The city lies abandoned – at most two people walk together on the streets; only the pigeons dare to continue conglomerating in large numbers. Frédéric Stucin photographed the streets of his home town during the Corona lockdown. His pictures reveal a different face of the French metropolis – deserted and threatening.

What was the idea behind your series Le Decor?
After the first day of stupor, caused by the initial lockdown, I decided to document this very particular moment. To do so, I was inspired by the work of Charles Marville. But I didn’t want to do just documentary photography; rather, I wanted to convey the fear and disquiet that this lockdown evoked in me. The nature of the city reminded me of a film set that has been deserted by its crew. So, in addition to Marville, I was influenced by the lighting of film directors Aki Kaurismäki and Jean-Pierre Melville.

How did you choose your motifs?
I spent a lot of time driving around the streets of Paris. I’m not really interested in the tourist or well-known parts of the capital. I needed to find a setting that summarised the banality of the streets and the anguish of the moment. Once something caught my attention, I looked for a frame with my mobile phone. If that worked, I began with the camera and my lighting.

Which camera did you use?
I worked with the Leica S, even though I’ve worked only with a Leica M for the past 20 years; but I needed a heavy camera for this project – something like a cinema camera – so as to be able to think differently about my compositions, and to be able to set up my lighting. I was working like a little film team… except that I was all alone…

Your photos are cinematic. Why don’t you work as a film director?
Thank you for saying so. It’s true that the work of a film director really appeals to me. In fact, last year I co-directed a short movie with Olivier Jahan: La Femme de 8h47. I hope I can soon present it at festivals.

Is there a picture that is particularly close to your heart?
I find all of them touching; but the one of the man in the empty Place de l’hôtel-de-Ville moved me in particular. He stepped forward, making me understand that he wanted to be photographed (he didn’t speak French); and he accepted all my suggestions. He even proposed to pose naked, which he did; but then a police siren made him disappear. It was a very strange encounter; just like that whole period.

How was your experience of the lockdown, as a photographer?
Financially speaking, it was a particularly difficult time. Everything stopped; all assignments were cancelled, whatever they were. It was really very stressful. In contrast, despite the restrictions, it was a suspended time with the family, where we were able to benefit from rare and precious moments; and I was able to produce this very personal series.

Born in Nice in 1977, and currently living in Paris, Frédéric Stucin studied Photography at the École nationale supérieure Louis-Lumière. He began working as a press photographer in 2002, taking numerous portraits of artists, authors, and politicians. His series La Source was published as a book, in 2021, by Maison CF. Stucin is represented by the Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière in Paris, and the Pasco&Co Agency. Find out more about his photography on his website and Instagram page.

Issue 7/2022 of LFI presents Frédéric Stucin’s series La Source. For this series, he travelled along the course of the Seine to its source.

Leica S

The best tool.