“We define ourselves as photographers even when we’re working with 3D materials,” say Paris-based duo Benjamin Roulet and François Bellabas. "Everything comes from photography.”
Better known as Gourau and Phong, the duo’s work sits in a fascinating space that pushes what we understand to be photography to encompass a host of new techniques and ideas.
The pair met while studying at the National School of Photography in Arles, and formed Gourau and Phong officially in 2017. Their resulting practice is rooted in exploring the contemporary possibilities of the medium when combined with 3D elements and video. “They are tools that allow us to tell stories,” they explain. “Technology has brought about different languages and we love playing with that.”
In particular, the pair regularly works with photogrammetry, VR, 360 photography and video. All elements they employed on a recent three-week trip to Los Angeles. “The main goal was to collect as much data as we could to then process everything once we are back in Paris,” they recall. “We love learning and we are pretty geeky,” Benjamin and François continue. “We shape our projects around that. We love starting with something real, grabbing some pieces of reality and see what will happen when we modify, distort, blend them with our new tools. Through this way of processing, we find new forms and new ways to tell stories.”
It was one project, in particular, made for Télévision Magazine which brought our attention to the experimental pair. Titled Ville-Les-Bains the project is typical of their practice combining a 3D-scanned model, moving image and photography to create a fashion editorial that harks back to Benjamin’s childhood holidays.
Benjamin and François travelled to Normandie, a place Benjamin’s family often visited when he was younger. It was here that all of the “backgrounds, stones, landscapes” were shot. “For every project we work on, we try to bring an experimental process where the result is unknown until the end,” they tell us. In this instance, the pair was attempting to create an ode to the area, therefore allowing their visit to dictate the final visuals, instead of heading there with a specific aesthetic or output in mind.
These landscape shots are then combined with scans of a model taken in a photo studio at a later date. In turn, the combination of the imagery creates a story about “a regular girl living a generic world. It is a displacement of the reality enhanced by a visual culture of the video game realm.” This combination of real and non-real elements sees Gourau and Phong using reality as a playground once again, helping to define exactly what it is that makes the pair’ work so captivating. It not only demonstrates technical prowess and pushes what we consider to fall under the umbrella of photography, but it raises fascinating questions around truth and reality within the frames of an image.
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