Animals that populate stadiums and the study of technical gestures, we discover the imagination of this French photographer

What can the visual imagination reach? It can reach naturalistic dystopia, Sébastien Vincent’s shots explain to us, it can combine the concept of medieval bestiary with that of modern sports architecture, creating unreasonably plausible compositions. In front of this French photographer’s elaborate shots, each viewer is overwhelmed by an incongruent array of visual informations, ends up reaching a place in his own subconscious scattered between bewilderment and fascination, disbelief and pondering.

“I have been following this photographic strand for almost ten years now. I’ve always loved mixing different themes and scenarios, I’ve always had the inclination to try different and unusual solutions: when the shot is too easy I want to add extra difficulty to it. The genesis of this series came when I was very focused on fashion photography. I was surrounded every day by professionals of all kinds: stylists, models, make-up artists and many others, yet I felt that I was missing something. I had an epiphany seeing a photo of an animal in a city setting and I said to myself, okay, maybe I should try this. So I went to the zoo, shot for a while and started imagining, structuring these works. I set the first series in an un-touristy Paris, overlooked by the Les Olympiades buildings, I wanted a setting far from the masses of the Eiffel Tower and Champs Élysées…”

Sébastien soon finds a way to transpose this new graphic trend to the Ville Lumiere’s two most celebrated sports institutions, Roland Garros and Paris Saint Germain. Between the world’s best-known red clay courts and the elegant Parc des Princes, this creative with a degree in economics and an illustrious path at the renowned école de l’image Gobelins manages to unleash all the evocative and communicative power of his scenic inventions, bringing to life an evocative sports-animal-architectural mixture.

“I had the opportunity to get in touch with Roland Garros and PSG through some mutual friendships and contacts. When I proposed the idea of portraying animals, the first reaction was to ask if I would take them physically inside the stadiums…. Fortunately, they quickly realized that bears and tigers would not enter the field! In these huge spaces – think, for example, of the 60,000 empty seats in the Parc des Princes – I wondered what animals might frequent certain areas, what their specific behaviors and movements would be… On the lawn, on the door, in the stands: I had to imagine a new life within these ‘sets’. Those shots also allowed me to process deeper reflections related to the relationship between humans and animals, between building progress and the removal of nature: thoughts that literally exploded during the lockdown period, when my photos in some cases became reality”

Sébastien’s photographic-sports production is not limited, however, to this imaginative reworking of reality. His trained sports enthusiast’s eye over time has also managed to investigate the art of the technical gesture, breaking it down as some predecessors of the early 20th century lens used to do. Today, sports-themed works remain a substantial part of the Frenchman’s photographic efforts, who between Disney shoots and fashion features always manages to carve out time to investigate the sporting act, its imagery and its possible derivations.

“The photographic sports narrative has always interested me. When I photograph a sporting event or an athlete I always look for different perspectives than the canonical ones. With tennis players, for example, I tried to modernize Harold Edgerton’s visual quest. I decided to take 20 shots per second of Nadal and Djokovic, then overlaid them to get a visual definition of their hit with the ball. I think all sports are interesting and each has aesthetic potential. In the near future I would like to focus on golf again – I had done it several times before, portraying the hot atmosphere of the Ryder Cup. Then, in 2024, I will have the chance to enjoy an Olympics at home; I’m sure it will be an event that will inspire and tickle both my camera and my imagination”

Credits: Sebastién Vincent
IG @sebastien_vincent_
Text by Gianmarco Pacione