Pascal Béjean, Olivier Körner, Nicolas Ledoux.

“The studio is located on the heights of Ménilmontant, in a second yard of a public housing complex. Menilmontant is north-est of Paris, very close from Le Père Lachaise, the last home of Oscar Wilde who said, “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” That’s why I’m never satisfied of ourselves.

The place is half buried, no windows on the back, only on the front. No view, only the building across the yard. Birds and kids in the sunny days… The studio is quite large, but filled with junk (boxes of books we published, remains of Ultralab‘s exhibitions, archives, furniture that doesn’t fit in our apartments). Not too shabby…We are 3 guys + an occasional intern. We sublet a corner to 2 other graphic designers, the only tolerable company.

“Style is a simple way of saying complicated things,” said Jean Cocteau. This quote comes to my mind to describe the work of Pascal Béjean – Olivier Körner – Nicolas Ledoux. Style is a rare quality today, one not usually associated with graphic communication. But the three principals are inspired practitioners whose special talent, it seems to me, is to clarify and inform, more than explain or demonstrate. The pleasure one experiences in front of their posters, brochures, packaging or identities is due to the fact that the object itself and its graphic content seem inextricably bound. You decipher the message with your fingers as much as with your eyes. Their studio, specializes in design projects that promote contemporary art and performing arts events. The partners put a premium on typographical excellence, but the visual codes of photography, fashion, and music often find their way into their graphic vocabulary. They are trained in a number of different disciplines: Pascal is a photographer, Olivier’s background is in telecommunication, while Nicolas is an architect.

Veronique Vienne

FROM YOUR DESKS: How long have you been in your space?  
Pascal Béjean, Olivier Körner, Nicolas Ledoux: Five years now. We arrived in an ugly space, cleaned everything, reorganized the lavatories in a kitchen, repainted everything from floor to ceiling with white, grey, light blue and mastic.
FYD: How do you three work together and collaborate?  
PB/OK/NL: Olivier takes part to our multimedia projects, since he’s a programmer. He also works for other designers. Nicolas and I work together on print projects.We work the concept together, based on the input of the most inspired one.Through design ideas, one starts to work on the layout, we sometimes ping-pong with the files. Either one of us coordinates with the clients.

 The camera broke down right before my meeting with Milton Glaser.

FYD: Where did you find the office mascot of Super Mario?
 
PB: Online, Nicolas can’t be more specific about that. Sorry…
FYDPascal, when did you start taking pictures and become interested in photography?
PB: As a teenager, with fashion magazines. I was then a fashion wannabe.At the art school, there was a photo studio. I designed and made clothes, then, I would shoot them and design catalogues. My models were Gianni Versace catalogues, with Bruce Weber, Claus Witcrath and Richard Avedon’s photographs.It was the pre-Miami period, obviously. And I made a few concert photographs, which I still do.

I don’t spend more time out there that the next Parisian. Too much work!

FYD: You set out to various studios in New York, photographing the likes of Matias CoreaMilton Glaser, and  Paul SahreWhat prompted this adventure?

PB: I wanted to do more photographs, and needed a subject. Following the idea of Bulldozer, our early magazine about graphic design – founded by Frédéric Bortolotti, of making graphic design more visible,I started studio visits in 2008, asking designers I appreciate. When Elephant asked us to feature in the Paris issue, Logorama’s H5 asked me to use for their own section the shooting I made. I understood the magazine did not commission a photograph, so I proposed myself and shot 10 artists and designers in one month. The toughest studio was ours: Olivier and Nicolas (mostly him) giggled all session long, out of stress I suppose…

When I took a few days of vacation in NY, I decided to do the same. It is a nice way to meet people you couldn’t otherwise. Not as easily, anyway. Americans are very efficient, they need a reason to take an hour of their time. A photoshoot is a good one. Well, not for everyone. I’ve been kicked out of (…) when they understood it was not for a magazine.On the opposite, the camera broke down right before my meeting with Milton Glaser. I shamelessly used the iPhone. He was very cool about that.

Americans are very efficient, they need a reason to take an hour of their time. 

FYD: You often shoot in black and white. What draws you to this medium?

PB: Before I shoot objects, I shoot lines and light. BW is more straight forward for that. I am not the photographer who will spend an afternoon shooting randomly wherever his steps lead him. I need a purpose. But if I see something fun in the street, I use my iPhone 4 with Hipstamatic. It’s lighter than the Blad! And cheaper, which was very handy in NY, where I made 100 rolls of 12 with the Blad, and 2000 images with my phone. I take it as it was a Polaroid. Limited, though spontaneous images.

FYD: You used your father’s old Yashica for years. Is this still your camera of choice?  
PB: The Yashica is lost somewhere with my Polaroid Propack, in boxes. I loved this Propack, I used BW films then. Even blurry images were beautiful. Sometimes, the tool makes the man! My 2 Blads were stolen 3 years ago. I found a cheap one after that and I still use it. I just can’t operate digital cameras. Too many buttons. We have a Sony hybrid at the studio, but I never change the settings.
FYD: On the film front, I must know your thoughts on Godard? 
PB:  I’d rather talk to you about Boris Vian. If you don’t know him, please read “L’écume des jours” (Froth on the Daydream).
Enter the world of Pascal Béjean, Olivier Körner, Nicolas Ledoux here. Pascal’s Studio Shoots “Graphic Designers at Work” are viewed here.

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