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Knocking on doors with a camera in hand – interview with Frederic Courbet

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Being based between Sydney and London, Frederic Courbet’s skills have been challenged in different ways on different sides of the globe. Having lived in multiple places over the last decade and a half, he’s adapted a very versatile style ranging between car, landscape, lifestyle and travel photography. He took the time in between his busy schedule to give us some insight into the struggles of a photographer, balancing client expectations around the world and his upcoming work with Reload+Co in Sydney.

Production Paradise: Browsing through your portfolio, one word that comes to mind is diversity. For example; your strong, commercial automotive imagery is paired with lifestyle and travel photography that has a very natural look. Do you think this combination makes you stand out amongst other photographers? How do you think this defines your work?

Frederic Courbet: Diversity is good! I have been lived in three very different parts of the world in the last 15 years, from Europe to Africa and now Australia. I guess it helped shape the diversity in my body of work but it also demonstrates that I am a very adaptable photographer in terms of working with the elements available. Versatility is a strength that can be useful to clients and production companies searching for photographers to work on projects in different contexts.

Production Paradise: What encouraged you to get into this field of work? Did you take inspiration from any other photographers?

Frederic Courbet: I am very curious by nature and photography has always be an extension of and vehicle for that curiosity. I usually try to understand the world through photography and to question each situation when I frame an image. Carrying a camera is a wonderful way to push open doors that would otherwise be closed to you.

Production Paradise: You have worked on some great projects with the likes of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Tasmania Tourism Board, Accenture, Oracle. How did you capture the attention of these brands?

Frederic Courbet: I knocked at doors! Photography work wasn’t given easily to me. I had to work hard, even to get my first camera, it wasn’t a present. Being a working photographer is a very hard job and you constantly have to give more than you receive, but it is also a great job that makes you rich in knowledge and in so many other ways. Clients do recognise that drive, and trust that you can tell their story with the same dedication.

Production Paradise: When working on a project, do you ever feel creatively bound to a concept or do you have a lot of influence over the direction of the shoot?

Frederic Courbet: It depends on the client and brief. Some commercial projects have very scripted lay-out, composition and style as the final images are to be used in precise formats. In that case, I have to stick to a very precise composition brief. On more social impact type assignments however, I’ve found clients usually select me because they trust me to faithfully but creatively translate their vision or involvement into a strong result.

Production Paradise: You are based in Sydney and London, have you noticed any significant changes in the style of photography between the two? Do you believe your style changes depending on where you are located?

Frederic Courbet: I find it depends where the client themselves are based but indeed I would say that different parts of the world have different expectations on what photography should be. I do a lot of work for US-based clients and they definitely have a different set of expectations about what photography should convey compared to an Australian based client for example.

Production Paradise: What is the most inspiring and/or challenging project you have taken on so far in your career?

Frederic Courbet: There are two photographers in me. One is a socially engaged reportage photographer that has had the amazing chance to work for agencies such as Panos Pictures in London, Getty Reportage and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the last decade. Assignments through those clients have always led to very interesting topics, amazing situations, travels and human discoveries. Through those assignments, I have worked in places such as Somalia, Sudan, Congo and Mongolia.

The other photographer in me is obsessed with image quality, lighting, medium format and clean, crisp compositions. Car photography is usually where all those skills combine to bring out the best in image creation.

Mongolia

Production Paradise: What would you suggest to emerging photographers in order for them to succeed in their own careers?

Frederic Courbet: Photograph for yourself first, and because you want to understand a certain situation through your viewfinder. Photograph without thinking about whether an image can be sold or used by a client, but rather because you want to connect to what you are photographing.

Production Paradise: After your first year advertising with us you were approached to be represented by Reload Agency. Can you tell us more about how Production Paradise has helped you?

Frederic Courbet: I have been lucky enough to be accepted by Reload+Co agency in Sydney for my Australian based commercial work after my portfolio on Production Paradise was spotted by one of their producers. It’s funny to think I live down the street from that agency and it took an online presence and connection with Production Paradise to establish contact. I guess you never know the extent of a network until such relationships are created.

Production Paradise: We’re excited to see what work you showcase in the future. What can we look forward to seeing from you? Do you have any exciting projects lined up?

Frederic Courbet: Yes, I am investing in car photography at the moment because I am passionate about image quality in that sector and that is what I’ll share via Production Paradise. But I also still have lots of more social impact (or sustainability, or corporate social impact) focused assignments that I photograph regularly. Both types of photography are complementing each other in experience and skills but are not necessarily to be placed side by side, so I plan to only share my car commercial work with Production Paradise and Reload+Co for the moment.

 

We would like to thank Frederic for taking the time to speak with us. You can see more of his work and services on Production Paradise and his website.

If you want to show off your latest work to the industry in the next edition of Production Paradise’s Spotlight or Showcase magazine, contact us now!

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