Photojazz Five: Frédéric Moreau de Bellaing

Photojazz Five (n.) Five questions to and five photos from a street photographer.

Whats the best thing to come out of Brussles? No, not Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg.

Google it.

For my money its Frédéric Moreau de Bellaing, a documentary film director, photographer, and graduate of the Belgian national film school. Here is his PJ5 interview.



In one brief statement, define street photography.

Capturing the essence of everyday human life as a simple witness. It could be one…. But many other definition could pop in ones head and they would be as good, as true as this one. I do think this point is more important than a definition in itself. Well all agree on the fact that street photography process of taking pictures in the street but for the rest, I would consider ones definition as an enrichment to the world of street photography.

In that respect I remember that some of photos were refuse because they were more into the photojournalism genre. In my view, this point of view seems absurd but very contemporary : everything, everybody has to fit in a precise draw labeled with a precise word. I do think that its linked with one of the biggest fear of the Humans : the fear of change. Were all afraid of new & unknown developments in life. My definition of street photography would mainly oppose to that point. A definition of street photography should encompass each individual definition & more importantly each individual practice of anybody who feels like taking part of that movement. This definition should not be strict nor restrictive. This definition should be a movement and a movement is an evolution.

Is taking part in the Street photography process anybody whos taking unstaged photography wich captures the essence of life and more specifically of human life in its complexity and convey emotions to the viewer.


How would you define your artistic style (I.e. What defines your visual uniqueness)

This is probably the essential, the crucial point ! Taking nice photo is one thing, finding your own style is, in my view, a step further and a necessity to be considered by many as a proper photographer. I find it frustrating sometimes, as if you had to wear a strict label but at the same time, it pushes you farther in you thinking about your own work and in any cases, it becomes unavoidable. The difficulty, though, in finding your own style is to avoid repeating the same picture over & over.

I understood another way of defining style in art when visiting the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Although Im far from being a fan of Picassos work (just a matter of taste, I guess!), I admire his artistic evolution. After this visit, I did not connect Picasso to one specific painting but instead, I linked his name to a complex and very daring evolution. This is, in my opinion, the best way to define the style.

Weve got to see the whole process of artistic evolution of an artist to be able to define his style!


How did you get into street photography?

I started in 1989. I was involved during 88/89 in a mathematic special year studies to prepare the studies of civil engineering. In the middle of that academic year, I saw the trailer of Nikita a film by Luc Besson and it just struck my mind : I have to learn cinematography ! I made a first short, some kind of exercise, in super 8 and acquired my first photographic camera : a Nikon FG20. Then during my studies ( cinematographer ) until 95, I practises photography a lot, including in the cursus of studies. In the school, we had a lab to print B&W and also colors. My eye definitely has a preference for colors although as a viewer I do like both mediums. My paper was about the difference between film documentary & photographic reportage. In the frame of that paper, I spended 2 weeks in Palestine in October 95 (I came back 2 weeks before Rabins assassination). I brought 68 rolls with me and more than 15 y later, I should at last, exhibit those photos… After my studies, it became more difficult, on a money base, to keep on with photography (color is way more expensive than b&w) and only started again seriously around 2008 when buying a Nikon D90.


What influences your work (can be anything)?

Too many things : film, music, painters, other photographer, real life, etc. Inspirations & influences are unquantifiable and unlimited. I simply could not list what I think of (not even mentioning what I could not think of). But I could say that 2 things, mainly, easily catch my attention : light & Humans activities.



Who are your top 5 street photographers?

Of course, Ill start with Henri Cartier-Bresson, the Master, then, I would think of Marc Riboud, specially his photos of China. Im also a real admirer of Alex Webb who I discovered with his 2nd book about Haiti : an amazing sense of composition & colors. He does amazing photos whith very sharp choices of composition. And I would finally mention two Belgian photographers : Harry Gruyaert who has an amazing feeling for the colors and John Vink for his great compositions. Its a bit as if Alex Webb was a perfect mix of those two photographers. But the limit of five is really frustrating. I should at least also mention Yann Morvan a French photographer who started as a war correspondant (specially in Lebanon) and evolve to something completely different, taking portrait of people with a chambre technique.


My sincerest thanks go out to Frédéric for his time and effort in taking part in my PhotoJazz Five series. You can keep up with his work on his deviantArt  and Facebook pages.

About Brian

Brian Q. Webb is a photography enthusiast from Los Angeles, California who spends most of his time in Taipei, Taiwan. He is especially interested in street photography as well as large format portraiture and pinhole photography. He also likes to shoot lifestyle portraiture and occasionally acts as an agent for foreign newspapers wanting event coverage in Taipei. He was also on the staff of deviantArt and is co-founder of PhotoMalaysia, the largest photography community in that country.