Born in the French Alps, Sophie Ebrard is a self-taught photographer and director. She started her career in the bright lights of advertising. Ten years later, and with a fairly impressive job title to her name, she took the bold leap to leave it behind and follow her love for photography instead. Sophie’s first solo exhibition was at the renowned Unseen Photo Fair during 2015 in Amsterdam attracting a lot of press and setting her work internationally. Most recently, her work was exhibited as part of the Taylor Wessing Portrait prize at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
How did the idea for the series come about?
I shot this series in the South of France with French actress Audrey Vernon. She needed pictures for her show ‚How to marry a millionaire‘. She was staying in a beautiful house with a swimming pool during Avignon festival, which was the perfect setting for the shoot. We shot the images over the course of a day when the light was magnificent.
How do you approach these intimate shoots?
Because of the existing relationship I have with her (I have shot her many times and we became friends), I wanted it to be very intimate. It’s hard to shoot someone naked when there is a full team around. I wanted it to be spontaneous, and documentary like; but I also wanted it very poetic and feminine. I wanted to show her beauty as much as possible.
Can we photograph the female body differently in a more powerful way?
Difficult question! Artists have been portraying the woman body for many centuries and I believe they have done it pretty well. There is nothing more beautiful than the female body. It’s so strong and empowered and at the same time so elegant and graceful. I realised not long ago that I am best at shooting women. I am much more comfortable and I really see their beauty. There’s nothing erotic or sexual (even when on porn sets like for my series It’s Just Love); I only see their body in its purest form.
What inspires you?
I love immersing myself creatively in worlds I know nothing about and work out how to earn the trust of my subjects. I feel like being a chameleon, adapting to my surroundings. It’s quite therapeutic in a way because you forget about your own world and see things very differently. The more remote it is from me, the more pleasure I take; and the better I am at capturing the beauty in what I see.
How would you define beauty?
I always try to find beauty everywhere I shoot. It is part of my DNA as a photographer. Wherever I am in the world and whatever I shoot, I always chose to see the beauty in a place or a person. This ‚DNA‘ translates really well in projects like It’s Just Love (project that is probably the most known – a photographic study of the human relation to the porn industry). There are a lot of preconceptions about the porn industry and it’s not necessarily where you would expect to find beauty.
Film or digital?
I mostly shoot film for personal work. I would say 99% of my work is shot analogue. Having instant results with digital takes me out of the experience. There’s this anticipation involved in the film process that is exciting and creative. I love the surprise-factor and the whole process involved. It just feels right: the texture, the colours … There is still a certain magic to it. Also, there’s something beautiful and tactile in having the original negative of a photograph. A digital file is just not the same.
What makes you happy?
My family, traveling and shooting! If I can mix all of them, then it’s the perfect scenario. Shooting in beautiful daylight always inspires me. For personal projects, I mainly shoot when I’m abroad. I like being in another country. It makes me look at things differently and pay attention to simple details, much more than I would in my day-to-day life.
What’s next for you?
I just got back from Kyoto, Japan where I did the second solo exhibition of It’s Just Love. It was part Kyotographie KG+ festival. We had great press including paper in Time Out, Vogue, i-D … It was very exciting to do a show so far away in such a different culture, but it was a great success! I am now looking at making a book with the images.