Art Writer’s Wednesday 9 - Tumblr Artist
Manuel Plantin aka Yodamanu | on Tumblr (France)
"The most mundane scenes can be transformed into something beautiful." Manuel Plantin, Black and White tag editor, artist on Tumblr, photographer, journalist… If it’s raining and you’re in Strasbourg, France, you might run into Manuel Plantin outside. He’s best known on Tumblr for creating works that often resemble fine art paintings. Coincidentally, he isn’t a personal fan of the rain, although it sure suits his hobby well while providing him with the environment necessary to capture fascinating rain reflections.
Graduated from the Centre Universitaire d’Enseignement du Journalisme (CUEJ) in 1998, Manuel works at a regional newspaper. If he attempts to describe reality for his readers, he tries to escape it through his photographs, showing the beauty in the wet pavement or the eerie, almost surreal, mood of his city at night. Leslie Seuffert interviewed Manuel Plantin for Artchipel Writer’s Wednesday #9.
Leslie Seuffert for Artchipel: How do you go about life as a street photographer?
Manuel Plantin: Scouting the city and never leaving home without a camera has become a way of life for me. Street-photography requires me to carefully observe my surroundings. I do a lot of walking while I’m on the lookout for reflections you likely missed. I only shoot candids but carefully prepare for them, noticing lights, moods and reflecting surfaces all around.
LS: How long have you been taking pictures?
MP: I took my first pictures when I was 28 on an assignment in Poland for the newspaper I work for, first as a writer, now as a deputy editor for the local news section in Strasbourg. Working abroad I had to find and write my stories AND take my pictures. I had bought a small Coolpix just for this trip. It took forever to take the shot. It was the beginning of the digital era, and it was a real pain to use it. I brought some pictures back, good enough to be printed, but didn’t bring any taste for photography. I came back to photography a few years later before my first road trip to the USA. I discovered the joy of using primes with my Pentax K10. It changed everything: I had to come closer and work around my subject. I started really enjoying it and studying on my own the basics of photography. Finally one of my colleagues lent me his Leica M8. As with the primes, I loved the constraints imposed by a fully manual body. It forced me to work even more on my technique and my shooting skills. I fell in love with the rangefinder experience; you can’t have that much fun with autofocus.
LS: Living in France, does it rain often? Where did your love for rain originate from, as it seems to be your primary focus?
MP: It rains more often than not in Strasbourg and I have HATED it for many years, but I’ve learned to make it work. When it’s raining I’ll work on my ongoing series of street reflections and this has been a way to rid any sense of depression.
LS: Is there a process you can quickly sum up for us to explain how you capture these spectacular reflections?
MP: About the process, I have some secrets I’d rather keep :-) But I can tell you I use rather small apertures around f5.6, f6.7 to maximize depth of field. As I have to freeze my subjects I must maintain a good shutter speed. The problem being I can’t crank up the iso, the M9 goes up to 1250 – at 1600 pics are already very grainy. It’s tricky to find the good combination especially when it gets dark. I shoot my subjects from 3 meters, generally, so I can frame some of their surroundings. If I just want a silhouette before a clear sky, I’m getting closer. With time, I see the image inverted when I press the shutter button. And about the glossy look of some pics, I don’t edit much. As I use Lightroom instead of Photoshop, the lenses must be for something in it. But I’m pretty sure I can get something close with a cheap manual film SLR. Something I could try this winter.
LS: What are you trying to express through your photography?
MP: That here’s beauty in everything. Most of my reflections are photographs of people going to or from work on a rainy day. But there’s another way to look at them, the most mundane scenes can be transformed into something beautiful, almost surreal! Something I admire in impressionist masters – Turner and Monet, among others.
LS: What has been your biggest challenge to date?
MP: To get out of my comfort zone, to shoot hardcore street photo for example. Being a rather “shy” shooter, to shoot people “in the face” and upclose is a true challenge for me. Street photo is not only about that, but hardcore street requires one to do so. I’m trying, without giving up on reflections and nocturnes, another very important part of my work.
LS: Do you have any goals for this year?
MP: To be featured in one major publication in France and to take part in an exhibition. I haven’t had have time to enter any photo contest or event this year.
[more Manuel Plantin | Art Writer’s Wednesday with leslieseuffert]