Mr. Schuhlmann or the Man in the High Castle part of the series that won the Grand Jury Prize at the Hyères festival 2010

This year’s Hyères’ festival big photography winner is Matthieu Lavanchy. The 24 year-old Swiss photographer is an
awarded artist whose multidimensional works capture the eye and have appeared in some of the world’s greatest magazines. Plus, he is one more proof that Switzerland is rapidly turning into an artists’ breeding ground.

Who are the photographers who have mostly influenced you and in what way?

I would have to say Joel Sternfeld, especially his book ‘American Prospects’, for its very evocative and narrative dimension. I would also say John Divola, particularly his work called ‘The Zuma series’. In this work, there is always a doubt whether the artist created the places he photographed himself or if he has just found them, which is something I find really interesting. Then of course, other artists from the Swiss scene, such as Olaf Breuning, Tonk or Lukas Wassmann have been working with the idea of construction in photography, and this characteristic DIY aspect. This has also definitely been an influence.

How did you begin taking photographs? Were you a photographer-child prodigy?

No, I wouldn’t call myself a photographer child-prodigy. At some point, when I was younger, I was wondering if I should be a stylist, an architect, a set designer, a sceneographer or even a painter. But then I realised photography could allow me to be all of these things at the same time! So I started taking pictures of things I created: costumes, small models, objects, etc.

Our previous issue was the Zurich issue. We got an idea about how artistic creation proliferates there.Can Switzerland provide a home for future artists?

Yes, I think so. Switzerland has a very rich creative scene, considering its size. There are some very good art schools and the country is very supportive of young artists (grants, residencies, exhibitions…). It’s also very well located, which makes it easy to travel to other countries for work. I consider it a good base, as long as you stay in tune with the rest of the world.

What is your process of working?

I usually have an overall concept of what the work I’m doing should say. And then I start selecting the locations and/or the objects. I get very inspired by objects and places, and that’s how I create the narrative. When the set is ready I take a few pictures, try different angles, usually with a large-format camera, and then I tend to only keep photograph one at the end.

In your work one can see pictures of nature morte, landscapes, interiors, that flirt with the concept of installations and performance. How long does it take to create your setting? Where do you get your ideas from?

All my work is very time-consuming. I can work a whole week to make a picture, or re-do it three times until I get it right. I do a lot of internet research; Google image is definitely a big source of inspiration. But usually, the ideas I have start
from sketches I do.

What are your overall impressions and feelings for the Hyères festival? After all this publicity you have received, have things already changed?

It’s really been a great experience. The location, the jury members, all of the people I was able to meet there…Things are starting to change slowly, yes. I’m definitely busier!

Apart from your personal work, you’ve done fashion, photography for films, stories for magazines like Wallpaper and many more. Do you feel your creativity and artistry run any danger of being confined when working for other people?

I enjoy the constraints of commissioned work from time to time. It is an opportunity for me to try things I would not try on my own initiative. It’s a way of generating new ideas for my artwork. And until now, I have had the chance of working with people that always let me a fair amount of freedom in the work they have commissioned me.

Link: matthieulavanchy

Interview: Andreas Dimopoulos/ Photography: Matthieu Lavanchy