Franck Bohbot

Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
I am from France and I live in New York.
Do you come from an artistic family? Tell us about the first time you picked up a camera.
My first relationship with art was through music. I started the drums and percussion at age 12. In the beginning I was also interested in cinema: the production and the technical, such as lighting. When I was a kid I used to play with film cameras during the holidays. When I traveled to NY for nine months after I graduated, I bought a small compact camera and I experimented with photos in black and white, playing with the light, perspective, etc.

I fell in love the first time I shot, not because of the techniques and tools, but because I understood what I wanted to do with my life. I practiced day and night, all the time. At the beginning, light was the first thing that interested me, so I studied cinematography. But being a photographer for me is being the director, the cinematographer, and the colorist all at the same time. Every picture is a unique study.

You frequently travel between New York, LA, and Paris. How does your location at a given time influence the direction of your work? Do you travel with specific intent to photograph certain things or are you open to exploring while abroad?
Traveling is the best thing for every artist. It opens the mind to feeling. I had to leave my country to be more inspired. I moved to New York in 2013. I explored the boroughs as much as I could and tried to explain, through my point of view, a timeless vision of the places I shot. New York for me is the capital of the world.

I think every place can be a monument with its own soul and history. My mission is to document it with honesty. I do not want to lie, so I respect the perspective and the place, but I work like a director or a painter. I like to control every step of the process. The composition, light, and colors are essential.

Traveling is the best thing for every artist. It opens the mind to feeling. — Franck Bohbot
You capture oftentimes crowded, public spaces in an empty, calm state. How do you know when to photograph the spaces to ensure emptiness?
I consider every place that I shoot with a lot of respect. I like the calm and the quietness of a landscape in both paintings and photography, so I consciously make the choice of capturing empty places. Sometimes I include a few people, but it depends on the feeling of the place and if I want to explain the presence that used to be there. I often shoot with my instinct, but I like to compose every shot meticulously.
You’ve narrowed in on a unique subject that represents New York City in a culturally relevant manner. What first intrigued you about basketball courts? How did you know that the series would be worth pursuing?
For the This Game We Play series, there is a both sociological and aesthetic approach. First, I shot the courts empty and symmetrical, and captured typologies of the basketball courts to highlight the cultural dimensions of a playground in NYC. I wanted them to be monuments. They are the “heroes” of their neighborhoods, but also the secret gardens of the city. It is interesting to imagine all the people who used to play there. When I photograph a basketball court, I am talking directly about New York, the soul of the city; the relationship that a New Yorker gives to the playground, making it a family and social place.

My work also talks about the architecture of the streets. People from different social categories play together in a court; I found this mixing sociologically interesting. The background is essential too: it can be buildings, schools, housing projects, freeways, the boroughs, bridges, or parks. Aesthetically, I am always interested in finding new landscapes and architecture. The colors, fences, leaves, snow, the different types of structures, and even the ground each gave this work something new.

Some factors aren’t within your control during a photo shoot, such as bad weather. How do you embrace the unexpected in your photographs?
Even in bad weather you can find good light. Lighting was crucial in this series, because I did not want too much shadow, and I only used natural or available light. It was a game for me. I shot specifically in the spring and winter. Of course I embrace the unexpected, and I think when you work outside that’s what makes it more exciting than working inside. Working meticulously and composing my shot while embracing the unexpected is the best combination for me. When my composition is ready, I know that something will happen; it lends a mysterious or poetic mood.
What is the most extraordinary thing you’ve done to get the perfect shot?
There is no perfect shot. However, I found extraordinary the common places that I saw and I wanted them to be as perfect or on the same level as a landmark building or prestigious interior. I found beauty in many places; if you put light on them, their soul will shine.

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