"With Travis everyone was sweating because it was 35 degrees that day, there wasn't enough water to go round and the event didn’t have air conditioning."
One thursday night I ran into Anis at three different nightclubs in Paris. And I must admit I was happy with my night. That’s how you know you’re at all the right places. For our first interview at Garçon Paper, we're chatting to Paris-based photographer Anis Belarbi.
Hi Anis! Please tell us a little bit about your background and who you are.
I grew up in France and Algeria, my life has been pretty weird. I moved around a lot, living with my mom mostly and it was through this that I discovered photography by chance. I was very into documentaries and dreamed about traveling throughout high school, those dreams always involved taking pictures of my travels. Back then I didn't have any money so traveling, or even buying a camera was off the cards, I learned about photography without practicing.
At 18 I was able to move out by myself and study thanks to a scholarship. I started working so I bought my first digital camera and learnt everything from an old book. A year on and I'd realised that film photography held way more value, perhaps because my book was only about film. I started going out alot, got to know new friends and I felt my life was pretty much like the TV show "How to make it in America" only I was in Paris. (I was broke but still going around)
I still don't consider myself a photographer. I just like it and I'm happy that I started it before the Big Bang of social media like Instagram. Of course that can help a lot, but I was never taking photographs for the validation.
Do you prefer photographing at night?
To be honest I don’t really have a time. I always have my camera with me but it’s true that I’m taking most of my pics during the night. I just think it’s a better moment when people get crazy and you can play with different artificial lighting.
How did you come in contact with people like Gigi Hadid, Asap Rocky and Travis scott e.t.c?
I just go out a lot. Thats how I meet most of them but a few others I worked with them through the people I know. Honestly, I don’t really care about who is who, but I'll admit it attracts people on social media, so I always post those shots (I mean, who wouldn't, let’s be honest).
Did anything special or interesting happen when you met these people? Are there any short stories that you want to share?
I have a few. With Travis everyone was sweating, because it was 35 degrees that day, there wasn't enough water to go round and the event didn’t have air conditioning. With Rocky it was at a house party and I took a pic of my friend and by chance he was next to me and he was like “bro this is a nice camera” and I took a pic of him cause he wanted me to. I have some other funny stories but actually the best ones involve people outside of these famous circles.
What makes you drawn to photograph female beauty?
I think it’s to do with the emotions they show in pictures. Theres a certain intensity in the way they look or in the way the pose (It's a like natural intensity that I'm drawn to). It doesn’t matter of course whether the subjects female or male, as long as the intensity and the emotions are visible.
Do you always bring your camera?
Yes, everywhere, I've even learnt how to hide it when cameras are forbidden.
When do you feel the most inspired?
I wouldn't say there's a specific time, it depends on the mood I'm in. It can come from seeing someone alone, someone reading a book, or even if it's just obvious whether they're sad/happy. I feel particularly inspired when I’m surrounded by very cool minimalist architecture/interior design.
Sometimes I see one pic in a book or when I’m browsing and then I get inspired to create a moodboard..
How do people react when you go around with a camera?
My go around camera is pretty small, people don’t even notice it sometimes, or they’re just like “take a picture of us”, or “wow nice camera”, random people actually love having a picture taken of them.
Are you good friends with the people that you photograph or is it random people?
It depends, I would say the cooler the pic , the more connection I have with that person. That’s why I don’t really do shoots when I don’t know the people I’m shooting, and if a brand asks me to do a job I always ask to choose the models.
Do you have any tips for how to make people comfortable when taking their pictures?
If they’re obviously not feeling it I don’t force it or it will be obvious in the photo. If I have a specific vision I’ll try to explain it to the model, mostly to paint pictures in people’s heads so they can engage with the idea themselves.
Favorite places in Paris to go out?
Hahahah Damn that's a hard question. I will never let down Carmen because I know them all and they helped me build my skills and gave me access to some parties, Le Petit Palace for sure! I would say Hotel Bourbon is pretty cool too. The Hoxton as a pre-party or a drink is great, Breakfast club is also a place to go, but you know I’m getting old, I don’t know these things. Unfortunately a lot of cool clubs have closed down over the last few years.