Interview with
Gérard Uféras

1. What were your most beautiful exhibitions (list 1-3)?

“Paris d’Amour” at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris, since it was the culmination of two years of work on marriage in all the communities that live in Paris. The scenography was also about sound, and a film on my work was screened there. While people were entering the exhibition, we saw that they did not need more than ten minutes to forget their daily lives; they were smiling and reliving things. It was very intimate…it was a frank success with sixty thousand visitors!

“Etats de Grâce” at the European House of Photography in Paris, the first retrospective of my work over twenty years. Jean-Luc Monterosso, its Director who had organized it, had asked me, “Are you curious to know with whom you are going to exhibit and who will be on the other floor of the museum?… You are going to exhibit with Henri Cartier Bresson…” I remember being shocked when I heard this. I thought about my discovering the work of this prodigious photographer when I was younger and how it had touched me. His work had been my first inspiration…I never thought of exhibiting with him one day.

“A day in the museum” at the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow, because it is my most recent exhibition in this magnificent museum directed by Olga Sviblova, a great lady in Russian photography. This exhibition allowed me to come back to Moscow and pursue great work on the Bolshoi Ballet. This work is not finished yet; it is on hold because of Covid-19.

2. What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about people and art. Obviously, before anything else, by visual arts. I discovered Paris when I was eleven years old while visiting its museums with two friends. We lived in the suburbs and continued to discover the city every weekend by taking the bus and the metro. Even though I got to know Paris and its districts through its museums, I am passionate about all forms of art: from classical music and jazz to theatre and cinema. Everything that fascinates me relates to the human being. Art is like my oxygen, it is a wonderful means that man has created to understand the world, to be informed, to innovate, to interact with his fellows, and to dream.

3. If you were at the airport facing the departure board, where would you like to go?

I would love to discover Japan. I have been there three times but always for very specific purposes. This time, I would like to discover the country and get to know its culture even better.

4. Where can we have a chance to meet you?

I would love to discover Japan. I have been there three times but always for very specific purposes. This time, I would like to discover the country and get to know its culture even better.

7. The ideal menu? 

The one which combines culinary art, because like the visual arts, it has been nourished by cultural history, with a desire to share since it is an act of love.

8.A fictional character that fascinates you?

Zénon, the courageous and humanist alchemist and philosopher from “L’Œuvre au noir”, the novel by Marguerite Yourcenar.

9. And in life? A mentor?

I don’t know if I ever had a mentor, but what comes closest to it in photography is Willy Ronis, who was my great friend. His moral commitment, his idea of ​​what photography can say, and how it can express things is very close to what I would like to achieve in my practice. There are a lot of other great figures that fascinate me…

9. A favourite outfit?

I often dress in black. I imagine that is because I would like to be invisible. For me, this would be the perfect outfit!

10. The cause that mobilizes you?

Since the Covid-19 crisis began, I have wanted to devote a part of my time to work as a photographer for humanitarian cases while supporting useful causes. I have three lines of possibilities that I am exploring. I will discuss them when they are more concrete.

11. A tip or a piece of advice that stood out for you?

I know Sebastiao Salgado since the age of eighteen. I met him in the Parisian metro when I was an amateur photographer. Ten years later, when I decided to become a professional photographer, I asked him for advice. He told me to focus on subjects that are very close to my heart, and to work hard. I give the same advice to young photographers. Above all, I encourage them to believe in themselves. At the beginning of a career, it’s normal and inevitable to copy a bit from the photographers they love, but in order to be a great photographer they should end up doing more original things.

12. A habit or an obsession?

In photography, I focus a lot on composition. It must be strong, set in the history of the visual arts, without repetition, while being the vehicle of emotion and discourse. At the same time, the photographer shouldn’t put himself forward.

13. A movie, a book or music you love?
Citizen Kane by Orson Welles
Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman
All the Music by John Coltrane
14. A regret? A dream?

I don’t have any regrets. I dream to be able to be strong enough to continue for a long time, to carry great projects and to turn them into books and exhibitions.

15. Few words about the new series you have been working on?

I am actually working on two series. The first one is about the Bolshoi Ballet. I spent more than a year there, and in my opinion, it is what I have done most successfully on the subject of dance. I haven’t displayed this project yet. This should be the final part of a triptych that I made in Paris, Milan and Moscow.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 crisis forced the major theatres to close, and I was unable to make my last trip. I was planning to publish a book, but I don’t know if its funding can still be found easily. For the last four years, I have also been pursuing work on museums that I wish to complete with trips to Spain, Italy and Russia. It is something that matters a lot to me, since my passion for visual arts and photography was born in museums when I was eleven.

16. What makes you laugh? 

My grandchildren.