How did you find out what you wanted to do with your life? Still looking? The fortunate find out what they love to do and make a career out of it. Photographer Romain Berger is doing just that.
I am a 33 year old artist-photographer that creates contemporary photographic works, colored, sprinkled with sex, and which are meant to be inspiring. A world revisited, fantasized, totally gay, but also gently provocative.
My characters are marginalized, excluded or pointed out (gays, women, trans, drag queens…) who, for the time of a photograph, become heroes/fighters, in settings created for the occasion. This work, beyond its sometimes erotic aestheticism, allows me to talk about social and current issues, while trying to change mentalities at my humble level by giving visibility to the LGBTQ+ community.
He’s the latest to be featured in Instinct Magazine’s ongoing Photographer Series that highlights the beautiful work from many in our LGBTQ community. Check out our exclusive with him below.
How did you get involved in the art of photography?
It was pure chance. At the end of my studies in cinema, I went to live in Paris to find work as a director. It was a very complicated and difficult time. Having little money, I decided to buy a camera/video to make my short films. In the end, I didn’t make a film but I started to take pictures and very soon it became my job.
Did you have any inspirations before getting into the industry?
Being a film fan, my first inspirations are directors like Gregg Araki, Xavier Dolan, Wong Car Wai, Gus Van Sant. Then with time, I discovered photographers who inspire me a lot like David lachapelle, James Bidgood and even Mapplethorpe.
How would you describe your specific style?
I define my work as gently provocative. There is a touch of homo-eroticism, sometimes nudity, but it is never vulgar. I like to cultivate the colorful and kitschy side of my creations. Anything too classic bores me quickly.
Do you remember the time/shoot/photo when you knew you had the skill to be a photographer?
I remember more the day I discovered my artistic style. Before that, I was doing a lot of very classical photography, simple portraits. Then that day I decided to create a scene, to play with the lights and once the photo was retouched, I was speechless. I realized that I had never made such a beautiful photograph and that’s when my artistic style was born.
You’ve shot a variety of people, do you usually search for them or do they come to you?
I am the one who looks for models for my creations. Thanks to Instagram, it makes casting much easier.
What has been your favorite shoot to date and why?
There have been so many that the one that stands out most for me is the very first one. The one I told you about. The shooting was quick, I had no idea beforehand. It was the unknown. Today, even though I love every single shoot, there is stress and pressure. I have a community that counts on me, magazines that follow me, and I no longer have the right to make mistakes. The first shoot was totally free and sometimes I miss that freedom.
If there was one event/artist/subject that you could cover what would it be?
I have two artists this year that I would like to shoot. Of course, this is just a dream as it’s unlikely to happen now. They are Olly Alexander (the singer of Years and Years) and Lil Nas X. Two queer artists who break the codes. These are the singer of singers I would like to have them in front of my lens in order to propose them some crazy stagings.
Do you feel photographers are not as appreciated these days due to so much of the focus shifting to social media selfies and filters?
The problem is probably Instagram. A photographer on Instagram is not always followed for his work but more for the models he is going to show. I’ve been in this situation before: making a very beautiful photograph with a girl model and a less beautiful one with a naked boy. I have a queer community following, so photos of girls are not popular on my walls.
People don’t come on Instagram to see art, they come on Instagram to get excited and dream.
What does the future hold for you and what are you looking forward to the most in your career?
I have several new articles and interviews coming out soon (Germany and USA) and I’m considering leaving France next year to live in Berlin. The Germans love my work and have supported me from the beginning, unlike in France. What I am looking forward to most in my career is to continue to be published worldwide and to have more and more exhibitions in prestigious places. I also hope to continue to sell my photos (limited edition on my website (romainberger-photography.com) and one day be able to shoot with some of my favorite stars.
What was your career before you shifted to being a photographer and what words of advice would you give those that are looking to make their photography their career?
Before becoming a photographer I was a student and had several food jobs. I took the risk to stop working to start as a photographer but it’s not easy.
It’s a very difficult job. I don’t know many photographers around me who make a living from it. At the time I was doing portraits, I was lost in the mass of French photographers, today I have a different style, I stand out and it is also a chance to succeed in this profession. I was lucky, but I also worked a lot to get there. So here is my advice: work hard and dream hard.