The Work of Bruno Aveillan

When we're asked which directors we admire, the first name that comes to mind is Bruno Aveillan. His work is unlike any other, transporting viewers to a mesmerizing world of nostalgia, light and magic.

The first time we saw his work was 2008 when Bruno directed the first ever brand campaign for Louis Vuitton, asking viewers “Where will life take you? The 90-second spot evoking the soul of travel has since been translated into 14 languages. It received numerous international awards including the 2008 GoldClio Award and the Gold at the London International Awards.

From an interview with Stephan Whelan in Shots magazine:

You’re a visual artist, a photographer and a director. What do you like about photography as a medium compared to film?

I like the immediateness and lightness of photography, though there is a kind of ritual involved in taking pictures. I use a medium -or large- format camera and I always use film negatives, which require a special approach and preparation.  If you compare the human and material resources needed to make a film, and the repercussions of each decision on a shoot, then photography sometimes feels like a breather. The media involved in photography (book, prints, exhibition, etc.) is also enriching. Just being published in a prestigious collection (“Janvier” Collection published by Leo Scheer Editions) that has showcased established contemporary artists such as Claude Lévêque, Edouard Levé, Thomas Lélu and Denis Darzacq was definitely a great source of pride for me, but more than that, it allowed me to view my work from a fresh, critical angle. 

Would you say there is a central aesthetic concern linking the work in your book Diotopes?

There’s definitely a visual line, an aesthetic pattern. Perhaps a way of “drawing light”, or sometimes, as Marco Lutyens says in the preface of the book, of “concealing with light”. One thing is sure. I always try to preserve the magic of the moment: I never retouch my pictures.

Is there a commonality of theme that links the works or would you say the collection is more concerned with a way of looking than any specific subject matter?

The recurring theme could be wandering, traces, and most importantly, memory. I’m very interested in the research and writings on memory, especially the works of Israel Rosenfield. Mnemic acquisitions and memories are tied to the context, and therefore extremely selective. Information that is not located spatially and not accompanied by a certain emotional context is not memorized. So it’s sort of vain to think that you can delve deep into our memories and unearth precise, comprehensive information, like on a hard disk. The emotions tied to a memory are often sparked by just a parcellary remembrance.    A sound, a smell, the light or a texture can trigger a whole field of resonances that translate into synesthetic forms. My guiding line in photographic representation is therefore to stay away from depictions of illusory realism and to take a more impressionistic, fragmented and intuitive approach. It reaches into the intimate, sometimes on the frontier of abstraction.


Is there an anti-technological impulse at work? Or at the very least an attempt to find a space in the modern world where feelings of uncertainty, movement and unmediated engagement with our surroundings can be re-activated?

It is indeed quite tempting, and it ties in with my personal concerns. Today more than ever, I believe it is necessary, in fact “healthy”, to seek out randomness and reactivity as values that are alternatives to the illusory “ultra-precision” of our world. It’s not about rejecting progress. It’s about offering spaces of “uncertainty” – an interesting word – that allow the mind to build its own understanding of a pictorial object. I often see my approach to photography as an intuitive, sensory travel log. Likewise, on the practical side, I always work with negative film because I want to preserve that feeling of uncertainty and open interpretation, even on the technical level.   

What is it about abstraction that appeals to you as a photographer? Is it in part a desire to avoid prescriptive image making and enable your audience to affix more subjective meanings, to attach their own sense of perception, memory and interpretation to your work?

Exactly. Consciously or not, I don’t like works that are too directive. Today, the photographic academism of new objectivity is inundating the contemporary scene. I am deeply convinced that for a viewer to get an emotional resonance from a work, it must suggest rather than show. The viewer must be able to build his or her own understanding and mentally prolong a story or experience. By partially revealing or concealing, abstraction induces a more evocative response than a broad, all-encompassing approach does. At the opening of the Diotopes exhibit, it was the first time I actually saw people discovering my work. I was sincerely surprised and touched by the obvious emotion they felt, especially from the more abstract series. That was my greatest reward…

How does your work as a photographer influence your work as a director, and vice-versa?

The two are closely intertwined, on several levels. Photography, film, painting… I’ve always felt it was essential to explore a range of realms in the visual arts. The fact is, at the origin of every visual creation lies the hand, regardless of the tool used. Whether you’re drawing, taking a picture or doing a shoot, the same questions of composition, balance and meaning recur. The connection between photography and film appears at other levels. Firstly, I take a lot of pictures when scouting for locations. It’s a special moment. The mind is completely focused on capturing the essence of the location, in order to generate the intensity needed to build the scene. The photos allow me to sense the visual potential of a place, and just as importantly its emotional potential. In the film I did for Louis Vuitton, for instance, they played a huge part in the development of the project.  So most of the time, I visualize a story in my photos, a sequence. Maybe that’s why people often tell me that my photos seem to be “incarnated”… or that they see ghosts [laughing]. Then, as a director, I’m always holding the camera, framing and constructing my own image. I’ve always done that. This way, I directly apply my multiple visual experiences from photography to the making of my films. Lastly, in my exhibitions, I always provide a balance between photos and experimental films (Minotaur-ExDiotopes and Under-fly). I won’t depart from that "rule" in my next exhibition, entitled MNEMO # LUX, where I’ll present large formats taken during my recent journeys, and two experimental films of 10 minutes each: Morpholab and W.H.E.A.T.

You can follow Bruno Aveillan's work on Facebook here. His books can be purchased here