by Klaus Fruchtnis

Collaborative projects are rapidly increasing and constantly evolving in our society, but what makes them unique is the complementary teamwork behind.Emilie Hallard and Pablo Porlan are the founders of a Maria Books, a publishing house, and Maria Inc., a Production Agency. An interesting collaboration that is changing the way we look at photography – and a bright way to democratize photography, not only as an art for people but also as a means to preserve the quality of photobooks despite the digital era.

Emilie Hallard is a French photographer who explores life, people and other topics related to emotional states of mind. She portrays experiences and tells stories in a particular way through her series of images. Pablo Porlan is a Spanish photographer who captures the world the way he sees it questioning his interaction with human beings. He defines himself as an image puzzle-maker rather than an image storyteller.

Tell us about your approach to photography. How it all started? What are your memories of your first shots?

Emilie Hallard (EH):  My work focuses on human beings. I’ve explored for many years themes as darkness, love, passion and its consequences. I try to create a universal body of work. I am now working on naked portraits, to celebrate the diversity of people and bodies and to denunciate the beauty standards imposed by the fashion industry. I’m a self-taught photographer, so before reaching real consciousness in my practice and to start working with concepts, I started as many people: by travelling! So my first memories are really quiet: I was shooting in the Sahara, before the night, looking around, playing with lights, landscapes, camels…

© Emilie Hallard from the series ‘Animal Triste’

Pablo Porlan (PP): The first time I took a picture consciously I was 14 years old. We had to take some pictures of monuments for a school project and I tried to photograph my peers with the last pictures of the roll. Frankly, I tried to almost throw myself onto them trying to grasp what I thought it was their real face. Happily for me I wasn’t able to capture the image I have of my friends on those pictures as I had no idea on how a picture was taken neither on the technical nor on the psychological side. The fact that it didn’t work out encouraged me to grow my interest on photography until now.

I come from a Fine Arts Photography background; I did a bachelor degree on photography in Barcelona with a specialization in Portraiture. However, nowadays I’m more focused on storytelling and my features are closer to photojournalism and documentary photography than to fine arts. Recently, I have been working on social issues like obesity or the New Rural.

© Emilie Hallard from the series ‘Incorruptible Bodies’

As photographers, how would you describe your personal research in general? How did your research evolve with respect to those early days?

EH: After shooting landscapes during my trips, I quickly moved my camera towards to people. Photobooks, especially those by Moriyama deeply influenced my photography. I was very lucky to be surrounded by great photographers who taught me a lot as well. My personal research is highly linked to experiencing. My first work, ‘Animal Triste’, is a diary-based story. Creating this body of work meant to have to fully live some moments, to experiment feelings, to meet and confront people and situations. Today, with my second series ‘Incorruptible Bodies’, much quieter and brighter in the final result, is still intense in the practice as I spend a lot of time talking to the models that share a great intimacy with me. I feel very grateful.

PP:  My main goal while I am photographing is to be the best witness of what is happening in front of me and being able to make an interesting story out of it. I used to think that we could freeze reality and keep it on an image as if in a some sort of snow globe, nowadays on the contrary I prefer to believe that photography is not about freezing but about living the moment surrounding us. Since the beginning I always tried to interact, being part of the action, as I did with my schoolmates. I reckon all I got out of it was that I almost scared my friends to death. It took me a long way to realize that all I needed to do to grasp reality was just being there and letting the moment come into my lens. That is the kind of learning that for a documentary photographer is the key.

© Pablo Porlan, from the series ‘Personal mediterráneo’
(2009 - working progress)

About your collaboration, how does it work?

EH-PP: We met during some encounters of collectives of photographers in Spain many years ago. We’ve always been working in groups. And, we both love learning by doing! After moving to Paris, and based on those two things, Pablo invited me to create theParis Photobook Club. And here starts the story! We both share the same objective, which is to open the photo book to other publics, to make them becoming actors and not just an audience. All our events, and our global project, MARIA INC., are aiming this target. Based on that, each of us has special talents; we are pretty complementary. And for the talents we don’t have, either we learn by doing it, either we collaborate with other people!

© Pablo Porlan, from the series ‘Personal mediterráneo’
(2009 - working progress)

What do you think about photo books in the era of digital and social networking?

EH-PP: Photobooks may be one of the best examples on how our digital era has changed society. On one hand there has never been so easy to create things by yourself, say clothes, houses or photobooks, thanks to all the digital processes. On the other hand, almost everybody everywhere can get access to your work but almost no one get to see it in real. Photobooks are just some kind of good frame for us, native digitals, to materialize the dreams and ideas we put together through our computers and the Internet.

© Emilie Hallard from the series ‘Animal Triste’

Tell us about your project the Paris Photo Book Club, and the PhotobookFest.

EH-PP: As stated before, our goal is to open the photobook scene to other audiences and to encourage good practices sharing. We support the values of DIY, self-publishing and micropublishing.  Our both events are based on these goals and values. Le Paris Photobook Club is a monthly event held at a public library the Bibliothèque Château d’Eau, in Paris. We invite participants to bring books about a specific topic and to share their point of view. We also invited many experts to share about their activity: book binding, printing, design, self-publishing, etc. We want our participants to learn more about books, from a deeper reading to practical aspects. Le PhotobookFest is a festival that runs once a year, during the Paris Photo week. The festival supports the young photo book-publishing scene with a focus on independent publishing houses as well as self-published and DIY books. Le PhotobookFest is an inclusive, open event where you can meet like-minded people, share ideas and know-how, and broaden the horizons of the photobook as we know it.

© Pablo Porlan, from the series ‘Postacards’, 2013

Is there any contemporary artist or photographer, even if young and emerging, who influenced you in some way?

EH: Daido Moriyama was my master. Nowadays I try not to be influenced in my research. But I have to mention I totally do love Jocelyn Lee’s portraits.

PP: There are two young photographers and bookmakers that inspired me to produce my first fanzines and dummies: Lea Habourdin and Lena Kholkina.

Is there any show you’ve seen recently that you find inspiring?

EH: I was really moved by the Act series by Denis Darzac, at la MEP (Maison Européene de la Photographie), about disabled people. I was totally stuck by a picture of a boy, teardrop moment. The body language and the photographer approach were extremely moving.

PP: Taryn Simon’s exhibition at Jeu de Paume National Gallery is one of the latest exhibitions I’ve visited.

© Taryn Simon, ‘Folder: Express Highways’, The Picture Collection, 2013

Three books of photography that you recommend?

1. ‘Farewell Photography’ by Moriyama (but the binding is terrible: the book is falling apart) 
2. ‘The Epilogue’ by Laia Abril, one of the most coherent books I’ve ever seen
3. ‘Rasen Kaigan’ by Lieko Shiga.

PP : I’d also want to say The Epilogue but I will give three other options.
1. ‘A Criminal Investigation’ by Watabe Yukichi
2. ‘At Home’ by Bruce Wrighton
3. And any book produced by Phree a Spanish indie publishing house.

Projects that you are working on now and plans for the future?

EH-PP: Maria Inc. is a publishing house and a think tank. Some weeks ago we have presented to the public our first book, ‘Anecdotal’ by David Fathi. We will be in Arles for the professional week and at the Impressions Festival, at the Monte-en-l’Air Library where we organize a participative small workshop and a photobook jockey session!

At the moment we are already working on our next photobook exhibition and workshop during Les Rencontres Photographiques du 10e photo festival and on our own festival Le PhotobookFest 2015. All of that is happening next fall. We’re also preparing for 2016 our new Zine collection!

© Emilie Hallard from the series ‘Animal Triste’

How do you see the future of photo books in general evolve?

EH-PP: The market is nearly saturated and may collapse; there are too many books for a reduced number of collectors. Either everybody decides to open up and share their love for photobooks with their neighbors, friends, parents, etc. or we dig our grave. We’ve never seen so many beautiful books. It would be a pity to stop this vital impulse, but we need to open up and stop behaving in a very closed group/community.

Emilie Hallard 
Pablo Porlan 
urbanautica France