Simon Chaput – Fine Art Photographer – France Meets New York

Simon is a very talented Photographer who lives and works in New York City – Soho.

Please introduce yourself Simon.

My name is Simon Chaput, I am a Fine Art Photographer. I am half French, half English and I was born in France. I come from Parthenay, a small medieval town located between the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. I was lucky to travel around Europe in my young years and that opened my mind to the world. I grew up spending a lot of my free time in the outdoors and became a hard core sailing instructor in southern Brittany at the age of 16.

I studied to become a veterinarian. These studies were interrupted when I was drafted to do my compulsory military service that I spent as a sailing instructor in Tahiti, (there are worst places to be sent I must admit)…. After my return and a two year interruption, I was not able to get back to my studies. I opened a gallery in my home town and thanks to a friend of mine who backed my first exhibition with works borrowed from the Maeght Gallery in Paris, my opening show in the mid seventies was with works by Miro, Calder, Pol Bury and more.

I came to New York in 1983 for a week to help one of my artists find a gallery, as he did not speak English. I immediately fell in love with the energy of the city and went back to France to close my gallery and have been living in Soho ever since.

Who in photography inspires you and why? What style of photography do you focus on? What specific genres?

When I was a young boy, I devoured photography publications and was first inspired by Bill Brandt, Jean Loup Sieff, and Heiko Hosoe. I have always been drawn to dark images and high contrast in black and white photography.

I had my first darkroom when I was 12 years old and still shoot film and develop and print myself today.

In all my work, I give huge importance to the negative space that is essential in anchoring it. The intense blacks make the whites sing and the contrast of the two brings a sacred quality to the photographs.

If you could work with any person living or not who would it be and why?

Salman Rushdie is one of my favorite writers and I would love to collaborate with him on a book with his writing and my photos.

I have also long admired the architect John Pawson’s work, his thoughtful minimal design style is very similar to mine and would love to find a way to work with him on a project.

What is your favorite place that you have traveled to?

I love traveling and have been fortunate to travel across many countries, but my favorite place would be Ireland. That is where my “Waterfall” series originated and from spending time exploring the whole island, I was able to experience the hospitable Irish way of life. The weather, the very special light and the landscape visually inspired me, and the Guinness paired with fish and chips were just amazing.

In your leisure time, what do you prefer doing – and where?

In New York, my wife and I enjoy having friends over for dinner, riding a bike in the city and playing tennis under the Williamsburg bridge.

You have done many things in your life. What is your best work or accomplishment in your opinion?

Having had the tenacity and obsession with photography that allowed me to be able to return to my first passion.

If money was not an issue what would you like to do? Where/how would you live and why?

It would not change that much in my life, New York will always be my home, but it would allow me to travel more for my photography to capture these places that I have been wanting to shoot. I would also stock up on film and paper before they disappear to continue printing in the darkroom.

You currently live in Soho. When did you move there & what are your favorite cafes, restaurants, art galleries in NYC?

I have lived in Soho since moving to NYC in 1983. Back then there were very few lights on the streets, only a handful of shops and restaurants, mainly artists living here and a thriving Art Scene with hundreds of galleries. It was exciting to be a part of it.

I am still very attached to places in Soho that were here when I arrived like Raoul’s, Fanelli’s, and Omen. Since then many new places have opened up and become classics for me, Balthazar, Blue Ribbon, and Sant Ambroeus. I generally stay downtown for restaurants, but I will go uptown for Italian at “Antonucci’s”. Francesco has become a friend and also makes a superb foie gras.

The Rubin Museum is a wonderful place to see Asian themed art, it is an intimate museum and not overwhelming. Right now they have a great show with Marc Riboud’s photographs until March 2015.

One of my favorite musuems is the Isamu Noguchi Museum, a gem and a haven of piece where works of this great artist, who influenced me greatly, can be admired in the most perfect setting.

You worked with the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Please tell us about your experiences with them?

I met Jeanne-Claude and Christo my second week living in New York and started working with them on their projects the next day, it has been an ongoing life changing experience. Since 1983 I have worked in different capacities as needed on “The Pont Neuf Wrapped”, “The Umbrellas”, “Wrapped Reichstag”, “Wrapped Trees”, “The Gates”, and a work in progress “Over the river” and have collaborated on many installations of their exhibitions in museums around the world for the last 30 years. They became friends, mentors, family and a constant inspiration.

Any recommendations of things to do in your home country or NYC nobody should miss?

I would recommend enjoying a laidback day with friends and family in the summer on Governor’s Island. After a 10 minute ferry ride, you have great views of Downtown NYC and the Statue of Liberty. The Island is perfect for a picnic and a bike ride amongst nature and history.

Do you see yourself more European or American at this point?

I see myself as a New Yorker, which I think is a nice combination of both Europe and America.

Anything else you would like to share with us?

I would like to share this beautiful Elliott Erwitt’s quote: ”Photography is an art of observation, it has very little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them”.

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