From Street to Shore...
THIERRY ROY WAS BORN and raised in the 'East End' of Paris and he has lived in in England for altogether 16 years. He has been a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism within the lay organisation Soka Gakkai International (SGI) since 1986."I have a scientific background, with photography constantly interfering - I was only able to complete my physics PhD by locking up my photographic equipment for two years; I got it out again the night I submitted my theses.
"With my godfather and grandmother running an industrial photography lab, I probably had an above average exposure to the medium as a child. But my first real photographic experience was when, aged 19, I travelled to the north of England and Scotland for three weeks in order to 'improve' my English. Surprisingly, I returned with enough English to pass my exams, but also 13 rolls of exposed film and the feeling that it was time I upgraded my little Fujica for a 'proper' camera. With help from my grandmother, I bought my first SLR, a Canon F1N. It became my companion on my endless roams in the streets of Paris. At that time the world was still in colour.
"The exposure to B&W photography and, in particular, the work of such photographers as Boubat, Doisneau, Willy Ronis and, obviously, Cartier-Bresson, is constant in Paris, whether in book shops, cafés, libraries, or exhibitions. But of course, being from Paris, I never went to see the exhibitions. It is only after I moved to England for my studies in 1988 and discovered the photographic life of London that, during my breaks back home, I started going to the exhibitions in Paris. It was on one such occasion in the summer of 1989 that, having seen them all, something clicked. I remember in particular one of Lewis Hine's photographs where, mesmerized, I just couldn't leave.
After that my Canon camera wasn't just a nice piece of engineering I liked to own (and play with) anymore but became the bridge between the technical college boy who had a feel for those things mechanical and another side of me that I could no longer ignore. These are still the kind of cameras I use today and they still fulfill this very same function. This is why I still use film and traditional darkroom-based printing and toning techniques. And this is why I'll know what car you drive (and not just the colour) before I'll remember your name...
"On my return to university from that magic summer of 89, the world had become a 'Black & White place'. I joined the camera club to learn B&W techniques. But coincidentally (as if there is such a thing as 'coincidence') I was invited to join the photographic team of the Buddhist organisation's fortnightly news publication. My first assignment was to cover the performing art division's annual general meeting, led by Sandie Shaw. She had it in mind to take a report of the meeting to Japan and lamented my inexperience. Fortunately someone came to my rescue, set up a shoot for me and I got some pictures. What followed was to become the norm for the next three years: a long night in the darkroom and serious interruption to my physics studies. Thus I learnt my darkroom techniques on the job and under pressure: an ideal training ground and one that made the lessons at the camera club immediately obsolete. And thus the second B&W photograph I ever printed was published and even went to Japan!
"Having had to put away my camera for two years to complete my PhD, I graduated in 1995 and, happy with my contribution to 'Science', I enrolled on a year-long fast-track course to professional photography at the London College of Printing in 1996. London's professional photography world was daunting. My partner and I moved back to France in 1997 to settle in the Ardennes near the town of Sedan. Luxembourg was only an hour's drive away and the place to go to for work. There I obtained commissions I would have never dreamt of in London. Then our daughter Éva was born and things changed a little. We returned to the UK in the summer of 2000 and settled in Swanage.
"Today, without a doubt, I'm still a product of my Parisian roaming and repeated Cartier-Bresson exposures. Living in Swanage, my streets are the beach. And, sacrilegious as it might be for a pure 'Parisien', I now cannot do without the sea. 'From Street to Shore' is an expression of this and all the many other transformations..."
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