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Capturing the Essence

2015-11-18 A portrait session with French photographer Philippe Echaroux can be over very quickly but he still manages to capture something from his sitter that others taking more time might struggle to reveal.


Philippe Echaroux is one of those photographers who shoots very much by instinct, naturally putting his subjects at ease and sensing the right moment to press the shutter.

Everyone is treated the same way, whether they’re a big name celebrity or an unknown model, and the Marseille-based Frenchman doesn’t stand on ceremony. “I like to make it quick,” he says. “Like really quick. We recently made a video of a shoot I did and I made three portraits of Fatboy Slim in less than 25 seconds. For me the trick is not to let people think, not to give them time to build this invisible barrier. I like to shake their hand and say ‘ok we’re done!’ and see them go ‘What?!!!’”

Marylin Hendrix Einstein1It’s an approach that elicits some gloriously impromptu images, regularly revealing something about the sitter that others, taking more time and showing perhaps more deference, might struggle to emulate. But relaxed though he is, Philippe doesn’t cut corners on the technical front and he’s been a long time Hasselblad user, working with an H3DII-39 because of the size of the sensor and the shallow depth of field it makes possible. He exclusively pairs the camera with an 80mm because it brings him close to his subject: “It’s like I’m sitting down and having a coffee with them.”

This was the combination used for one of his most challenging recent projects, an assignment to shoot portraits of more than 600 rugby players for a book, where the subjects ranged from current French players through to the oldest international player alive (92 years old). “I had to shoot the guys in several places, such as service stations or the dirty back offices of shops, and always produce the same quality of image,” he says. “It wasn’t easy, but it was great fun to do.”

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