DT 500 ZINE: – Fred, what is your background?
FREDERIC: – I unsuccessfully studied law for years until I started asking myself if I was mentally disabled. Law was not my thing. So I turned the back to it. Later on, by chance, I got the opportunity of managing the editorial part of a magazine. I had always dreamed of producing a personal vision, combining my pictures and my words into a particular work. And there it was, I could achieve this goal through specific features related to Architecture.
DT 500 ZINE: – How did you grow up?
FREDERIC: – This is one of my earliest memories of my childhood. Maybe it’s just a figment of my imagination:
“I am 4 or 5 years old. On a boat sailing around Port Dickson, in Malaysia, I unexpectedly catch a glimpse of the huge caudal fin of a fish, maybe some sort of whale, standing above the surface before diving into the deep. Then the sea is calm again. No one has seen it except me.”
FREDERIC: – The grown-ups don’t really care. So I have to keep it for myself. I’m left alone with the frustration of not sharing this fabulous vision… This is why, now, I keep track of what seems extraordinary to me.
DT 500 ZINE: -How often do you recall the memories of your childhood?
FREDERIC: – According to Waldo Emerson:
“ we spend most of our life building our own house until the day we get locked inside. We start framing the world, and then the world frames us.”
“But children still ignore doors and fences. They explore. They bypass reality. In some way, they are super-heroes. Childhood is a time of super-heroes confronting a world of giants. This state of mind, the ability that children have to marvel at things, is what you need to stick to. If not, Art turns into a social commentary or commonplace.”
DT 500 ZINE: – Fred, how does a photography get started for You?
FREDERIC: – It starts with an emotion brought by the sight of an object or a subject. My aim is usually to manage to frame this sentiment. It’s difficult to say if you catch or build the result.
DT 500 ZINE: – Do you remember your first picture framed?
FREDERIC: – I was probably around 8 years old. I took some pictures of a bullfight. When the film of my tiny Kodak Instamatic camera was processed I discovered with surprise that the characters had a petite size, they seemed lost in the print. They didn’t look so far when I had photographed them. For the first time, I was facing the effect of a lens distortion.
DT 500 ZINE: – How do you actually choose the right object to shoot?
FREDERIC: – It’s a combination of the building’s visual strength and the dramatic potential of its background. My favorite set is a Construction recommended to me by the Snøhetta architects. It’s a summer-house located on Norway’s southern coast, a cabin built in the sixties by Bengt Espen Knutsen for his own purpose. At a distance, it looks like a couple of matchboxes left on the ground, hidden among the rocks. It’s some kind of modest perfection.
DT 500 ZINE: – Talking about the modest perfection, is there anything that supports your creative process?
“I try to get closer to the edge, into a disorienting state of mind.”
DT 500 ZINE: – How did you come up with this idea?
FREDERIC: – Just by chance. Serendipity! I just happened to notice these buildings that no one had indeed documented earlier. I only had an acute eye and grabbed the opportunity. Then, the rest went on like a treasure hunt.
DT 500 ZINE: – Are you an adventurist?
FREDERIC: – I wanted to feature in the book a picture of the Leningrad harbor terminal lost in the mist, in a way that would recall Caspar David Friedrich’s romanticism. To do so I had to risk myself on the frozen waters of the Gulf of Finland. On that winter day, the temperature was minus 28 degree Celsius. After two or three shots, the lens was blinded with condensation, and the shutter release went blocked. I couldn’t feel my fingers.
” The Russian guy at my side suggested that we’d go and ask the Saint Petersburg Coast Guards help. After a thirty minutes walk, we arrived half-frozen at their headquarters. The local officer invited us in for a drink. It took us a full bottle of whiskey and an hour of drinking binge before he drove us back on the ice with isothermal clothes and his over-craft. Thank God, the few pictures I had taken previously turned out to be good because the last ones were totally out of focus. “
DT 500 ZINE: – You should have a fascination for Soviet architecture, why?
FREDERIC: – the Soviet Union tells the story of a utopia that turned into a dystopia, a fascinating disaster. This is what makes it aesthetically so attractive to people.
DT 500 ZINE: – Le Corbusier dreamed of destroying the old buildings in Paris and rebuilding it in a modernistic way by high-blocks, what do You think about it?
FREDERIC: – Le Corbusier is a controversial figure either blamed or celebrated by the trend of the day. He is the guru of Modernism worshipers. I’m not one of them. I don’t believe in the Messiah. Modernism was the primary dogma of the last century, a mindset that belonged to the West but also suited perfectly Soviet Ideology. This rigid system gave birth to extensive forests of inhuman beehives. Now we have to cope with the outcome. I don’t feel any nostalgia. And Thank God Paris has been preserved. I’m reluctant about any system in which individuality gets drowned in some dubious collective values.
DT 500 ZINE: – What is your theory about architectural ensemble?
FREDERIC: – I believe that shapes speak. The most over-sized and dramatic buildings erected in the USSR had an apparent symbolic meaning. One of their aims was to express the transcendence of power, the strength of the Soviet Empire. To some extent, they represented some kind of “monumental theology,” they were the shrines of the Marxist profane religion. Later on, when everything started falling apart, in the late seventies and eighties, some local architects began trespassing against the rules, trying to shape their way out of this Orwellian world. There was a colossal craving for fulfillment. Hopelessness had been the mood until then.
” An artist of that time used to express this state of mind by painting beheaded crowds crossing urban locations, streets, factories, railway stations. But all of a sudden you didn’t have to break the rules anymore. They were crumbling. These architects had to invent new shapes. They hadn’t been taught how to do so. This is how some kind of DIY metaphysics took place illustrated by the weirdest architecture of the period.”
DT 500 ZINE: – Fred, what is the purpose of architecture?
FREDERIC: – Literally to bring a shelter to people. But in a more understated way, it frames culture and ideology.
DT 500 ZINE: – do you draw or paint sometimes?
FREDERIC: – A very long time ago, I used to draw storyboards. Sometimes I grab a pencil. But discovering other people’s work is more thrilling. This is how I feed my brain. The favorite is always the latest on the list. Last summer it was Romualdas Silinskas, a leading architect of the period I’m focused on. I discovered his erotic drawings. Right now it’s Kamo Gyanjyan, a “cosmic” Armenian artist who also used to work in Soviet times. I’m collecting their works.
DT 500 ZINE: – how has Paris influenced you?
FREDERIC: – French people love socialite practices. I’m not really into it.
” I move more or less every three years from one district to another. It keeps me from getting fossilized.”
DT 500 ZINE: – What projects are you working on these days?
FREDERIC: – More Architecture and Nude Art photography, anything that moves me.
DT 500 ZINE: – Merci beaucoup Frédéric!
INTERVIEW BY babes
ARTISTS KAMO GYANJYAN,Romualdas Silinskas, Hakov Hakobyan – © Erevan modern art museum