This week on the Prodibi Pixel Magazine, we present you a series at the border between painting, photography, and fine art. A fantastic reinterpretation of botanical illustrations through a camera lens.
Samuel Zeller is a photographer based in Geneva, Switzerland. After formal studies in graphic design, he decided to leave his day job to pursue a career in photography and specializes in editorial, architecture, travel, and fine art photography.
Well known for his work at Fujifeed, we offer you today to discover his work in full resolution powered by Prodibi!
A few words about you. Explain us, how did you start photography?
I never really intended to end up being a photographer. I was born in Geneva, Switzerland, from two artist parents. My mom became a teacher while my dad worked in IT. They both did the Beaux-Arts and used to paint, sculpt, draw and create a lot. I grew up surrounded by art of different kinds, photography books, art history books, cinema, theater, music, and literature. As long as I can recall, I've always been fascinated by visually interesting things. I remember gathering insects and plants at my grandma farm to observe them under a microscope.
I went to the "Centre de formation professionnelle arts appliqués" of Geneva where I studied graphic design first then moved to interactive media design. The last three years of my studies where spent halftime at school and halftime in different companies. I learned how to shoot and edit video, how to use 3D software, how to do layouts for print and worked on packagings, interior design and various other projects. I eventually specialized in 3D design and worked for a few years in a design agency in Geneva.
Working in 3D taught me how light behave, how different types materials react to it, how to set up cameras and animate them. I learned a ton about photography without really taking pictures.
My first experience with photography was in 2012. I had to go to London to interview photographers and I didn't had a camera so I buyed my first one, the Fujifilm X100.
I loved it instantly.
In 2015 after a particularly bad day at the office I went to the city botanical garden to cool down. I was really angry and I took many different pictures including the first images of what has now become my Botanical series. Seeing those images a few days after made me realize there was potential, so I sent them to a blog I'm quite fond of and to my surprise they got published. It didn't ended up there, other magazines and blogs contacted me, it was a big snowball effect. All that press caught the attention of Hoxton Mini Press an editor in London which I'm now working with to finish my first book.
I started getting requests from new clients and had to take vacation days to work on them. So eventually in early 2016 I decided to quit my designer career completely and focus on photography. I now realize that it was the right move.
What do you like best about photography?
The fact that it makes you look at the world differently. It made me slow down. I was a very introvert person, and photography helped me immensely to the point I had no problem giving a talk in front of a big audience. It's a great passion to have and to share with others. To me photography is a bit like my journal, it evolves with me, it's a tiny part of me that I express and let others discover.
For you, what describes a successful picture and why?
It's difficult to describe as it's very subjective, a successful picture is something you see and instantly know that it's good. It's an image that provokes feelings to you and to the viewer. It's not about composition, light, sharpness, color or subjects. It's a little something different.
Are you inspired by the work of other photographers or artists? Which ones?
I'm very influenced by painters. I find museums to be a place of tranquility, far from the daily rush, to me it's the best place to contemplate art. I adore impressionists, Claude Monet, August Renoir and Gustave Caillebotte are my favorites. The way they depict the intangible is fascinating to me.
Because of my designer background, I also enjoy geometry and more constructed paintings like the works of Paul Klee or Rothko.
There's one painter that I adore more than any others; it's Klimt. I literally had tears in my eyes last time I went to Vienna and saw his work. There's magic in them.
Photographers that inspire me at the moment are Nicholas White, Greg White (they're not related), Christopher Payne and Sebastião Salgado. The first three have this very methodical way of photographing the world; they're rigorous. Salgado has an incredible life story that adds a background to his impeccable photography.
About your photography gear, we know you have a special relationship with Fujifilm cameras, can you tell us more about it?
The Fujifilm X100 was my first camera, and I loved it with a passion. Before that, I had worked with big DSLR from Nikon in a studio for a few months, and it gave me a false impression of photography. With the little size of the X100 and the mechanical dials, I felt free; I was able to take more intimate images, it became an extension of my hand and eye. The tool became transparent.
I kept upgrading to cameras inside the Fujifilm line, eventually got the X-E1 then the X-T1 (which I used for the first images of my Botanical series) and now the X-T2 and X-Pro2. I became an ambassador for the brand (what they call X-Photographers) in 2015 I think.
Since then I'm confident in my choice, their cameras helped me develop my photography by not getting in the way. They are super easy to use yet very powerful.
Early 2016 I also created Fujifeed, an online mag, and community for Fujifilm users.
It started on Instagram, I got the original idea after I realized I was taking too many screenshots of other photographers work on this social network. I wanted to share all those great photographers I was discovering daily, so I set up an account.
It quickly grew up, and now Fujifeed has 56'900 followers. But besides numbers, it's most importantly a tight-knit community of passionate photographers. There's a forum, a Slack discussion group, a newsletter, a website with articles and interviews and of course social media accounts. The goal of the project is to discover, promote and connect Fujifilm photographers across the world. I'm doing all this in my free time, and I'm not paid by Fujifilm. I wish they could consider the project, as it has a great value.
Your new book 'Botanical' is soon to be released. Can you tell us more about it?
Botanical is a modern photographic reinterpretation of the classical botanical illustrations produced between the 18th century and the beginning of the 20th century. It's a direct inspiration from the painters I admire. Instead of photographing the plants themselves I capture their refracted reality.
It's my first long-term project; it started in 2015 in Geneva. The first ten images of the project circulated on the web a lot to the point that Hoxton Mini Press, an editor from London contacted me and asked me if I was interested in making a book on the subject. I met with Martin Usborne and his wife Ann in London, and I immediately liked them and what they were doing with their publishing house.
Fast forward two and a half year later, I've visited plenty of places in Europe seeking those hidden "paintings" behind the glass. I'm very much looking forward to having the result in my hands.
The book is available from the Hoxton Mini Press website. It has 144 pages and features 100 photographs from the project. Fine art prints are also available on demand from my website.
The launch of the book will be accompanied by an exhibition in London (26th April to 2nd May at ThePrintspace), Geneva (11 May to 16 May at the Librairie de l'ile) and Paris (early june at 34Greneta, details to be confirmed soon)
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