Thursday 18 April 2024

Olivier Bain, part-time photographer

From a biologist's laboratory to a photographer's: Olivier Bain, technician in the drinking water department of the canton of Geneva, discovered photography at the age of 38 "like a coincidence". A friend of his had a camera. "Why not give it a try?" he told himself. Since then, it became a passion. From landscapes to studio portraits, he describes what today occupies 50% of his time.

You started your job as a photographer quite late. Can you tell us how it went?

For the first five years, I did what photographers usually do, meaning landscapes, architecture and a lot of macro photography. Macro photography allowed me to practice my observation skills. We have to make a focus on an insect’s head and get close to it. It’s very specific.

Not many humans then! Yet today you mainly do portraits…

I have been interested in portraits for ten years now. I started by shooting portraits of people around me, my parents, my relatives… Since I have a house, I created a studio in my garage. It was really improvised! I made a background on the wall and I put flashes in spite of the low ceiling height. So, it wasn’t until I was 42 that I started photographing humans! *laughs*

After photographing your family, did you quickly move on to models?

Yes, I did, but it was really difficult as nobody wants to work with you when you’re new and unknown. I had to put some money up to get models to come and pose for me. All of this in my studio. I started doing a lot of black and white. It inspires me, I like the vintage aspect of it.

Four years ago, I had the opportunity to go into a studio run by a friend of mine in Geneva. He was looking for partners to make it profitable: rates are extremely high in Geneva, so it is really difficult to have a studio of your own. The objective was to share the studio between several people. And so we did, four or five of us are working there. It is going well.

Photo selected for one of Scorpio Jin Magazine’s covers.

Photo Olivier Bain

Photography is becoming more and more important to you. Are you planning to do it full-time and stop being a biologist?

Of course I would love to! But the problem is “how to make a living out of it”? Especially in a city like Geneva, which is not a fashion capital…To make a living out of it, I would have to move to Milan, Paris, or Los Angeles. I just happen to have a friend who left Geneva for Los Angeles. There, he manages to get contracts way more easily since people are more willing to pay for a photographer. He even does shoots in the street and people come to him to solicit him. There is a real photography culture in the United States.

What do you do in your studio? What is your specialty?

I have been focusing on fashion photos, beauty photos for about five years. I focus my work on people who need shots for their portfolio. These models are just starting out and their agencies ask for photos or models who need to redo their portfolio. We do different types of photos: full-length, portraits or beauty photos.

Is the demand strict or do you have some freedom?

It is well-defined though, because agencies ask for very specific photos. There is no big artistic openness to it. For my part, I keep on collaborating with make-up artists, for example. We work on artistic projects that we present to international magazines with a great visibility on Instagram such as Shuba Magazine, or Imirage Magazine. We offer our photos on the Kayvar platform. If they get accepted by a magazine, they are published on their Instagram account and we can ask to receive them in hard copy. So, we can benefit from a physical support to show people when we have to present our work.


Photo Olivier Bain

Are there atmospheres, colors you prefer to work on?

No, all my projects are different. I also have the chance to organize a workshop in Italy each year. Thus, I have the opportunity to work with Max Perissi who took a lot of photos in the 60’s-70’s for Vogue Italia. He manages to create movie scenes by getting his inspiration of movies from the 30’s. I can relate to that! The last shoot we did together was about women in the 30’s. We had her pose next to an old car in a village or hand washing her clothes by the river.

I love the artistic aspect of photography. Recently, I was working on a fashion project, Queens of the cold. With the help of a make-up artist, we created a real set in the studio. The atmosphere was very cold, with very blue and cold tones. The models were all very white. I like creating these atmospheres.

We can see a touch of nature; do you miss the landscapes of your beginnings?

Not at all! I feel like I am in the right field because I love the relational side. It is enriching to meet different people and work with several teams, rather than staying in my own corner and doing landscapes or macro photography because well, insects are very nice, but they don’t talk! *laughs*


Photo Olivier Bain

Translated by Cindy Hurtaud

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