All images by Maximilien Franco. Used with permission
Maximilien Franco took to the streets with an idea: photograph people listening to music. It could be as quick as a few minutes or as long as several hours. After finding his subjects, Franco would approach them and tell them about what he’s doing. It didn’t always work, but he’s managed to put together an eclectic mix of shots and songs that seem both surprising and obvious in many ways. That’s the idea behind his project: insideHEADPHONES. We had the chance to talk to him about the inspiration for this project, his process and what he hopes to do with it.
Phoblographer: All of these images have fantastic lighting. Tell us more about how you photographed these people.
Max: For me, the light is very important when you are trying to take pictures of an ordinary scene of everyday life like someone walking with headphones. It can reveal ordinary things into extra-ordinary and make you watch it in a different way.
I want this project to be realistic. I don’t want the subjects to pose, look at me or even see me. So I take the pictures discreetly and as quick as possible when I see something that inspires me. Sometimes it takes hours walking and trying to catch the good situation, the good light and a subject that interest me. After I took the picture, I walk to them with a smile (the smile is very important!) and explain to them my project before I ask them to tell me what song they are listening to.
Phoblographer: What’s the reasoning behind keeping certain images in color and others in black & white?
Max: I was often told that to do a good photo series you have to choose between b&w and color to make it homogeneous. Well, I think that if you have a series with a good concept, you try to tell something through your pictures. Why choose one or the other when you have some pictures that are stronger in b&w and others in color? So, I take all pictures in RAW and decide during the editing to keep them in color or in b&w.
Phoblographer: Talk to us about the inspiration for the project and how you decided to blend music with imagery.
Max: This project grew in my mind many years ago. As far as I can remember, I’ve always been passionate about photography and music. I also played saxophone in few bands for years. I had the strong will to make a project with my two passions. One day in the subway i realized that around me there were only people with headphones, no one looking to each other and in their own world. So i started to ask myself, how could I reveal to the world this part of unknown that could tell a lot about a person or about her feelings in a precise moment. I was very curious about the relation between what someone looks like and the music that she is actually listening to. After traveling and searching the good way to do the project, I found what seemed to be the best way to do it and started.
Phoblographer: Have you run into any conflicts, and if so, how did you handle them?
Max: Fortunately, nothing bad yet. It’s true that when people don’t want their picture taken and see me pointing my camera, their reaction can be rude. So I do have some pictures of nice people giving me the finger.
Phoblographer: What do you experience when you listen to the music that accompanies these photographs?
Max: WOW. That’s the best part! I compare this to the moment when you reveal an analog photograph in the darkroom. It’s full of surprises and it’s making totally sense. It’s like if I’m discovering a secret part of the subject that i photograph. I’m entering their own world that they were experiencing when I took the picture. The same situation can have a totally different meaning whether they are listening to metal, reggae or classical music. And what’s really cool also is that I discovered many artists I didn’t know and that I’m still listening to. So I’m planning to make an exhibition where I will put together the photographs and the music at the same time for the people to live the same experience.
Phoblographer: What draws you to street photography, and how long did it take to develop your style?
Max: I’ve always liked humanist photographers, but at the beginning, I didn’t know that they were in fact mostly street photographers. Once I understood which kind of photography I was interested in, and could put a name on it, it was easier to develop it.
Even when I don’t carry my camera with me, I look at what surrounds me, its composition, its light and the characters moving inside of that situation. It’s amazing how many interesting things are happening in front of you when you look up and try to go further than the surface.
I don’t think that I already found my style. I think that this can take a lifetime. I’m always trying new things and sometimes it works, sometimes not, but it helps me to know where I want to go and where I don’t want to. So I can say that developing my style began the day I started doing photography, and it will end the day I die. At least, I hope so.
Phoblographer: If you could give one piece of advice to a budding street photographer, what would it be?
Max: If I could give only one piece of advice it would be: be close of your subjects! If you are close to them, then the people that will look at your photograph will be close, too. I know it can be frightening to approach unknown people and take their picture, but it makes all the difference between a good and a bad street photographer. The little courage it takes worth it!