For Pascal Dusapin, black and white photography is a kind of release: a release from reality. At the same time it is a multi-faceted way of reinterpreting one’s surroundings. The French composer and photographer finds a large number of his motifs while on concert tours. In addition to his music scores, he always travels with a Leica M6 and an analogue MP. This summer, his work will be shown at the Leica Gallery and at the Haus Für Mozart in Salzburg. We spoke about the relationship between music and photography and the lack of urgency in his photos.

Why do you photograph in black and white?

For me, taking pictures in black and white is not limiting, but rather liberating. To photograph a blue sky and predict that it will be more or less grey in the photograph, allows me to focus much more on the constantly changing shapes of the clouds passing by. In black and white photography it’s primarily about showing contours and contrasts. They are also feelings. In addition, I quite simply love black and white; and, to be honest, I virtually always dress in black and white. 

Why are the spaces in your pictures usually devoid of any people? 

It’s true that there are times when I take pictures where nothing seems to be happening and where you see virtually nothing. For me it’s like a meditation. I like empty and calm spaces. And I like the thought that photography is a “calm” art form, as opposed to music, where everything is very extreme. When I take pictures, I’m always calm, I take the time that I need. I’m never in a hurry. I look, I choose the frame and I take the photo. There is no speed in my pictures. 

Your pictures seem very intuitive – how do you find your motifs? 

To be honest, I have no concrete plan. I travel a lot because of my work as a composer, and I always have my camera with me on these trips, even though I never photograph the musicians any more than the stage sets for my operas. I go for walks, see something and, if I don’t have time, take note of the motif in my mind; then I often return the next day and take a picture. I wait and I take a photo; or I see something and I take a photo. 

Leica M

The Leica. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.

What camera equipment do you use? 

I have only ever used an M6. Then last year I added an analogue MP, which I had made “à la carte”. I’m very happy about having been able to acquire this camera, made exactly to my needs. I know no other camera that makes me so happy. I use all the lenses, from 28 to 90mm; though I mostly use the 35 and 50mm Summilux, which is my favourite focal length. I also own the 50mm Summicron and the 50mm Elmar f/2.8, which I like above all because of its small size. I am a committed analogue photographer and I love baryte prints: because, I don’t want to see the results of my photography straight away. 

Born in Nancy, France, in 1955, Pascal Dusapin studied Art and Aesthetics in Paris. At the same time, he was a private student of Olivier Messiaen, the pioneer of serial music at the Parisian Conservatory. Later Dusapin attended seminars with Iannis Xenakis. His compositions have received a number of awards. Photography has been a part of his life since childhood, defined by his father who was a enthusiastic amateur photographer. It has held him captive since the nineties. He refers to Ray K. Metzker – the virtuoso American black and white photographer from the sixties – as one of his sources of photographic inspiration. When not on tour, Dusapin lives in Paris.

Exhibitions: Pascal Dusapin, Leica Gallery Salzburg, 25 July — 28. September 2019; Haus Für Mozart, Felsenreitschule, Salzburg, 23 July — 2 September 2019