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An American in Paris From Europe to the US and back again
Ian Patrick worked for four years as a photographer in New York before he decided to travel to France to find an agent. Ian felt a natural affinity with Europe, having been born in the Austrian city of Salzburg and spending the first 13 years of his life there. At the age of 27 he set foot on European soil once more. Today, 22 years later, he is still there.Ian speaks French with a relaxed American accent, so American background is difficult to conceal. He lives in Paris, but considers himself a citizen of the world. This naturally makes him a little special among Parisians. The fact that he is also a successful fashion and advertising photographer who jets around the world on assignments for Perrier/Vitel, Christian La Croix, Yves Saint Laurent and other big names, might be expected to make him stand out from the crowd.
But Ian doesn't want to stand out. 'I guess I could promote and sell myself much more actively as a photographer, but it would be against my own nature. I'm a normal guy who wants to live a normal life.' Ian talks enthusiastically about his family, his wife Veronique and his daughter Lea, who is now 11.
Combining family life with work is not a problem for him. Things are made easier by the fact that his 100-square-metre darkroom and studio are housed in their apartment. 'I work a lot, of course, and even though I'm not always taking photographs I spend a lot of my time on developing, planning and administration. But I'm definitely not a workaholic. I try to spend as much time as I can with my family.'Major success
Ian Patrick has many strings to his bow and has achieved major success as a photographer. His work has been published in Esquire, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vogue and Marie Claire, and his clients include world-famous brands such as Sony, Renault and Citroen. During his first years in New York he worked mainly on album sleeves and photo documentary work for newspapers and magazines. In Paris he also works with advertising and fashion. One of his latest projects is a campaign for spectacles made by Christian La Croix.
Several black & white series
Aside from his purely commercial assignments Ian has produced a number of black and white projects. His 'Cowboys' series portrays life around the rodeo. Men in cowboy hats and leather waistcoats pose in front of the camera, tough and proud, alone or on wild horses. In 'D-Day in Normandy' he captures powerful images of endless white crosses ranked in perfectly straight rows - a single cross for every dead soldier. Sorrow still hangs in the air. These images have a profound impact.
Ian began working on a project about a troupe of French circus artists, The Legendary Archaos, in 1988. Originally his assignment was to create a poster, but he became entranced by the people and their charismatic energy. This led him to install his gear in one of their trucks and tour with the troupe for a year. Before he knew it he had been adopted by the circus family and spent all his time with them, with or without camera. The result was a photographic book entitled 'Archaos - cirque de caracture'. His circus photos immediately draw one in. One portrait introduces us to a small person who takes his profession as a circus artist very seriously. The emphasis is often on the comical, sometimes leaning towards the tragicomic, and the photos frequently make one laugh. 'To get successful results you have to get to know people in depth,' explains Ian. 'At the start of the circus project some people shunned the camera. But as time went on these people came back to me and asked to have their photographs taken. Most of all it's the ability to develop personal relationships that is the key to my job as a photographer,' he concludes.
Solid photographic background
Ian Patrick's interest in photography was aroused at the age of just eight, when he was allowed to borrow his father's Ika Flex. However it was to be a few years before he took up photography as a serious career. When he started high school in 1968 he had made up his mind to study art. Unfortunately he fell out with his drawing teacher and was well on his way to being expelled from school. He was only allowed to stay on condition that he chose one of three alternative courses: welding, car mechanics or photography. He chose the latter, and has never regretted it. Ian's father, who had served for a year as a soldier in Vietnam, encouraged his son to avoid the war at all cost. On his suggestion, Ian applied to the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, where he continued his photographic studies, this time combined with art. Ian's ambitious study programme probably saved him from being called up to fight, since students who performed well at college were given exemption. On the final day of his exams the Vietnam War was over.
Extensive Hasselblad outfit
When at the age of 19 Ian decided that photography was definitely the career for him, he was also determined that he would work in the medium format, even though the teachers at his high school encouraged students to work with 35-mm. 'We began by using old Rolleiflex vs 4x5 cameras, and then moved on to 35-mm. But I realised there was a quality premium with medium format and began reading all the brochures I could about medium format cameras. I was soon convinced that I had to have a Hasselblad, although I had to do a lot of hours on night shift at a hospital in order to earn enough. After a year I was able to go out and buy my first camera - a Hasselblad 500CM with two Zeiss lenses: 40 and 150 mm.
Ian has now added a further two cameras to his Hasselblad outfit: a 553ELX and a 503CW, plus a further three lenses at 60, 80 and 120 mm. 'The Hasselblad camera is almost tailor-made for my photographic needs. It is strong and rugged and very reliable. In fact I have never lost a picture through a camera not working. But naturally it's important not to be lazy with maintenance. I work about my half my time in the studio and the rest outdoors, and I almost always use flash. That means that flash synchronisation down to 1/500s is also a big advantage.
Constantly looking for new challenges
I see the camera as my paintbrush and the light as my paint,' says Ian by way of illustrating his artist's outlook on photography. He mentions the old masters Rubens and Rafael, as well as Magritte and Duchamp, as important sources of inspiration, and explains that he has tried to develop his own vision. 'But I constantly need new challenges to develop fully. One of my latest and most exciting projects is a series of black and white underwater photos in panoramic format, taken with a Hasselblad XPan. When I saw the results in the darkroom for the first time I was absolutely overjoyed.
The Hasselblad Masters
Ian Patrick is one of the Hasselblad Masters - 12 highly skilled photographers, carefully chosen by Hasselblad to feature in the Hasselblad Calendar 2001. Work of the other 11 will appear on this site in due course.