This week on Prodibi, we go off the beaten path with a photography genre we haven't covered so much yet: Urban Exploration

Jérémy Marais is a late bloomer on the photography scene as he discovered his passion through his work with people. But today, it is not about people anymore, it is about time and nature, and the way they connect and intersect when you explore an urban environment.

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A few words about you. How did you start photography?

I'm 36 years old and came to live in Paris a few years ago after having spent a long time in Le Havre, my hometown. I had the chance to grow near the sea and a forest which led me to think about the concept of time and nature. This point is critical as it will become the basis of my future photographic work.

I was interested in photography quite late. It is by working with people with disabilities that I started. I was looking for an activity for these people that allows me to make them work with initiative, critical thinking, and reflection while discovering the city. So I learned photography through tutorials on the internet then experimenting. Very quickly, work is transformed into passion and the desire to become a professional photographer is imposed by itself.

Did you try other photography styles? Or urban exploration has always been your favorite one?

Urban exploration has always been my favorite photographic style. Just like for my discovery of photography, it is through my work with homeless people that I discovered an aspect of my city that I did not know completely, a bit like a "behind the scenes". I realized that many places and buildings were simply forgotten, that after having lived and been used, they were left to their fate.

It brought me back to all these reflections around the notion of time and I, therefore, wished to show this time that is passing and which gradually erases what man can build but also remember that these places still exist and show the beauty or other feelings that are surfacing.

In my practice, I tried other photographic styles, the street photo, the portrait ... but I soon realized that I'm not comfortable with humans in the context of photography. I like to take my time to make a photo, to immerse myself in a place, an atmosphere, to have the minimum of possible constraints. Many elements that do not match with an integrating work of the human.

Regarding your photography gears. What are your favorite camera, lens, and equipment?

I started with a Canon 600D (with the original lens 18 / 55mm) who accompanied me for several years. But since two years, I work with a Nikon D800, first with a 24 / 85mm lens and now almost exclusively with the 15 / 30mm Tamron. And of course a tripod. If I have the opportunity, I would like to work with the new D850 which seems rather impressive!

As I like working with natural lights, I never use additional lights such as flash or LED. This is a very important point for me and when there is none, as in the underground, for example, I work with candles.

Any advice for beginners that want to start exploring urban environments with their camera? What are the do's and don'ts, for example for your personal safety?

My very first advice is to be careful. This practice can be dangerous, buildings sometimes fall apart, and it can be easy to get hurt.

My second advice is to have "common sense", it may be silly to specify but it is essential for me. Is a photo worth finishing hurt or worse? My answer is clearly no, I prefer to continue to practice and explore rather than risk everything for a photo. Although it can sometimes be extremely frustrating.

It is necessary to provide good equipment (good clothes and shoes, first aid kit, water, etc.) and I advise of course not to leave alone, to be able to be helped if necessary.

Then it is important to make spotting whenever possible to know the state of the place, find out if there are security measures (guardian, camera), and find an entry. My principle is to never break anything to access a place. I'm looking if there is a more or less easy access (open window or other), or if I can unlock a lock otherwise I leave.

Finally, do not forget that this practice remains mostly illegal so the discretion is paramount.

In terms of photography, it is important to know your material and the limits of it. Shooting conditions can sometimes be difficult. I advise to go with wide-angle lenses, to have enough perspective, and your tripod. The exposure time can sometimes be quite long, but you can take the time to soak up the atmosphere of the place.

What was your favorite trip? Why?

My favorite trip is without hesitation my trip to Japan. With a colleague, we surveyed Honshū (the main island of Japan) for three weeks and explored many places, from the abandoned amusement park to the lost temple in the mountains.
This trip was even more memorable for me as I was always fascinated by the Japanese culture and doing this roadtrip only reinforced this interest. The places we explored, the cities, the people we met, all this was extraordinary!

*Read on the same topic: Nevada like you've never seen before, by David Egan and Spooky Nighttime Landscape Photography by Simas Lin

Do you have projects in the future? Workshops? Travels?

With a colleague whose work revolves around the Human (Fabrice Labit), we set up our photo studio, L'Atelier 22, in September 2017 and we regularly offer different workshops. To pass on my passion, my knowledge, and my experience, is something that I really appreciate.
We also work regularly in collaboration, bringing the Human into my photographic universe.
If the opportunity arises, I would like to go to Italy where many places attract me, and I have ideas for two or three photographic projects that I would like to realize in Canada since I recently obtained a two-year visa for this country.
In the meantime, I am preparing an exhibition and I have just put some pictures on sale.

To see more of Jeremy's work:

His Website

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