We’re thrilled to introduce you to Claudine Moitié aka Clok today. Having joined EyeEm not too long ago, Clok immediately made it onto everyone’s favorites with her stunning street photographs from Paris. In this interview she explains us how she started taking photos, what are the stories behind her pictures and what’s her fascination with the streets…
Hello Claudine! Please introduce yourself: who are you, what do you do, where do you live and do you prefer coffee or tea for breakfast?
For breakfast, I drink coffee with a cloud of cold milk. I put the milk first. It’s essential for checking my feeds on Tumblr, EyeEm and Instagram. More seriously, my name is Claudine, but my friends call me Clok (without “c”!). I’ve been a journalist for over 20 years, so it’s quite strange to be interviewed now! I live in Paris, in Belleville, an area filled with the working-class and young artists, which mixes together a lot of cultures and lifestyles. I like it.
You shoot almost exclusively on the street. What is it that drives you towards street photography? And when did you start taking photos?
I felt petrified for a long time, admiring the images of my colleagues: illustrators, draftsmen, graphic designers, video directors, and of course photographers. When I was working as an editor in chief I constantly had to examine their work. But my own connection to images was difficult. For a long time I believed that amateur photography was only done by nostalgic people. I had no camera and I was rather indifferent to the fact.
Then, one year ago, during a major health problem, I downloaded a photo app called Instagram and I started sharing pictures with people all over the world. For me it was nothing but a nice social network with images. But, little by little, I was no longer content with being a spectator. I started trying to reproduce what I saw in the photos of others. It arrived at a difficult moment of my life, and as such it was a lifesaver. I just took photos. I posted up to 6 photos a day, most of them were very bad, but the community members kindly encouraged me.
I also think after the fact that I posted a picture of my plunging neckline and a series of photos of my legs, I have quite a few male heterosexual followers.
What’s the funniest or strangest story that happened to you while taking pictures? Did someone ever notice you had taken a picture of them?
The funniest story was when I followed a couple that was embracing for a long time on the street. The light was ochre warm by walking in their trail and I felt transported by their love. Love is so beautiful. When I felt that I had enough pictures I overtook them. And then I heard, “Hey! Clok!” They were my close friends, but I was so focused on getting my photo that I didn’t even recognize them. I only saw them as characters of the tale I imagined.
People rarely catch me. And it’s better that way because French people are protective of their private lives. It’s sacrosanct in our culture. It’s very different from Spain (I was amazed to see so many people shooting with their iPhones and cameras when I went to Madrid in November!) or from the US. Once hitch-hikers saw me. They were very worried of me taking their picture and one of them was rather aggressive. We spoke for a long time, I showed him my camera roll and, finally, our conversation turned very friendly.
What can you tell us about Paris that we haven’t heard before?
I just don’t know what people already heard about Paris! But I can quote Mathieu Kassovitz, a French actor and film director: “People think of Paris as the city of love or the city of light, but where you got love you got hate, where you got light you got darkness.”
If you could recommend 5 spots to capture great photos on the streets, what would these by?
In spite of what my contacts on my social networks might think, I didn’t begin with shooting on the subway. But it’s nevertheless a good way to begin, because people stay still there, giving you more time for framing and looking for the best angle.
Also, the surroundings of the Louvre, the graphic forms and the perspectives, the City Hall, the bank of the Seine also works. A more commonplace to take photos is in the middle of tourists, all armed with cameras and still, noses up!
Otherwise, in streets, my advice is to work with the mood. I feel better in districts like Belleville, as opposed to the chic areas where tourists go, because my life is there. Shooting unknown people is always shooting a part of our self. At the moment, I shoot a lot at Porte d’Orléans, a part of Paris with many base lines, lots of perspectives and a special light. But that will pass.
Certain places don’t work for me, for example a particular one situated in the subway Châtelet, but still I try my luck every day.
We really like your blog, where you combine your photographs with various texts, quotes, phrases. These texts enhance your images in a way that they tell a story altogether. How did the idea for that come about?
I come from a universe made of words. They are my natural element. I always wrote, since the age of five! My first photos were just a supplement to the poetry that I translated into English and into Spanish. Translating Baudelaire is not really a sinecure!
My own challenge was rather to walk on the other side: take a scene and then add words. My purpose would be to reach the level of the really great ones: catching scenes that are able to tell a story on its own to the largest audience. You can just imagine the story when you look at the photo. The professionals consider that if their photo requires a caption (except journalism), it means they failed.
Can you choose 3 of your photo stories to feature here on our blog?
Yes of course:
I do like take pix by night in the rain, even if that’s not easy with the iPhone. I’m very proud of this one. On one hand because of the composition, on the other hand because of the wink of the small drawing on the one-way street sign.
This old man sits every day on the same place, whatever the weather is like. When I took this photo, it was -9 degrees celsius (15.8 F). I even had trouble holding my iPhone. Imagine how much colder he must be, with his poor blanket. I take many photos of homeless people and beggars, to show the deteriorating social state of Europe. But I only post 10% of them.
I went down to the subway when I raised my head and perceived this man, his cap, the facade of the building, the bicycle, the subway sign. Our glances suddenly crossed, I clicked. And I quickly rushed within the subway, because he was furious. I was really afraid, this time! I treated it like the French pioneers of street photography, those from the 1920s and 1930s, because all in the scene irresistibly reminded me of them — the HCB, Brassaï, Doisneau, and so on.
What are your projects for the future?
In photography, I know I’m still going to evolve. When I measure the progress made in one year, wow, I’m really stunned. It’s fascinating. Professionally, I come from the universe of the paper press, which slowly fades. I thus went on to multimedia: I still write, but I also film and edit my videos and interact with my readers. And now, I can also take photos! I’d like to combine my job with these new pleasures that excite me.
Thank you for the interview, Clok!