Here's what Gerard Rancinan sees through his lens

Heres what Gerard Rancinan sees through his lens

Dubai - The world famous contemporary photographer, whose artwork is on display in Dubai talks about his passion for capturing humanity and famous faces through his lens

By Maan Jalal

Published: Wed 12 Oct 2016, 12:46 PM

Last updated: Sun 16 Oct 2016, 7:01 PM

Gerard Rancinan is a witness. Through his lens and the power of his eye, Gerard has captured what's there in front of him or created what isn't there from his imagination.

The portraitist and contemporary photographer started off as France's youngest photojournalist at 18. Whether he was covering the war in Lebanon, political unrest in Poland, devastating earthquakes in Algeria or sporting events such as the Olympic games or shooting political figures and celebrities, Gerard immortalises life into images as epic as Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper.

The medium of photography has acted as a platform for Gerard to express the contemporary realities of the human condition. From the first photo he ever took to the most recent work of art he's completed, Gerard's goal, the thread that ties all his work together, has remained constant.

"I want to be a witness of the metamorphosis of humanity," he told City Times.

Other than being the second person in the world to photograph Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, Gerard has also photographed major figures of the twentieth century such as Pope Jean Paul II, Yasser Arafat, Hosni Mubarak and Bill Gates. Gerard has also shot celebrities, athletes, fashion designers and famous artists like Alexander McQueen, Paul McCarthy, Tiger Woods, Monica Belluci, Michael Schumacher and Claudia Schieffer.

Gerard's fine art photography is diverse with a strong link to the styles of many iconic artists such as Henri Matisse, Leonardo Da Vinci and Théodore Géricault. Using these aesthetic influences, with a strong desire to create a classical form of balance even when a scene is full of chaos, Gerard is expressing contemporary problems and realities through the camera lens and the lens of art history.

City Times caught up with Gerard in Dubai the day before the opening of his solo show at Opera Gallery in DIFC (on until October 20) to discuss the first photo he took, the people he's photographed and what art means to him.

How it all Started
I started very young because school wasn't easy for me. I wanted to be free, I wanted to be creative. My father was a very clever man. He said, 'maybe you're wasting time at school, we have to find something for you that is creative.' So this is why I started in the newspaper because my father worked in the French newspaper. And so I started there with a very famous photographer  - a very good one, an old guy, who pushed me in a good direction.

Into the Art World
You know, I'm a lucky man and also I work a lot. I had an incredible career. I did everything. After twenty years in this work I got everything, but what to do now? I can't do the same thing, I have to imagine something new. During my work I saw the world very close up like a photojournalist. Today, for me, it's better in the art field to see the world in large. Like an editorialist. So naturally I moved on slowly from a photo reporter to a fine art photographer.

The First Photo
For three years I worked as an assistant, in the lab processing photos. But in secret corner, I prepared myself and I was ready. At 18, I was like a runner, like a champion, ready for the Olympic games. I became a photojournalist and the boss of the photography section of the newspaper told me there is a crash in Bordeaux, France. When I went there I was ready to shoot the best picture of the world. I was on the ground, I put a red filter and the sky became completely dark, it was incredible. The chief editor of the newspaper saw this picture and published it on the cover of the newspaper. This is my first photo.

Can't Stop Clicking
I was walking on the streets of Bordeaux and I saw people read the newspaper with my picture on it. I was like wow it's like magic. But the same people after reading it, took the newspaper, scrunched it up and threw it in the garbage. And I thought I have to make another photo and another one, it's never finished. This is why 50 years later I'm here.

When to Stop
When I can't add more to the photo. I put the picture on the side of my studio and on Sunday, when it's so quiet in the studio, ten days after I'm back from the studio, I turn the picture and I look at it, and I say, 'OK, that's enough, no more.' But I don't know, sometimes, one year after I say, 'man, something is missing.'

Photojournalism versus Fine Art Photography
It's the same line. Since my first photo to the last one I'm doing the same thing, the same way. When you are a reporter you are witness, but when you're an artist you have to be a witness too. To be an artist isn't only to produce something decorative. I don't care about that. I want to be a witness. The form is different of course, the presentation is different. The role of my work and the role of an artist is to talk about these things.

Surprising Sitters
Peter Benenson, he's not very well known. He's an English lawyer that created Amnesty International. He's incredible. A very modest guy. He lived in a  very small house in Oxford, very small, very quiet guy, very modest. We talked and talked and talked, before and after I took the picture, we talked about freedom. In the train back to Paris it changed my life because he was so modest.

Photographing Famous People
I don't want to impose something (an idea). I don't care about Fidel Castor, I mean the man, the personality, I care about what I imagine about him, what is the legend of him and the legend is in my picture now. It's more important than to have the real people.

The Banquet of Idols
Depicting some of history's most iconic celebrities, political figures and cultural icons one of Gerard's more popular works is modeled after Leonado Da Vinci's The Last Supper. The work is a statement about society's schizophrenic nature and our obsession with fame, power and being immortalized in history.

More news from City Times