François Prost’s creative practice is certainly a varying one. Originally from Lyon, the now Paris-based creative originally studied graphic design and typography – a discipline he still regularly works in. For several years now, however, he has been developing a photographic practice alongside this design work, producing a string of fascinating projects.
In 2014, François documented the facades of French nightclubs in a satisfyingly symmetrical manner. Each over-the-top exterior appearing more like film sets when rendered in the daylight. In 2017, he took to the Champs-Elysées, capturing tourists as they exit their coaches and buses. Again, composed almost identically and with the addition of a pap-like high flash, At The Champs-Elysées leaves each visitor looking more like a mega-star than an inquisitive sightseer. Later that year, it was his series comparing Paris to its replica city in China, which solidified François as the go-to guy for any photographic work comprising of perfectly composed, amusing imagery.
With a portfolio that so clearly draws links between his editorial, typography and photographic work, we got in touch with François to find out more about the books that inspired his particular creative approach. Check out his top five picks, below.
Here Is New York – A Democracy of Photographs
I bought this book in the 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero while travelling to New York in 2011.
The book collects thousands of images made by anonymous photographers (as well as a few renowned photographers) the day of the 9/11 tragedy. It’s like time stopped during this attack, and you can see it through the eyes of any New Yorker, from the cops saving lives at the foot of the crashed tower, to people from very far away in Staten Island, contemplating the burning towers from their balcony. All shown together, these images bring something emotionally very powerful and give a strong feeling of what people lived through on this terrible day. There have been many films made documenting this event, but this book remains for me the most effective testimony to this moment, and is a good example of what photography books can do.
I first found this book on the bookshelf in the library of my graphic design school, Institut Saint-Luc in Brussels, in 2001. I bought it a few years later as it was one of the first graphic design books that had a real effect on me. Gunther Rambow belongs to the generation of German graphic designers from the 1970s and 80s that had a big political engagement while working for cultural clients. I like the radical approach he took to typography and photography, and his surreal aesthetic.
Colors Magazine is a magazine launched by Oliviero Toscani and Tibor Kalman for Benetton in the 90s. Having spent a year and a half next to the magazine’s desk – while studying at Fabrica in 2006 – I’ve probably been quite influenced by it. Although it was supported by a multinational company, the magazine had a really new approach to editorial and layout, choosing controversial, but often universal subject matters and treating them in a very “wide angle“ way. I haven’t seen many magazines with such a strong identity either.
Erik Kessels: Useful Photography
This book by Erik Kessels shows images found on the internet of people comparing their dicks with objects from day to day life. The pictures are made by men trying to impress their sex partners, but being not so impressed – or just pissed off – the audience posted it on the internet….
Erik Kessels realised there were many pictures like this on the internet and decided to make a book out of it. Every double spread shows many examples of one compared object, and the book is organised chronologically through a typical day: it starts at the beginning of the day with dicks compared to toothpaste tubes, to the end of the day with dicks compared to pillows or alarm clocks. It’s hilarious.
Coming from a graphic design background I’m quite fascinated by typography. This book compiles French posters from the golden age of pornographic cinema in the 70s and 80s. I like the aesthetic and the simplicity of the posters, which show hardcore sex titles in a very minimal and masterful way.
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