Interview with Morgan de Laporte

From 15 – 31 August, Sway Gallery will be hosting Daydreaming – a Japanese motion, a photography exhibition from French photographer Morgan de Laporte. I caught up with Morgan ahead of the exhibition’s opening to talk about the exhibition, photography and more.

Guard in Tokyo Metro, c2017 Morgan de LaPorte

First things first, please introduce yourself.
I’m a French photographer, I’ve been living in London for the past two years. My background is more in the film industry, that’s what I studied and I still work as an editor and camera operator. I went into photography when I got myself a 5d Mark II. At the time it was the first DSLR shooting HD video, and that camera got me hooked on photography. I’m leaning more and more toward making it my main occupation. 
Tell us about your exhibition at the Sway Gallery.
The exhibition is about my journey in Japan and my street photography there. I mainly focused on people at work and around their work as it was one of the main things that bring my attention there. I’ve tried to isolate people and their stories in the cities, for me the “Dreamers” (portrait of people sleeping at work or commuting) series represent most the feeling I tried to convey. 
How long did you spend in Japan taking photos?
I was there for only 20 days. At first I thought that it was a good enough amount of time, but then realised I could only do so much in that time frame and will have to go back to complete the journey. 
What did you find most interesting or moving about Japan when you were visiting?
It’s really hard to pick one thing as everything was fascinating for me there. I truly believe that it’s the most different culture I’ve ever experienced, but I would say, as a general thing, highlight people, behaviour and customs. Things that can seems absurd for me but are absolutely normal from in a Japanese perspective. It is fascinating as well because the beauty you find in Japan. A lot comes from the hard work and attention to detail that people  put in the decor and community. And there’s something a bit magical. Winter there has a perfection that I’ve rarely seen before, specifically around Nikko. 
How do you decide what to photograph? Do you plan ahead or let the moment seize you?
For projects like this I do not decide exactly what I want to photograph, but I decide more on the general look I’d like to have and maybe what I want to take away from it. I do let the moment seize me for sure, and I think it’s one of the fundamentals of street photography, but before going I’ve got an idea of what I’d like to capture. I knew here that I would not really focus on traditional Japan but more on streets.
How many photos do you have to take before you get the ‘perfect’ shot?
On travel/street photography, I do not take that many shots before having the perfect one for afew reasons. First I’m not always looking for the perfect picture – sometime the blur or the skew in a frame can bring something interesting and closer to the feeling you had in the moment, more that a perfectly balanced and sharp image. And also because on this project I was mainly working on film. It is quite easy with film to think that each click cost money, so if you have to take a picture twice you make sure there’s a proper reason for that. And finally I do believe that a big part of being a good photographer is being a good photo editor. Many times (when I work in digital), I would look at my screen and think I don’t have great material, but then starting the editing process, putting pictures next to each other and playing with colours or black and white,  andyou’re taking pictures to an other level. I think that is a part of the process where you express your taste the most. 

Dreamer #1, Tokyo, c2017 Morgan de LaPorte

What are your favourite subjects to photograph?
People I’d say, because even if you have something in mind, people will always bring something that you didn’t plan to your pictures. That’s what makes portrait photography never boring I think. A lot of people can take the same picture of a landscape. That would probably never happen with portrait I think, as the subject will always have a slightly different look/expression on each pictures.
You’ve visited a few countries for your work. Which has been your favourite and why?
So far it’s still the west part of the USA. I’ve been twice and plan to go back very soon. I think it’s mainly because, since I was really young, I had a huge interest in films and studied it, and American cinema is a fundamental part of this passion. And when driving through these landscapes you’re not disappointed. Every place takes you back to a specific frame in an American movie. The diversity of the landscape is just amazing, and the culture is very diverse as well, you won’t meet the same characters in California in Montana or in Utah or New York. Every state has a specific look and culture. I just feel like there are a lot of stories to tell there.
What kind of photography equipment do you use? Do you use different equipment for different kinds of photo?
It does vary. For this project, I knew that I wanted to go back on film. I hadn’t do it for a while, and I knew I wanted to use Medium format. So most of the picture are taken with my Mamiya 7 with an 80mm, beautiful camera, then a lot is taken as well with my Nikon f3 and a 35mm. I used an Horizon camera for some panoramic. In the past, for most of  my work, I’ve used a canon 5d Mark II, first proper camera I’ve owned and the one that got me into photography.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
It’s tricky as I’m still an aspiring photographer myself and it’s not yet my main source of living. So I would just say same the things I’m telling myself: shoot more and always put yourself out of the comfort zone because that’s when the best stuff comes out.

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