Julien Mignot is a photographer who has shot an impressive number of personalities – from film-maker Xavier Dolan, singer Jeanne Added to ex-French president François Hollande. Today, the artist whose exhibition – Le Photographe et son Double – is currently on-hold in Clermont-Ferrand has agreed to look back at his debut as a lensman, some of his favourite works, and his all-time inspirations.
“The number of photos from newspapers and magazines I used to cut out and stick on my walls is incredible!”
Going back to roughly twenty years ago when his passion for photography became his living, Julien Mignot explains how he’d obtained a master’s degree in geography. However, it didn’t speak to him as much as this activity did. By admiring the works of painters and photographers whom he deemed inspirational, he has sufficiently trained himself to take a different approach when looking at something – or should we say – someone.
Talking about his debut, he describes how his idiosyncratic style came about. “I spent so many hours at the Louvre, standing in front of Caravage’s works,” remembers the French photographer. “Every time an artist struck me, I tried to understand what I liked about their art and why – and then I tried to incorporate it in my photography.” To that, he admits he copied some of those artists’ works in order to create his own. At the end of the day, “photographers are forgers of the reality around them,” he states. Julien then carried on saying he’d like to be used as an inspiration one day – “it would prove that I’ve done something right,” he laughs.
His photographic style appears to be original in its intimate delicacy – showcasing every single person’s character and personality in just one shot. Julien has worked for various publications, from covering stories for French newspapers Le Monde and Libération, to internationalising his talent by portraying celebrities for The New York Times and Grazia. His career took off at an impressive speed. At the age of twenty, he was already photographing fashion shows and his works made it in Elle magazine.
“The training of the eye for detail takes time.”
“For that, I’ve got my apartment and my region’s topography to thank for. I needed to gain maturity to really learn to see, because it generates a certain tension and curiosity which is, in most cases, necessary,” carries on Julien. It looks like his master’s degree in geography came in handy after all.
Rare are the photographers who can work with such a wide range of clients from different milieu. Hermès, Chanel, the Paris Opera, La Philarmonie – he’s photographed them all. And if that wasn’t enough, Julien Mignot is also an official photographer for Cannes’ film festival, and has been part of the music industry for many years. Following his contribution to Vox Pop Magazine which saw him encounter the likes of The Kills and Phoenix, he created a number of well-known artworks.
One of them was for Jeanne Added – an alternative artist who has been part of the French music scene for a few years now. Her name came up in the conversation when we asked Julien which personality really left a mark on his work. “I could talk about Xavier Dolan, working with him for one of his films’ décors was incredible. But I’d rather choose Jeanne Added, because we already knew each other, and also because my photograph of her has crystallised a strong friendship between us.” To which he added: “I think human relations are intrinsically related to pictures.”
Looking at the incredible list of personalities he has worked alongside, we were wondering if there was anyone else he’d like to photograph. While David Bowie and Prince will remain a project for another life, it turns out there’s a growing number of important people he’s hoping to encounter one day. “I’d like to spend some time with Nick Cave, Her Majesty the Queen and Vladimir Poutine – for very different reasons, obviously,” he states.
“It’s important to have this uncertainty – it’s another opportunity to get even better at what I do.”
Following the release of his book entitled 96 Months, Julien has had a few exhibitions in his native country. At present, his latest – Le Photographe & son Double – is held in Clermont-Ferrand. Paying tribute to inhabitants and artists, this exhibition is all about evaluating the impact of music on this town. Being a collaborative project put together with the help of ex-editor-in-chief of Les Inrockuptibles – Jean-Daniel Beauvallet – there are no less than sixty written and photographic portraits on display.
Before achieving all this though, there’s no denying Julien didn’t doubt himself at times. And if he could give one piece of advice to anyone who’d like to follow his steps, it would be, “don’t look for success – it’ll find you when the time is right. You should listen to yourself and not the others. You have to let your desires and your envies speak and use your passion meticulously.” Some wise words to which he also mentioned the importance of going to museums to see art pieces in real life.
“Practice makes perfect – scrolling doesn’t.”
In a time where Instagram has become a useful tool for any image-lover, it’s important to remember that behind those clever – and not-so-clever – pictures, there’s a whole mentality and artistry. “If we stupidly spend our time on Instagram then we’ll only take pictures of naked girls and hipsters wearing red raincoats standing in the middle of a mountain road, with a low sky,” he says ironically. “Maybe we should ask ourselves more often why we’ve liked a certain picture, and what makes it attractive. We also need to stop looking and take pictures ourselves.”
You get the gist – get your phones and cameras out, there’s no time like the present to get shooting.
Following the Covid-19 outbreak, Julien Mignot’s exhibition – Le Photographe & son Double – is currently closed, but will be available to see for an extra month later in the year.