Every other week, Flixel hosts an Instagram challenge, dubbed #TheFlixelProject, which is open to any and all who wish to partake. Contestants get one, full week to submit their cinemagraphs using a hashtag related to the theme. The goal: to fuel creativity, and inspire one another to make beautiful visual stories using cinemagraphs. Interested in getting involved? Keep an eye out for future contests over on the Flixel Instagram page.
The year, 2006. The artist, Stacy Ann Ferguson—or simply Fergie for short. The song, “Glamorous”: a colourful pop masterpiece from the ex-Black Eyed Peas member that took the airwaves by storm. Who could forget such a seminal classic? Not us, apparently, as we decided on the theme Glitz & Glamor for the latest edition of #TheFlixelProject contest. After petitioning the Flixel community to upload Instagram entries using the hashtag #TFPGlamorous, it didn’t take long for the cinemagraphs to start pouring in: tens upon tens of magnetic, elegant and downright exotic submissions. But in the spirit of competition, one and only one could claim the prize—and that, my friends, is François-Xavier Watine.
Earlier this week, we connected with the Paris-based photographer and motorcycle enthusiast to discuss his art, inspiration and, of course, his winning cinemagraph: “Walking in Paris.”
Like some of the best things in life, François-Xavier entered the world of photography almost totally by chance. While out and about with his mother as a sprightly 10 year-old boy, François serendipitously discovered an old point-and-shoot film camera, which was nestled underneath a park bench. His mother wouldn’t let him keep it—not initially—until the two meandered down to the police station and struck up a deal with the local authorities. Should the original owner file a report, François would have to return the device. Otherwise, the camera was his. Well, guess what? François never heard back from the police, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Many years later, and François is still an ardent photographer. For the past decade, he has resided in the capital of France, which he is delighted to call home. Creatively, François is most interested in documenting the everyday moments of life. When asked what, specifically, he replied, “People. People in their natural environment. That’s why I love street photography.” And who could blame his artistic tenor—the man lives in Paris after all. But don’t get him wrong: just because François resides in one of the most beautiful cities on planet Earth, that doesn’t stop him from getting away every now and then. “I’m inspired by new places, different contexts, fresh faces. Or even the same place, but with new people, or new contexts.”
Finding His Niche
However, the more pictures François took, the more he refined his focus. He soon discovered that it wasn’t just people that influenced his work—or even the space they occupied—but the manner in which they presented themselves. In other words: each and everyone’s unique sense of fashion and style. “I stumbled on fashion quite late, and I’m not really a fashion addict, per se, but people’s styles and their ways of interpreting fashion strongly stimulate my creativity, too.” Thus, it comes as no surprise that François felt particularly motivated to participate in this week’s #TheFlixelProject contest: “I just love glamor.”
Similar to how François got involved with photography in the first place, his winning shot “Walking in Paris,” also unfolded by chance. “I was shooting photos with my friend, Jamie, and I knew I wanted to make a cinemagraph at some point. We were shooting on the Trocadero, where you have a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower. But I wanted to capture the architecture and landscapes around the Palais de Tokyo.” A few steps under, they came across a water basin, which was usually empty. Not that day, however. “It was the first time in a while that I saw it filled with water, and it gave me the idea to do something with the reflection.” He setup the tripod, positioned his subject, hit the record button and voila: “Walking in Paris” was born. And thanks to his natural flair for visual storytelling—not to mention, the onscreen bravado of actress and model Jamie Chung—François was able to craft a truly unforgettable cinemagraph.
Dabbling In Cinemagraphs
As for his take on cinemagraphs and the potential of the new medium, François had a lot to say. He enjoys how cinemagraphs provide the viewer with more context, which, in turn, presents an array of different interpretations; but also because they allow artists to shift the focus elsewhere, revealing a subject that wouldn’t immediately be obvious. However, his most descriptive reason is also his most poignant: “Because [cinemagraphs] can give a sense of eternity in the moment you capture. It can go from being funny to being rather nostalgic or romantic, by having your subject almost trapped in time.”
Something tells me this won’t be the last time François plays around with cinemagraphs. And, as the winner of #TFPGlamorous, we asked if he had any words of wisdom to offer those are interested in the novel medium. “Try to tell a story with your cinemagraph. Or, it can be easier to see it the other way around: know what you want to say—it doesn’t have to be too deep and complex—and imagine what kind of cinemagraph could illustrate it.”
Wise words indeed, François!
Check out more awesome cinemagraphs in the Flixel gallery, and keep your eyes peeled on our Instagram for the next #TheFlixelProject contest announcement!