Thursday, January 2, 2014

Black Paris Profiles™ II: Christian Bordey - Part 1

My friend Kathie Foley-Meyer introduced to Guadeloupe-native Christian Bordey less than two weeks ago, when she and her husband Irv swung through Paris as part of their extended Christmas holiday travels. We had a fascinating conversation over coffee and I knew that I had to bring Christian’s story to you via the Entrée to Black Paris blog!

Christian Bordey
© Cécile Renaud

Christian is a photographer who specializes in portraits. He started taking photos at the age of twenty-one with a camera that belonged to his father. He recalls asking if he could borrow his dad’s camera equipment, to which his father replied, "Of course." He then began doing portraits in a neighborhood studio and taking photos at his school in Paris’ 14th arrondissement.

He began his career by working in a traditional black and white photo lab, where he discovered what he calls “the magic of developing and photo printing.” He worked alongside acclaimed photographers Jeanloup Sieff (portraitist) and Peter Lindbergh (fashion photographer), drying their contact sheets by using an old process called “glazing.”

Christian worked at the fashion photo studio Astre for six years, where he served as the set assistant and the liaison between the team and the studio. He learned to deal with the photographer, makeup artist, hairdresser, indeed, everyone involved in the shoots. It was a grueling task but very rewarding, because that's where he learned how to build a light, manage a team, and create a relationship of trust with the person photographed.

Next, he worked with fashion photographer Fred Pinet – it was with Pinet that he learned to photograph in daylight. He went on to launch his solo career in fashion photography but now favors doing portraits. To his knowledge, no other Guadeloupian photographer does the kind of work that he does.

Christian has built quite a name and reputation for himself and works quite a bit from referrals. Because the relationship between photographer and subject is built on trust, the referrals indicate that his current and past clients trust him enough to recommend him. Clients have even come to him without even having seen his work, based on these referrals.

I asked Christian what distinguishes portraiture from fashion photography for him. He responded:

Fashion photography highlights the clothing, makeup, etc. of the time, using the best of each of these elements to create an image. For the portrait, the attitude is much the same, but in the service of a personality. Portraits are more timeless because they reflect an emotion.

In looking at Christian’s portfolio, I observed dozens of striking, sometimes even haunting, B&W portraits. But I also saw lots of color photos – of ad campaigns, music events, and particularly, of landscapes. Christian told me that when he travels, he prefers photographing in color because he prefers authenticity and wants to do only minimal retouches. For many of his portraits, however, he uses B&W for classicism.

Among the most expressive and enchanting portraits in the portfolio are those of several reggae artists. They are inspired by the classic portraits of jazzmen in black and white.

Earl China Smith
© Christian Bordey

Christian recounted the following about how he began photographing these artists:

I've always loved music and reggae in particular. My first CD purchase was UB40’s Labour of Love II. A few years later I began my recreational photography and then worked for a professional photo studio.

Then I had the idea to mix what I can do with what I like. This “clicker” emerged with a photo portrait of Bob Marley taken by Annie Lebovitz, with whom I worked. Annie had set up a mobile studio close to Marley’s concert and had waited three days to get his picture. So I thought, “Why not me?”

In July 2009, I contacted a reggae festival in the south of France and presented my project. It worked!

Perhaps not surprisingly, Christian’s favorite hobby is to go to live music concerts. He loves listening to the voices of the singers and hearing the musicians' work “because without them, music does not exist.” The height of his enjoyment comes when he attends music festivals – he loves the excitement, the encounters, the photo opportunities...

…which led to the topic of OneOneOne Exclusive Conscious Wear, a fair trade, ecologically-conscious French clothing line supported by “Reggae Artists, Musicians, Dancers, & Lovers.” Christian is among their supporters:

I have met many artists who wear OneOneOne creations at concerts and festivals and as soon as I could, I sent them pictures to promote their creations. I made this picture at Terre de Bas, with a tripod that my father bought in New Caledonia 40 years ago. My brother gave it to me last year. The name “OneOneOne” comes from Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a black prophet glorified by some reggae artists who said, "One Aim, One God, One Destiny."

Christian Bordey wearing OneOneOne apparel
© Christian Bordey

Now Christian is thinking of making a series of portraits of dance hall singers originating from the French Caribbean, this time in color.

Next week, read about Christian's preferred photo project and his life in Paris.


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