Through the lens

Through the lens

A long-standing question that remains unanswered through the ages is ‘What is reality?’ According to French photographer Pierre Poulain, photography is the most accurate representation of reality.

“It depends on what we understand of photography and reality. For me, street photography works best to understand reality. I’m not trying to put myself or my personality in a photograph. The pictures aren’t taken in a studio, where I can manage the light, position and form; I don’t choose anything but capture what I see. And I see the truth.” He adds that photography can better see reality than the human eye.

 “When we see with the human eye we always fall into subjectivity, photographs are more objective. But it’s kind of tricky — it depends on how you manage to take a photograph.”

Agreeing that subjectivity seeps into anything we do or feel, he says, “I cannot be completely subjective. My aim is to try and be more transparent. I know I won’t reach 100 per cent transparency, but I think the process is more important than the end result.”

Most of his photographs are in black and white or other diminutive shades, and have deeper connotations than the eye can perceive. “Black and white photographs are more real than colour ones,” he says.

Influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson, who was a master at candid photography and applied the rules of geometry to his pictures, Pierre emphasises that simplicity is what makes a picture a good one.

Focussing on the essentials of using a camera, he says, “For me, the most important thing is the invisible — what you don’t see at first glance. It’s a paradox as the camera is used to cut through visible things to capture the invisible.”


Not impressed by smartphones, he maintains that it is best to keep photography simple. He prefers using a Pentax, an age-old brand, and says that technology doesn’t play an important role in photography.

“A smartphone is just a telephone and not a camera, there is a big difference. Smartphones can produce images but photography is more than an image. It is the smartphone taking the picture, not the person. That’s why I use the manual mode and don’t care about the brand of a camera”, he adds.

Talking about his venture into photography, Pierre narrates, “I began about 40 years ago in Paris. I had a black and white Pentax camera, not a digital one. My parents went crazy because I turned my room into a black and white laboratory. I would walk around the streets and take photographs of houses. After that, I put aside photography for 15 years and studied philosophy. Now I’ve returned to combine the two. Some friends call me a ‘phipho’ — a philosopher and photographer!”

As someone who has travelled the world, he says, “People aren’t much different around the world. We are more or less the same (albeit cultural and social differences) and when you see a person’s soul through their eyes, it’s the same.”

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