What was your inspiration for this project?
For The Cinema Series, my principal inspiration was to honor the Art of Cinema by showing the atmosphere of movie theaters specifically in the state of California. Entering a Cinema instead of watching movies on your smartphone or computer gives a real emotion to the public. I think because of the new media, we are losing step by step, the pleasure to going to your local Cinema.
In my hunt, I wanted all the Theatres to be still running. Most are still showing movies and few became auditoriums for concerts or operas. I have always been curious about how Hollywood was built. This phenomenal movie industry was created in the desert in Los Angeles, and for me the state of California represents the American Dream.
Most of the founders of the Hollywood movie studios were immigrants from Eastern Europe in the late 1920s. Some of them like Adolph Zukor ( Co-founder of the Paramount Studios with Jesse L.Lasky) decided to build the Paramount Empire as well as their studios. He decided for example to build an incredible movie palace temple for The Paramount Theatre in Oakland (designed by Timothy L. Pflueger of the architectural firm J.R Miller and T.L Pflueger). I found it interesting that such places were built for watching a movie. It is an important reason why I wanted to spotlight some classic movie palaces of California.
Shooting the architecture of the movie theaters in California is to talk about the city of L.A and its history or the surrounding small town, which has its own past. The history of California is being represented by interiors empty of people but still running, where people used to go and still go every day.
"To be honest, what I tell artists and photographers is just to find your own style with passion. Work is the key. Get your own art to be you, even if at the beginning nobody understands. Just follow your instinct, with references or master in your mind."
Can you describe your process in creating this project?
It was a long pre-shoot, before coming to California. My wife and I organized every shoot, for the whole trip, 2 months before travelling from New York to San Francisco. It was difficult at times to find good Theaters that would be in the "Series" and to approach them. So we decided to look at all the cities in California where historical theaters were located. I wanted to included Lobby, Indie Screen, and contemporary movie Theaters. As Stephen Shore said, everything deserved to be photographed. I really like this philosophy, as it is what I do when looking for a theme. An opera or a basketball court in the street deserves to be shot in the same meticulous way. But when working on a subject such as the Cinema series, I had to make the selection, so I carefully chose the places.
In terms of lighting, I used lusters, lamps, neon, projector screen, or the small amount of available light that I had. I had to improvise sometimes. With the medium of photography I was able to light some walls that were in the dark. Even the public does not see the auditorium as it is in the photograph. That is what I was looking for. Light up those movie theaters by showing the architecture and give them an atmosphere of greatness.
Every shot was made using a medium format camera. I wanted the photographs to be sharp in term of detail and color, with a great depth of field and the ability to produce large color scale photograph.
I find it interesting to photograph what I have in front of me. When I was in Paris, I focused on Swimming Pools of Paris. I then moved to New York, so I decided to photograph the basketball courts. The soul of basketball is in New York, more here than in Paris or Tokyo. From there I decided to go to California and the subject Movie Theatres and Cinemas had been on my mind since I started the Theaters Series in Paris. I visited and shot the “Max Linder” Cinema. And in the next future it would be another subject in another city.
Did you go through many versions and iterations before coming up with these final pieces?
Not too much. Color is essential to me, so I took a little bit more time in postproduction for Cinema. I wanted to personally appropriate the places and to respect the work of the architects at the same time. So I have to be very meticulous in all the steps, framing, line, composition, light and color.
Do you feel that this project is "done," or is there anything you'd like to improve on or change in the future?
For the moment the project is done because I decided to focus on California. I have 3 other movies theaters to photograph there. I will move forward for Cinema Part 2 (not now), in another city, state, or country. Every finished project needs a break. I think this series deserves a parallel version in different places of the world.