Photography by Julien Besson, Interview by Isa Prieto.
IP: Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
JB: I am a French street photographer. Not a professional, but passionate about the city of New York, I have always lived in Paris but I consider New York as my refuge.
IP: What is one of your favourite memories from the 80’s?
JB: Like most of the teenagers in 1990, I discovered the old school side of the 80's in front of my French TV watching MTV's American Hip Hop music videos (Run DMC, Wu-Tang Clan, Beastie Boys, Notorious Big...) and the legendary Spike Lee movie 'Do the right Thing' in 1989. They will be marked eternally in my memory.
IP: How did you become interested in photography?
JB: I photographed at the age of 18 without asking questions, but in fact the work of Bruce Davidson that I discovered 6 years ago was a trigger, especially with his series' East 100 St 'and' Brooklyn Gang'
IP: How would you define your own photography or your style?
JB: A style? It's such a difficult question, I let others define it. I tried above all to transcribe my sensitivity, to have a sincere look at the lives of others, to capture the right moment, the complicity of the moment, without cheating by telling another story in the era of time. For the series '80 s' it was made in Manhattan the 25 May 2019 in the street, the idea was mainly to represent at best the personality of these artists. Thanks to these 3 famous New Yorker artists behaving as if there were still living in the 80’s, I can feel again the atmosphere of that period. And believe me, they are not playing a role, 80’s are part of their daily life. The soul of New York does not disappear!
IP: Did you grow up in the city? What attracts you to urban areas like New York and Berlin?
JB: I did not grow up in the city of NY, I have only made 5 trips since 2015. If I give you all the reasons that make me love the city of New York and especially its people, the energy of its artists, I risk writing a novel ...
IP: These images are taken in the present day but they have an old feel to them. Technically how do you achieve that and why do you want to?
JB: Many people on social networks thought I was 80 years old and congratulated me on my archival work! But I was 5 years old in 1980! I like to deceive the viewer, my style is associated with a form of timelessness that suits me, transcribing the heritage of New York. I cannot photograph the present day New York that I love without finding traces of its past, to marry past and present.
IP: How do you get to know your subjects? What is your process of taking pictures of these young people?
JB: Most of the time I meet people on the street. For this series, I saw these 3 artists (DJ Leerock Starski, Koolout-k & Tashawn Whaffle Davis) in a recent work by famous photographer Jamel Shabazz. I contacted them a month before my departure explaining my wish and my approach. It is difficult to create a climate of trust and intimacy in a short time but in this case they were so professional in their posture and so friendly, that I just observed them and chose backgrounds that interested me. In addition, the improvised videos in the street and the Ghetto-Blaster that spit his old school sound immediately put me in the mood and we found the fun of the 80s.
IP: You always shoot in black and white. Why do you like black and white, and what camera do you use?
JB: Black and white is part of the aestheticism of my work, although this time I shot some portraits in colour but it is more difficult to find the atmosphere kodak polaroid of the time. I use a Fujifilm XM1 and a 27mm lens, and photoshop.
IP: What projects are you looking forward to in the future?
JB: My main project is to find funding to travel longer and to be immersed in the people I find. I would like to take a road trip from New Orleans to California crossing the centre of America's most popular places, continuing my work on youth, the underprivileged, and workers living in motels or their cars
Leerock Straski: https://www.instagram.com/leerock_starski/
Tashawn Whaffle Davis: https://www.instagram.com/iamwhaffle/