Working between Paris and New York, French photographer Julien Boudet – aka Bleu Mode – has worked with top luxury brands including Burberry and Schiaparelli, while also exhibiting as an artist through super cool gallery Stems. Working with medium format film cameras, his work focuses on consumerism and pop culture, re-contextualising how we react to all of our favourite brands. We spoke to Julien about how he got into photography, how fashion and art work together and what he’s been up to in quarantine.
How did you first become interested in photography?
To begin with, my father was really passionate about photography, he owned a lot of cameras and would always be shooting for fun – he never did it on a professional level though. His dream was to build his own dark room so he could process his film himself eventually. Therefore, I grew up surrounded by photography equipment; unfortunately he passed away when I was 7 years old so he did not transmit his passion to me directly but I guess this definitely influenced me regardless.
Yet, I did not start shooting until many years later, when I moved to NYC, back in 2008. There, inspired by the energy of the city and its unique architecture, I bought my first point and shoot camera and started documenting my new life, initially just to send images to my family and friends that I left in my hometown.
Soon after, I realized that I could possibly turn my passion into a job, so I went back to school (I had already graduated in Business in France) to study photography at Parsons in 2011, before dropping out in 2013 to start freelancing. Overall it all happened very organically.
Your work often embraces fashion, why do you think art and fashion work so well together?
Well, art and fashion are linked in the sense that they both come from creative minds that are fascinated by colors, textures, design, shapes, and then create their style, their vision, an aesthetic that is shared to an audience through their work. Art and fashion have been influencing each other since the very beginning, from the YSL x Mondrian dress in 1965 to Louis Vuitton x Alex Israel last week.
Furthermore, some fashion pieces created by very specific designers can be perceived as art pieces by certain people. A lot of artists have worked on collaborations with major fashion brands, some even have their own line – Sterling Ruby being a perfect example of this.
To me, as a photographer, it’s only logical to be able to work on both fashion shoots and personal projects at the same time. Regardless of what I shoot I do my best to keep my work very consistent and develop my vision, blurring the line between fashion and art as much as possible.
What are your inspirations?
I get inspired by all my travels throughout the world (I’m always traveling), particularly in non-touristic areas; by meeting people from different backgrounds/cultures, by my own personal experience, by subcultures in general. I am very nostalgic of the 1990s era and this translates directly into my work, it is definitely a huge inspiration for my work.
The Mediterranean Sea and the cultures that emerged from it are also a great source of inspiration for me, plus it’s also where I got my alias from (Bleu Mode); blue stands for the color of the Sea obviously.
What have you been making during quarantine?
I’m actually very happy about this quarantine, I’ve been very productive. I’ve worked on a new series of images focusing on narratives in which utopia and dystopia are deeply connected. For this series specifically, I used luxury cars that are being distorted and customized with high fashion items representing the consumerist society we currently live in, where an increasing part of our daily life is luxury branded “pro logo.”
Your work often touches on (if indirectly) the consumerism of the fashion world, do you think the way you work will be changed once global lockdowns end?
I don’t think the way I work will be drastically changed, it might affect me a little bit but I can always adapt anyway so I don’t really worry about it. Regardless of the Covid crisis that we went through this year, consumerism will always be there even if it does slow down a bit for a few years, I doubt there will be such a huge difference between pre and post Covid.
Who are your favourite artists and designers?
What advice would you give to young people looking to make a career as an artist?
Find your own vision, develop your style and be a “reporter” of the era you live in so that you can leave your mark forever. You have to create work that is timeless, and it’s essential to keep this keyword in mind.
Other than that, practice as much as possible, if you want to be a photographer then shoot everyday with anything you may have, in the end the equipment is not super important, practice is. As long as you have something that takes photos, use it. If you want to do videos, then film with whatever you have access to, experiment, create over and over until your vision is better and clearer than it was the week before. It can only get better, and as Henri Cartier Bresson once said, “your first 10 000 pictures are your worst.”
What are your plans and hopes for the future?
All my plans have been canceled or postponed because of Covid-19, so I still have to adapt to this situation but all my focus is definitely on my first solo show that will take place in Brussels at Stems Gallery in January 2021. I am working a lot on this right now, along with other fashion projects that are coming along since the lockdown is over in Paris.
I am also working on a big fashion collaboration for mid 2021, it should really be a pretty exciting year for me, at least better than 2020 so far I hope!
Text Lizzy Vartanian