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Alain Hanel was a photo assistant at the time of the movie Blow Up and went into artistic direction and journalism. In 1975 he created the first agency for the record industry and went into radio media.
Over the last three years he has returned to photography recording major events such as the Nice Carnival. He likes to argue that the Mediterranean sky and the light, especially during the winter season, are the best studio anyone can dream
of. Here he speaks to ePHOTOzine and shares some of his latest images.
ePHOTOzine: How did you get started in photography?
Alain Hanel: I started in Paris as the assistant of a publicity photographer in 1967. It was an extraordinary period (the years of Blow Up movie) because photography was in full transformation; new and young photographers introduced changes by creating new images with new formats which revolutionized the old school.
Then I worked as an assistant in fashion photography with other young French and foreign photographers who later on became masters.
EPZ: When you were a child, did you have aspirations to become a photographer?
AH: No, I was above all passionately fond of drawing and painting.
EPZ: Do you still paint using digital techniques?
AH: No, I don't.
EPZ: What photographers have most influenced or inspired you?
AH: I was never influenced by other photographers. I have been a photographer since I was 50 years old, before that I was an illustrator, then an art director in press magazine. I went back to photography in 1999, in Nice, on the French Riviera, when I bought my first digital camera.
EPZ: What kind of lighting do you use?
AH: For the portraits, the Mediterranean sky and the light, especially during the winter season are the best studio anyone can dream of, so I work essentially in daylight with sometimes a flash support. For dance, I don't need any more than the scene lighting.
EPZ: Of all the people you've photographed who would be your favorite and why?
AH: I have no preference, everyone is different and has his own beauty, and the art of the photographer consists to emphasize that difference.
When I am photographing a dancer, it's the same thing: my purpose consists not only to emphasize the talent of the artist but also to show he had to work a lot and for many years to obtain such a result.
EPZ: What's been the most difficult situation during your career and what's your proudest moment?
AH: I am always stressed during shootings because all goes very quickly and if you miss "the moment" you do not have a "time machine" to go back… The most fantastic moment is when "the photo" appears among the others.
EPZ: What advice would you give someone wanting to get into this career today?
AH: To keep humble and try to do one's best. To be an artist means anything and nothing.
EPZ: Do you shoot using digital cameras?
AH: Yes, I work only with a Nikon D1X. I think digital photography is an extraordinary invention and I recommend everyone to test this new fabulous technique.
EPZ: What do you get out of photography?
AH: I am happy to get up each morning, I forget I am 53 years old and I hope I still have more and more photos to do.
EPZ: What projects are you working on this year?
AH: To keep on with my new job.
EPZ: Having a background in illustration must be useful, especially now digital photography has arrived. How is this benefited your latest works?
AH: When I was child, I drew all the time, I were very attracted by the comic's. I did not attend art school because at 16 years I had to go to work as it was at a time when one learned his trade in contact with professionals. School was not as importance as it is today. Today I come to photography with a trained eye and a common sense of graphic balance.
EPZ: You show a beautiful sense of movement in your dance photographs. Do you ever find this difficult to achieve and why?
AH: Each image must represent "the dance" and the dance is a movement, slow or fast; the difficulty is to translate it, my job in fashion photography helped me.
EPZ: When you go on stage to shoot dance, do you have reconceived ideas or do you always go with the flow?
AH: I have no preconceived ideas, the technique is always the same - the centering of image, my eye and the shutter release... after it is another story.