks. It’s a decision of making digital piture, being used to analog, my eyes are used to analog, I have to find kind of a compromise with the pure digital.
J: Why do you choose to make colour photography?
Charles Fréger: It’s not a choice. I’ve worked in black&white for 2 or 3 years, and then I’ve jumped on color photography. Color works better with my subject. There’s no “why”. I just like colour photography for my work, I like it to be in colour.
J: I believe it’s common for photography today to go beyond boundaries, out of cliches and styles. Out of specialization. And you specialise in portrait photography, how do you feel about it?
Charles Fréger: I think it’s easier, it’s a choice. Like I’ve said before to one of the students, I’m not happy when photographer is going in many directions. I mean it’s not that exactly bad. I prefer to be specialised in portrait, than trying to do a lot of other stuff at the same time. Portrait is like a door open, through portrait I do something else, but it’s always starting from portrait.
J: And now are you going to specialise in performing arts?
Charles Fréger: No, no! I just push the portrait experimentations like the idea of getting into the group, sometimes experimenting on myself in wearing the costume, but the main story is always the portrait.
J: Have you ever experienced the closeness of the group, the lines and rules you simply can’t cross?
Charles Fréger: Always, actually. I always get to the limits of the group, like the passion of the group, there are some steps they don’t want me to photograph. I like to compromise with that, there are some strict rules of the groups and I can’t jump over them.
Charles Fréger, San Marino 1, from the series Empire, 2007 / courtesy of the artist
J: You’re making some sort of anthropological research. Do you feel like modern anthropologist?
Charles Fréger: No, I’m not. My work is used by some anthropologists and sociologists. There are many, many kinds of people that are using my work: fasion, costume makers, some uniforms specialists. Sometimes they are using my work as a documentary, kind of research on community. But that doesn’t make me anthropologist. It is used by anthropologist, but I’m really not one of them.
J: How do you find your groups?
Charles Fréger: It’s just like that I sometime meet somebody who tells me about something, and this is exactely what I wanted to photograph. Actually I can’t define what I want to photograph, I know what I want, but I can’t define it in words. At the moment I’ve pushed some research in Indonesia. And there is someone making research for me. I cannot say I want to photograph this and that in Indonesia. It’s more that she’s making the research and telling me what I can do there.
Charles Fréger, from the series Wilder-men, 2010 / courtesy of the artist
J: Where you found the idea of making “The Wild Men”?
Charles Fréger: I was invited by a choreographer who was making a show about that. In her show was two “Wilder mann”, heroes called “Krampus”. This was extremely fascinating! So I asked what is was, she told me about the tradition in Austria. So I decided to go to Austria and photograph these “Wilderman”. When I got there I discovered that there were plenty other groups like that. I decided to accumulate them.
J: In the end of this series, are you going to make your own costume, too?
Charles Fréger: During my next trip, I’m going to reproduce some gestures to create some costume, I’m on my way to some countries, I need to stop on the road and try to get something. But this doesn’t mean I would show this. This is more like a personal experience.
Charles Fréger as LU QIAN REN, Nang Jing Opera, 2009 / courtesy of the artist
J: What is your favorite way to contact the viewer: in a show, exhibition, a book, a website?
Charles Fréger: Books are really important objects for me. More and more I like the meetings, conferences, workshops, where you can really exchange the ideas. The traditional show I like to twist, to make it different, I try to find different way to interact with people.
J: When you make a collection of pictures, you make some sort of inventory, it’s very categorised and objective – sort of objective photography, as much as possible. And then you’re crossing the line, you’re becoming part of the group, you have personal attitude towards the group. What is more important afterwards: objective or personal?
Charles Fréger: I don’t care about objectivity; I’m fed up with objectivity! It’s not necessary to be objective. It’s more about the experience around it. When I go to some places I can have a zero experience and still I can do good images. Maybe now, the experience is more important to me, in my way of living with my photographic work and my research in general...
Charles Fréger, Hereros 16 (up), Hereros 28 (down), from the series Hereros, 2007 / courtesy of the artist
J: Your pictures are typological, to make some categorisations. What does August Sander means to you?
Charles Fréger: It’s more about the way of working, an attitude, more about that ethic. First, Sander is very close to us because he used this very typological approach in his portraits. But also the attitude toward a person, a certain ethic, the representation of humanity, and so on. For example to photograph everybody in the same way was really important. It’s extremely problematic how the photographer is treating the poor and the rich when he photographs them. Like with the rich he will be really carefull. I think it is important to be the same for everybody.
J: Please, tell me more about Piece of Cake.
Charles Fréger: It’s a network of photographers created in 2002. I created it, because I didn’t appreciate the fact that photographers are working alone and not sharing their work. I invited 25 artists to join me for a first workshop in my hometown… And from that first workshop, we really developed POC as network, with a real family spirit. We started to find a way to interact with each other. We meet twice a year now, in different capitals of Europe for three-five days. We discuss our work. We exchange our information and technical problems. We share our experience about being a photographer/artist.
J: Sort of photographical family?
Charles Fréger: Yes, you can call it like that.
J: Is there anything common within artists in Piece of Cake?
Charles Fréger: All the photographers have in common the use of something “documentary” in photography. The majority of members have something to do with documentary and also poetic work. And it evolves: the new members bring some change, of course.
J: I’ve read in interview with you that you wanted to make a film on “Majorettes”. How is it?
Charles Fréger: It was two years ago and the film is not done yet. And I’m not sure I’d be able to do it. It’s a long, long, long preparation and we have still some money missing. In three months I will know if I can do it or not, but I’m really pessimistic about it.
J: I’ll keep my fingers crossed for this! Thank you.
Charles Fréger during the lecture in Warsaw. 1/10/10 photo: JK
Charles Fréger was invited to run workshops on portrait photography by Akademia Fotografii school in Warsaw. Thanks to Katarzyna Majak for coordination and help. Thanks to Magdalena Wajda-Kacmajor for editing. 2.10.10 / Warszawa