I met Pascal last year in Bucharest, to a photography exhibition. He came to visit Bucharest for his first time.
Modest, real and passioned about people and about everything new around him.
The type of man who sees not only photography in black and white. He has a type of REALISM that transforms any coloured idea that you have about photography in a black and white reality.
His whole portfolio speaks about people and about life as it is. But black & white photography transmits a lot of feelings, some sad, some happy and some of them neutral.
For him, the most important thing is that the picture conveys humanistic values such like universal love, friendliness, helpfulness, attentivness, compassion.
Some photographers use black and white to show dark aspects of life, it’s a question of personality. Even when he shows somebody with a expression of sadness, he hopes that the viewer see this emotion as a natural feeling which is very human, not like something negative.
I invite you to meet the photographer and the traveller Pascal Moreaux.
Fairytale Traveller: Pascal, you are in love with black and white photography. Before moving on about you, tell me how this passion started for you and when?
Pascal : My interest for photography began during my childhood. I was 10 when I received an Agfamatic 126 little camera, I remember that I already liked getting lost in unknown cities my camera at hand, always curious to visit and to discover least-known places, walking for hours. After such a day, I was coming back home with a feeling of satisfaction. Black and white photography always have been the one I admired the most in the work of great photographers such like Irving Penn, Edouard Boubat, Cartier Bresson and many other masters. I think that the grayscale tones of a black and white image are really appropriate to convey the emotional content of a subject. I feel more at ease to express myself trough monochrome images, it’s seems more natural to me, it’s simply the medium that I’ve chosen to do my work.
Fairytale Traveller: After an internship in Fashion photography you lost your interest and you studied to become a social worker. Why this big change?
Pascal: For the little I have been in the fashion and advertising community, I didn’t feel at ease in an athmosphere that I found superficial. Some fashion designers do a wonderful job and I admire the work of the belgian designer Dries Van Noten for instance. For sure, to be a close collaborator of such a creative person must be great. It’s more that I didn’t feel like to be part of that consumer system which the goal is to sell unsuseful items to the masses, most of the time telling lies or transforming the reality to create the envy. That doesn’t change anything to the admiration I have for the work of fashion photographers such like Edward Steichen, Guy Bourdin or Paolo Roversi, but I prefered to make my living another way, something useful and closer of the day to day reality of people. Social worker seemed to be the perfect job for me. Nevertheless, I’ve recently met a fashion designer in Vilnius, I did a photoshoot for her and I must say that I had great fun doing that. My job was to photograph her creations for the final jury presentation at Vilnius fashion design school. I was happy to give her a little help.
Fairytale Traveller: What it meant for you to change your vision about the world?
Pascal: To be confronted with the difficulties facing those ordinary people enlarged my vision of the world. I’m still in search for beauty in my photography, and I still enjoy to take portraits of a beautiful lady for instance, but this search of beauty is now more focused in the real day to day life of common people like me. Documentary and portrait photography became my main interests.
Fairytale Traveller: In your personal biography you say that you like Portugal, Italy and Ireland. Why are these countries so attractive to you?
Pascal: Besides the beauty of those countries, it’s the people I’ve met there who counts for me. My oldest friends are living in Italy. I try to visit them once in a year. I’ve met my wife in Portugal 30 years ago, I discovered this beautiful culture at each stand . In Ireland, I liked very much the peculiar mood of it’s inhabitants, their warm-heartedness. I recently visited several countries of eastern Europe, it’s pretty different of all I’ve seen before and I must say that all I want is to go back there.
Fairytale Traveller: The portrait photography is your favourite. Why?
Pascal: I think it’s the most intimate kind of photography we can do. Trough a good portrait, we can see the soul of the model, his state of mind, his personality, what are his thoughts of the moment, how is he emotionally.
Fairytale Traveller: In 1989 you took several pictures of Miguel Torga, that were published in the photo biography of the Portuguese writer. He is considered the biggest storyteller of the Portuguese literature. What this step meant for you?
Pascal: It was a meeting to remember as you can guess. I recently had finished photography school and we were on our honeymoon. Miguel Torga was not an easy personality to approach. I was lucky enough he accepted to be photographed because it was his habit to refuse. I really wanted to photograph him, not because he’s an icon in Portugal but because I loved the first book I’ve read of him, I felt like a special link with his humanistic side. I’ll never forget the advice he told to my young spouse : « the artist needs a lot of understanding ». I felt it like a kind of recognition. It was my first important assignment in portrait photography and it gave me the spark to go further on this way.
Fairytale Traveller: You studied oriental philosophy for a long time. How is this field mixing with photography?
Pascal: Years ago, after a very stressful and intense work period, I seriously needed to relax and to rest. Photography has taken again an important place in my life. I re-discovered the pleasure to walk for hours in the cities, taking pictures in calm. It’s like a meditation in action. I do Zazen meditation as a daily practice, japanese Zen buddhism is one the major interest in my life. It has an influence on every single action of mine, photography included. Zen is something you go on practicing after the formal seated meditation. When I do capture an image, I try to be present at what I do, we call that mindfulness.
Fairytale Traveller: In your biography you say in the same time that you dream about Japan, a country of major influence, aesthetically and spiritually. Tell me 3 major things that you like in Japan.
Pascal: As I mentioned before, Zen Buddhism is important to me. Beyond it’s spiritual aspect, I particularly love the influence that Zen had on Japanese aesthetic. You can see that in their gardens, in architecture, in the tea ceremony, and so on. I love Ukiyo eprints, which mean « pictures of the floating world », my ever favourite artist in this style is Hokusai. It’s one of the first time that painters used the typical kind of perspective brought by the invention of photography.
Even though if it is a bit lost nowadays, what I like very much in Japanese people is the empathy they maintain with the nature. They believe that divine spiritual power infuses animate and inanimate objects, from humans and trees to rivers and rocks. Their vision of the world is consequently filled with magic and poetry.
Fairytale Traveller: At present your work is centered on street photography, mostly black and white. I want you to tell me if you consider black & white photography as being decadent?
Pascal: I don’t think so, many photographers never stopped to shoot in black & white, even when in the 1960’s colour photography became affordable. The digital era didn’t change anything, black&white still has a particular and unique way of representing the world.
Fairytale Traveller: Your whole portfolio speaks about people and about life as it is. But black & white photography transmits a lot of feelings, some sad, some happy and some of them neutral. What do you think is more important when capturing black and white pictures?
Pascal: It depends on each photographer. For me the most important is that the picture conveys humanistic values such like universal love, friendliness, helpfulness, attentiveness, compassion, … Some photographers use black and white to show dark aspects of life, it’s a question of personality. Even when I show somebody with a expression of sadness, I hope that the viewer see this emotion as a natural feeling which is very human, not like something negative.
Fairytale Traveller: How is Pascal every day, excepting photography? What is he doing? Is your family sharing the same passion with you?
Pascal: I mainly do the family man, I do take care of many things at home, let’s say as the women did in old times, you can add to those tasks all the classical masculine ones … So I can say that I’m a very busy man and I don’t have all the available time I’d wish to dedicate to photography. I am a shiatsu practitioner as well, it’s a very efficient body work therapy of japanese origin. My wife doesn’t share this passion for photography with me but my daughter yes, we regularly visit photo exhibitions together. Inès is a very helpful advicer when I have to do a selection job for an exhibition or a contest. She’s really precious to me.
Fairytale Traveller: What type of cameras do you use for the street photography?
Pascal: I use a Fujifilm X-E2 mirrorless camera with a 18mm, and I do almost all my street photography with that gear. Sometimes I use a Leica R6 or a Hasselblad 500c/m analog cameras for street portraits.
Fairytale Traveller: Please tell me which are for you the most important 3 values or feelings that a photo needs to give to someone who is watching it for the first time?
Pascal: Empathy – Ashtonishment – Warmheartedness.
Fairytale Traveller: Describe me your whole work and experience as a photographer in just 3 words.
Pascal: Meeting – Humanistic – Satisfaction.
Fairytale Traveller: What it means for you to be a Fairytale Traveller in your own life? What about in photography?
Pascal: Travelling and taking pictures became a basic necessity in my my life. If I don’t have the money to travel, I will « travel » in my garden and take pictures just there, behind my house, it’s not a problem, but travelling is the best way I’ve found to learn more about human condition. That gives me the opportunity as well to make an introspection work in solitude which is not always easy to do in my daily family man’s life. I like to meet different people as well and to discover that after all, despite the different cultures and religions, we have basically the same universal needs.
Fairytale Traveller: How many countries have you visited and which did you like the most?
Pascal: About 20, most of them in Europe. I travelled a lot in Italy where I feel so at ease, it’s my second homeland. I have more friends in Italy than anywhere else, that’s a sign. The cultural heritage of Italy is so rich, one lifetime is not enough to discover it all.
Fairytale Traveller: How do you see Romania?
Pascal: I can’t say that I visited Romania, I was in Bucarest for one week only just to have a first contact with Romanian people. I must say that a capital city is not the best place to meet a country unhabitants even though I met some very friendly people during my stay. That just gave me the envy to go back in Romania and to visit the inner country. I saw a lot of poverty, it seems that most of the people are strugling with life, more than here in Belgium where the situation is difficult and less easy than decades ago but more comfortable I think. I guess this matter of fact has an influence on their mood which I think is a bit morose. Besides that we can see very expensive sports cars in the street and (empty) luxury stores, the contrast is quite violent. It seems that the middle class is almost unexistant. I noticed that young people, let’s say under 30, are more open to foreigners, more curious to discover foreign cultures. Older people seem to be still affected by communism era, if you’re kind with them, they suspect there’s something wrong… If you ask them to take a portrait, they think that it would be used against their interest, so they are very cautious and often I refuse to capture their portrait. Some colleagues photographers told me it’s very different in the country side, people are mostly glad and honoured when someone takes a picture of them.
Fairytale Traveller: Do you find in photography a fairy-tale land, full of creativity?
Pascal: Photography is definetely my fairy-tale land, a space without frontier, in which I can genuinly feel connected with my aspirations, so free and really in, peace with myself.
Fairytale Traveller: Which country is next on your map, just for the street photography?
Pascal: I planned a week for street photography in Naples next January. In February, I will attend a workshop in Luxembourg with Vanessa Winship, an English photographer whose work I admire.
Fairytale Traveller: What would you say to someone who sees the world in black and white?
Pascal: I would say that sometimes, you will miss beautiful atmospheres such like a sky after a rain storm, the beautiful colors of a Romanian traditional fabric, I shall not attempt to conceal my preference for the black and white photography but the world is well worth to be seen in colours.
Fairytale Traveller: Please send a message to all the people who love your work and also for those who read.
Pascal: For sure, I like to share my photographs with people, I like to receive their feed-backs, this is an important support which gives me a lot of strenght to go on my work. So, please don’t hesitate to send me a message trough my contact page : https://pascalmoreaux.com/contact/. It will be utterly appreciated.
And if you want to know Pascal Moreaux better and you travel to Italy this month, it was opened a beautiful exhibition with a part of his work. I invite you to meet the Fairytale Man behind photography!
Interview taken in Bucharest, November 2017