by Steve Bisson

Tell us about how you got into photography?

Patrick Rimond (P.R.): My first step towards photography was not conscious. I didn't want to become a photographer or even an artist. I was a student in an engineering school and I bought on an impulse a set of photographic equipment off a classified ad seen at school. And the first two black and white films taken in a nearby wood were a revelation to me. At the same time, I met a person who showed me the richness of Parisian museums where I first discovered the surrealists and then all the artistic production of the first part of the twentieth century.

After completing my studies, I became an assistant to a corporate photographer for one year before moving to Japan for a period of 9 years. Being surrounded again by artists, it was there that I decided to devote myself exclusively to photography.  From that moment on, I explored my photographic intuitions and discovered the world of photography as an art form. And I photographed, again and again, during long urban walks. Not speaking Japanese and not meeting foreigners, I lived in a relative loneliness that encourages introspection. Accompanied and challenged by the writings of Jiddu Krishnamurti and living in a country with a developed spirituality, I was able to follow a mental path of personal development, which was reflected in my photographs.

© Patrick Rimond from the series 'In & Out'

Much of your photographic research investigates the space, the natural or urban landscape. Where does your interest come from?

P.R.: My photographic research is related to my psychology. That's what I'm assuming, at least. Photography is not a therapy but a testimony of my conscious and unconscious mental states. Generally speaking, I am looking for depth or even transcendence in my life and my images. I know that absolute truth does not exist; yet it seems to me that I am in search of it. Concretely, during the shooting I try to situate myself in relation to my physical environment. I'm looking for the ideal distance to report back the reality that I got caught onto. Some scenes capture my attention. I have an emphatic or even fusional relationship with the world around me. Whether plants or walls, I am interested in their shapes, colors, materials and layouts. It is with these four dimensions that I produce my photographic compositions. In the images, I always avoid anecdotal, narrative or spectacular stories and anything that could distract the mind from the immediate, direct and immersive perception.

© Patrick Rimond from the series 'In & Out'

For example, your series 'Hudros, 2010-2014' tells us about the need for water man, expressed effectively through contact with cement. You also mention some references like Gabriele Basilico and in particular Shibata. You have lived several years in Japan. How the encounter with that distant culture influences your work today?

When you turn to Japanese culture, you often find the opposite patterns in it. The noise and superficiality of the city centers face the silence and depth of traditional culture. One thinks about Zen. That's what I turned to. It's more consistent with my personality. In 'Hudros', there is a carefully chosen distance, refined compositions and the silence that lead to contemplation and peace of mind. The water that flows regularly can be seen as an incentive to let go and experience calmness.  Concrete, which is the setting for the water, symbolically opposes it. On the one hand we have fresh, flowing water that is always in movement, which symbolizes life, and on the other hand we have concrete that is often decayed and inanimate. Yet the two are complementary so that the inhabitants of Marseille can drink fresh water. This is a perfect illustration of the complementarity between Yin and Yang, a concept of Chinese origin but also found in Japan.

© Patrick Rimond from the series 'Hudros'

I find in the landscapes of Gabriele Basilico, the one who had a certain “friendship for the cities, a lot of space but also tranquility and sweetness in his relationship with architecture. With Toshio Shibata, apart from the fact that he is working on an apparently similar subject, he also says he is not in a documentary process but wants to find beauty in non-photogenic structures. So do I.

© Patrick Rimond from the series 'Hudros'

© Patrick Rimond from the series 'Hudros'

© Patrick Rimond from the series 'Hudros'

Still talking about your environmental concerns. Your photographs, as well emphasized by Fabienne Perrut, express an immersion in the landscape, a sort of fusion between the look and the subject. This is very true in the recent series 'Quest Are Sometimes Disappointing' (QASD), in which you explore the places of Cézanne and provoke strong contrasts. Is this an important ingredient of your being a contemplative photographer?

'Quest Are Sometimes Disappointing' is a series where I was in a physical contact with nature, got out of the paths and explored the forest in its depth. The Provençal forest is dense and the soil is covered with brambles and small shrubs. The heat of summer and the sunshine make crossing it a truly physical experience. This gives intense, full and flamboyant images. When I photograph, I am at least in the visual perception of what surrounds me, it is a form of full consciousness. I put a lot of energy into paying attention to my environment and what it triggers in my head. A photograph is successful when I obtain a harmony between these different feelings. It must be extended over time as editing progresses in order to be finally kept in my selection. As someone pointed out to me during my last exhibition, when you look at the print you don't look at an image but you are transported there.

© Patrick Rimond from the series 'QASD'

© Patrick Rimond from the series 'QASD'

The camera as a tool to relate to the world. Some of your early works reflect a search of harmony in the chaos of the city. In your eyes what differentiate a Japanese city from a European one?

P.R.: In Japan there is no global plan for the construction of cities. We build where we can and how we can. There are few urban planning rules which results in cities with disorderly architecture. I lived in Osaka where a good part of the office buildings and the urban motorway with their colors and materials seemed to me, from my European point of view, to have this 70/80s patina. On the other hand, the main colors seem coordinated between buildings, with pastel tones of water green, blue-grey or delicate redbrick, which I liked. The list of building materials does not include stone or brick but cement, metal and siding. In this chaos, I loved to find compositions that I found harmonious.

During the 9 years I spent in Japan, my photography clearly followed my personal development, which was in the direction of openness. I first photographed walls under cloudy weather, then I photographed landscapes but I interspersed trees between the subject and me and finally I put myself in direct connection with the outside world by introducing the sky into the images. I was photographing from the beginning with one lens only, an equivalent of 45mm 24x36 and as my experience progressed, I was able to gradually increase the feeling of space in the image. The last series I made in Japan is called 'Urban Empire' where Empire expresses the power of architecture on our psyche. I am convinced that the shapes and masses of the buildings in which we live have an influence on us.

What have you been working on recently?

P.R.:The 'QASD' series is not finished, I am still producing new photographs for the purpose of making a book. I am now relaunching my portrait series, which has seriously slowed down in recent times. I have also been following up on the demolition and reconstruction of a social housing district next door that will take three years. This is a work done with my smartphone and published on Tumblr. And finally, I am currently experimenting with the manipulation of my prints, after observing the world; I take action to shape it. I'm really busy!

Any interesting book you have read you want to suggest and why (not only of photography)?

P.R.: I bought a book at the bookshop Volume in Paris, which seems to me to be accomplished in all points of view. For those who love Brutalism and beautiful books as I do, it is a reference. This is Simon Philipps'"Finding Brutalism" published by Park Books 017; 200 photos of the post-war British architecture, a 20 years work. It’s good even if it is in black and white that I don't practice!
Otherwise I very much appreciate Philippe Durand's photographs in his book "Allée des merveilles 2" published by GwinZegal 2016. They are beautiful photographs of colored rocks, sometimes scratched to inscribe letters or drawings.

How do you exhibit your work and how you generally engage with the audience?

P.R.: My way of exhibiting is quite classic, I make prints that I laminate and frame or that I lodge in a floater frame. I never put glass in front of my works and I like large prints but this is not systematic.  My work can also be found on Instagram, Facebook and on my website. I often go to the gallery during my exhibitions because I love to exchange with visitors. The reactions are very varied and enrich me with new points of view. With my work I try to pass on a message, and certainly many that I probably don't understand. Attention, lack of preconception and moral judgment are among these. I am very available and open to my audience.

© Installation view 'QASD?, Frangulyan Gallery, Paris, November, 2017 

© Installation view 'Hudros', Plateform, Paris, October, 2016 

Again, talking about photography as meditative process, how do you feel about the relationship with the virtual ocean in which we all have to swim somehow?

P.R.: Indeed, this acceleration of information and the number of messages we receive daily does not promote attentiveness nor leads to profound reflection in the long term. It doesn’t help to know who we are and what we choose to do with our lives. To adapt to this universe where each piece of information overwhelms the previous one, it is necessary to follow a real discipline in everyday life. My work goes in the opposite direction; it requires full attention and a different temporality. But the artist who has a professional ambition must be present in social networks to be thought of, unless he has a certain level of notoriety. That said, on my side, the books, exhibitions and articles are almost 100% from meetings with natural persons, which I am delighted about.


Patrick Rimond
urbanautica France