Francois Beaurain Pioneers Gifs as Art & Shares Nollywood Crush

Questions by: Olusegun

Francois Beaurain

Marie by Francois Beaurain

Praised French photographer, Francois Beaurain did not receive an artistic or photographic education, rather he took the scientific route and completed a PhD in chemistry and biology. Today he works in the corporate sector analysing climate change and in the cultural sector as a photographer. Two fields many people often assume are worlds apart create a careful cohesion in Beaurain.

“I do not see any contradiction between science and art, art and science both require imagination and the adrenalin you get when you follow a new idea is the same,” Beaurain tells us. We talk to the photographer/scientist about his upcoming shows this year from his solo show in Galerie 127 in Marrakech, to the Bozar exhibition in Brussels, to Rencontres de la Photographie 2016 in Arles, to the Festival Circulations in Paris and the Making Africa exhibition in Barcelona.

Purple by Francois Beaurain

Purple by Francois Beaurain

When and how did you begin creating art?
It was quite a surprise. At school, I used to draw constantly on the margins of my exercise books but it never went any further. I started to use a computer in the 90s and completely stopped drawing at that time. Four years ago, a friend of mine brought me to her workshop and gave a piece of clay… I had a like a flash and I’ve been creating all kind of artwork on a daily basis since.

What motivates you?
I have a lot of imagination and making art is my way to release the pressure. Africa has been like a flash to me, it just accelerated this process. I am curious about everything and I see magic everywhere. Africa really triggered something in me.

Why photography?
I began pictures and moving pictures just lately when I moved to Africa. Photography is the lightest medium you can think about when you’re travelling. My approach to pictures is driven by my liking for sculpture. For me pictures are a raw material you can model.


Tell us a bit about your gifs?
Making gifs is challenging, a medium half way between photo and video. You have to be concise and give your message with just a few frames and no sound. But the most interesting feature of a gif is that it can be repeated endlessly. To the contrary to a lot of gif makers, I tend to make my gifs as smooth as possible (no blinking) to make them more hypnotic.

How challenging is it?
Making a gif is a lot of work. There is of course a lot of photo edition but the shooting remains the key part. To make my gifs perfectly looped, my “models” have to do the right movement at the right place, and any small imperfections can result in blinking (which I do not like). In a way, making gifs reminds me of argentic photography, there is always some uncertainty about the result and you have to wait to be in front of your computer to see whether the gif is working or not.

What opportunities does it expose you to?
The first thing I like about gifs is that it is a pioneering medium. It is still underestimated and unexplored and I can do whatever I want. The counterpart is of course that a lot of people still think gifs are limited to the lazy/funny images you can share on internet… but fortunately things as are moving fast now and people start to understand the artistic potential. But the biggest opportunity for me is that it completely changed my way of making pictures. I shoot my gifs mostly in the streets with people I meet, which is not the easiest way to deal with gifs. This makes everything more complicated and longer but it is also a great opportunity to build up a relationship with my models. In Liberia where people are usually quite reluctant to photographers, making gifs has been paradoxically a great opportunity to break barriers. I had fun and so did my models, you can feel that in my images and I’m really proud of that.

Francois Beaurain Nigeria Gifs

Alliance Française Monrovia- “Nollywood”, solo exhibition, 2013 features work you created while you were in Nigeria how was the experience? You also seem to have a crush for Nollywood, can you tell us more about that?
I am indeed fascinated by Nigerian cinema (Nollywood) movie posters that I collect and use for my collages. Like for my gifs, it all started in Liberia. When I arrived there in 2013, I discovered a city covered with Nollywood posters pasted in row in the streets of Monrovia. I got completely fascinated by Nollywood imagery and the idea to use this colorful material to make collages came rapidly. I am not a Nollywood fan, I saw a few movies but I have no specific interest in this cinema. I am only interested by posters, in their abundance and how they depict Africa. This imagery is made by Africans for Africans, I love this kind of folk art. Africa, lead by Nigeria mostly, is currently starting to export its own international and globalized culture (mostly music and cinema) and it is a fascinating phenomena to observe.

How did the Nigerians react to your collages?
I was invited last year for the first time in Nigeria to produce some gifs and I took this opportunity to prepare a few collages. There is a ban now in Nigeria to paste posters in the streets so I was somehow disappointed not to see posters in the streets as in Liberia. So the idea came to produce collages to paste them in the streets. The reaction was positive, people were surprized and fascinated to see me using this weird material to cover houses or restaurants.

What other projects are you into?
I am currently back in Paris for a break. I would love to come back to Africa and I am looking for opportunities. For the time being, I am working on a personal project where I am my own model. I created a new gif series that I am shooting in Paris depicting with humour and poetry the dreams and frustrations of an office employee. Click here to see it.

What advise do you see for youths who want to go into the art and craft business?
Be different or don’t be.


Read about how travelling to Africa also inspired this French Photographer