With a top secret process, photographer Jean-Vincent Simonet returns with an even funkier portfolio
Cross-pollenating two art forms, the Paris and Zurich-based photographer experiments with inkjet printers, liquids and chemicals – creating psychedelic works that rely heavily on post-production.
- Ayla Angelos
- 20 January 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Remaining true to your work while taking on commissioning briefs can be a tricky one. Not only do you want to continue to be commissioned and hit the brief well, but you also want to remain true to your style and, ultimately, avoid being put on a pedestal and risk being asked to repeat one motif over, over and over again.
This predicament became paramount within the work of Jean-Vincent Simonet, a Paris and Zurich-based photographer who enlightened us all in 2017 with his experimental printing and array of post-production techniques. But it was around this time when he started to get a little tired of some of the digital collages and paintings he was creating – “clients were always expecting the same look in my pictures and I was totally stuck with my personal researches,” he tells It’s Nice That. So, in late 2017 Jean-Vincent went back to Tokyo and spent most of the following year collating a publication about his Japanese experience, titled In Bloom and published by SPBH Editions. “This book is the starting point of my new explorations with inkjet printers, liquids and chemicals.”
Shortly after publication, the photographer presented his work in numerous exhibitions – be it the Swiss Design Awards, Webber Gallery in London, Festival International of Photography in Hyeres or Fotomuseum Winterthur – where he unleashed his new productions and parts of his process to the world. He also now beholds an even more enviable roster of clients, including Lens Culture, Novembre magazine, Pen magazine, Wired, Booooooooom! and Tank magazine (plus numerous others), and switches between both personal and projects and commissions within the music and fashion industries. Most imperative is Jean-Vincent’s mission to “get away from the reproducibility of photography, to free [his] pictures from the flat screens and boring framings.” He adds: “Let’s say that since 2017 I kept using photography as a tool but with different means.”
His new means now rest in a psychedelic trip that sees him embark on a journey between two art forms, both photography and painting. “It’s bold and colourful, it has texture,” he says. “It is permeated by a sense of overload, exuberance and entropy; I always try to slightly (or totally) drift from reality.” As for his subject, this can be a small group of people in their natural environment – as seen in his publication Bloom – to “dead flowers nearby a highway”. Basically anything he sees is some form of inspiration or focus point for his creations. “I try to bring people closer into the world I become a part of each time I photograph something or someone.”
Once his subject has been decided upon, Jean-Vincent begins his process – which can be diverse, more than anything. Firstly, he will experiment in the studio, printing images onto plastic paper, “so the ink never quite dries”, before using water and chemicals to transform the surface of the print. He describes this process as “abstracting and blurring them as if the scenes are melting away”. What’s interesting is that this process remains to be a secret and, after witnessing (in a video that cannot be shared) the lengthy details and methods he undertakes to make these pictures, you begin to understand why. Alongside a certain mix of chemicals, he also spends most of his time searching for new printers, ink and paper in order to achieve unexpected reactions, and tries to fix them using epoxy resins or by painting on them with his hands – “it’s really messy, ink and water all over the place.”
Alongside artists such as Andreas Dobler and Frances Bacon, the contemporary Japanese photography scene also plays as a key player within his influences – this includes works by Daisuke Yokota, Taisuke Koyama and Kenta Kobayashi. His last two projects were strongly inspired by literature, such as Les Chants de Maldoror – a French poetic novel and long prose poem – and In Bloom 2018-2019 is likened to the novel Almost Transparent Blue from Ryu Murakami in 1976.
A strong narrative seems to inspire this artist, which becomes evident in a portrait he shot a year go of Vex Ashley, a porn performer and activist – now being released in two months in POV PAPER9 magazine, run by friend Emmanuel Crivelli. “We shot Vex in Switzerland during an underground porn festival,” says Jean-Vincent. “I printed this image on plastic and before it dries I exposed it one night to the rain. All the ink started to drip because of the humidity and cold temperature. I really like the fact that the component of the picture itself is creating the visual.” A process deemed uncontrollable and “magical”, and one that he cites as the most exciting part of his work.